Responses to the editorial “Creeping Passivity” in the May/June issue of JCST
I received a link to your editorial through a biology lab instructor’s listserv. My name is Becky Kinney, and I am an educational technologist at the University of Delaware, as well as the parent of three high school/college students. I am very interested in the phenomenon you report from both perspectives.
I don't think students have become passive because they have never witnessed or experienced student failure. It was not fear of failure that caused college bound students in my generation to think for themselves. We thought for ourselves because we believed that no one over 40 could be trusted! Today's students lack the fundamental disrespect for authority that turned us all into free thinkers. At the same time, NCBL has turned our educational system away from debate and discussion, as teachers desperately press students to score well on standardized tests. The finding that a single-minded focus on high-stakes tests produces students who are good test-takers (and little else) is not new. Independent thought draws time and effort away from items that will appear on the test. Fear of failure has not gone away, but the definition of failure has been constrained to the point where thinking is neither required nor encouraged.
At the same time, there has been a shift in our cultural attitudes towards higher education. In essence, college has become the new high school. It is no longer a goal only high-achieving students aspire to, nor an experience that is cherished by the privileged few. The ivory tower has ceased to be a sanctuary for those who yearn for intellectual stimulation. Rather, it is one more step to be endured before entering the work force. Students who enter college with the goal of being rubber stamped by the system can not be expected to debate one another over nuances that have little or nothing to do with their goal of obtaining a diploma and a shot at a decent job.
What I am starting to wonder is whether we simply have too many schools of higher education. There are, arguably, more efficient ways to train workers, and the availability of viable alternatives is likely to increase. Were we to preserve higher education for those who genuinely need and want it, and accept far fewer students to four year programs, the quality of those students might improve. Taking an economists view of the situation, it could be that there simply is not enough demand for the type of teaching we long to supply. Perhaps there is still hope that we can adjust this balance by inspiring customers. Perhaps NCLB will run its course and the next generation of students will be more inquisitive. Let's hope we survive to enjoy that day.
University of Delaware
I am a science teacher at a high school in Jamaica, West Indies. I have observed the same problem with my students and other teachers have the same complaints. So it may be an international problem. I agree with your explanation that we have a generation of students who do not know how to help themselves. They expect everything to be given to them. It is not only a factor of NCLB; we do not have that intense a program in Jamaica. We have a watered down version called "Every Child must learn”. It (the attitude) is a product of technology.
Think about it. This is a generation to whom everything has come easy. They have computers and electronic gadgets. As children they never had to figure out creative methods of play, PC, Playstation and Nintendo was there. If they wanted answers they do not have to research and read, they just Googled or Yahooed. How many times have you had to mark down a project because the information was just pasted from the internet or CD encyclopedia? I have lost count.
Life has been easy to this generation and alas it can only get easier. What can we do? I say nothing. I have been labeled as unreasonable because I now refuse to work tutorial questions on the board. I insist on each child doing the problem in their notebook then come up to me and I will discuss it with the individual. It may seem unfair but otherwise no one does any work until in frustration I end up doing it on the board and then they just copy it and I cannot assess if they have learned, until test time and then it is obvious they have not.
We as science teachers are in trouble until we can figure out how to motivate individual classes and hope for the best.
I enjoyed your article, Creeping Passivity in Science Teaching.
I recently toured Jewel Cave National Monument and having just read your article I was struck by the passivity of not college students but of the tour group. The tour was led by a young college student who sometimes successful pulled off the canned humor and sometimes not so successfully. Within the confines of his practiced "talk" he was comfortable, but beyond that less so. He guided the group to the depths of the cave, giving his talk which he clearly had done many times. He left little time for questions before moving on to the next feature. No one asked questions. In a group of 30 people, all ages, on a tour that lasted 90 minutes very few people asked questions. Even the children who were chatty asked no questions of the tour guide. Much to the disdain of my teenage daughter, I asked 90% of the questions. The tour guide could answer some of the questions, but not others. Fair enough.
I was struck by how passive the tour group was; simply waiting to be 'fed' information about the cave. There seemed to be relatively little interest in engaging the guide in questions. It felt like folks wanted to do the tour and see the cave, but weren't particularly interested in engaging such that they might learn a little more. Though clearly our students can be passive at times, I don't think this phenomenon is restricted to students. There are lots of places where you can go and observe people passively participating... try your local zoo. Ever notice how people of all ages ogle at a particular animal, casually skim the educational material (more often they skip this) and move on to the next exhibit? Few people really observe the animals and learn something about them. I would guess that if you gave a "quiz" to my fellow cave explorers or zoo attendees they would fail even the simplest of questions.
Why? Because they didn't engage. Why didn't they engage? Perhaps it’s not "cool" to be the one asking questions. Perhaps it just wasn't interesting. Or maybe they needed to use the restroom and didn't want to prolong the wait. Whatever the reason, I don't think students are the only ones who aren't engaging. Maybe there are just too few role models out there for students. After all do they know what it looks and feels like to engage? Being curious and learning how to ask questions are important aspects of engaging, but not skills valued or taught by our society. Furthermore the patience it takes to engage more deeply in a "sound-bite" world is nonexistent when "answers" are immediately available on demand through the internet.
Perhaps what we need to do for our incoming students is model how to slow down and examine a topic, be curious, ask questions, and go deep.
Assoc. Professor, Department of Biology
Executive Director, Linnaeus Arboretum
Gustavus Adolphus College
I read you editorial, "Creeping Passivity" in the May/June 2007 Journal of College Science Teaching with great interest since the AP Biology teacher and I had a recent similar discussion (I teach Biotechnology to seniors and she teaches AP Biology to seniors). We observed a marked change this year as well - students have not been as engaged as previous years. While your idea of NCLB's impact certainly has merit, I'm not convinced the passivity is completely contributed to NCLB. Many students at Brebeuf have never been in the "left behind" group so I don't think NCLB has influenced their passive behavior. A more universal explanation may be that we are beginning to see the first generation of students who have grown up in the digital age with continual access to information (Internet, Instant-messaging, text messaging, 24-hour news, etc.). Teaching/education is based upon a model that knowledge is limited; in other words, if students didn't understand the material they sought out the person who held the knowledge, the instructor. There's no need to talk to an instructor when students can find resources online, form virtual chat groups, etc. As a matter of fact many students no longer purchase textbooks for this very reason.
On the second day of the school last fall, I sat down in front of my seniors and asked them, "What is it like to be a teenager today?" Here was one insightful answer: "If you assign a long article we probably won't read it. We've learned to filter information since we're bombarded with it constantly - if the first four sentences don't capture our attention, we're going to move on to something else."
Thanks for writing the thought-provoking editorial!
Sherry L. Annee
Science Department Chairperson
Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School
P.S. After my discussion with my seniors last fall I began to research the merit of their claims...there is research to support the idea of a this new generation of students. If you haven't read any of Marc Prensky's articles, you may find them to be of interest: www.marcprensky.com
Reading your editorial Creeping Passivity was like reading about my students. I teach chemistry at a two year community college on the Island of St. Lucia in the the West Indies. So, it seems like the problem is not only in Indiana.
My Faculty members have been asking the same questions that you are asking. Like your students ours are the most competent and capable students I dare say on the island and yet they just sit there. Though our systems are different we speculate that the passivity is as a result of students being fed information as needed during high school and not being allowed to think for themselves.
When they get to college level they expect the same treatment. Unfortunately that is not the case. I plan to show your editorial to some of my colleagues; it seems that we are not alone.
Like you we are hoping that this is a phenomenon limited to this group of students.
Thank you for this perspective.
Sir Arthur Lewis Community College
St. Lucia, West Indies
I read your editorial in the May/June issue of JCST last week, but have only just had a moment now to respond. I teach mainly freshmen in a large-enrollment (n~275) introductory biology course for majors (i.e., students majoring in Biol, Bioc, Bioinformatics and the Allied Health areas—pre-dental, pre-nursing, pre-pharmacy, etc.)
Yes. Me, too. And I thought it was my fault. I had no idea what I was doing differently/wrong, but there it was. Getting any students at all to be responsive—to me or to each other—was like pulling teeth. Was I using PowerPoint too much? Was I boring everyone? Was I burning out and losing my enthusiasm?
I'm glad (sort of) that it appears to be a widespread phenomenon, but I am still very upset that I can't seem to get through to my students. Even the "high responders" responded only after a considerable amount of "wait time." And, like you, I noticed the "low decibel levels" during interactive exercises. What a disappointment.
Phillip G. Sokolove
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Hello! This is new reasoning to me, but may be at least a big part of the "silence" issue. In recent years when I based my science classes all on discussion I found that if all of the students did not speak up, then you had a real problem. You need only a couple or so to do the responding to act as a spark.
In several places I have published how I talked with each student personally for introductory classes where I was not teaching all the labs. This helped them to see me as a human who cared and broke the ice for many. I gave them a choice of an in-person meeting or an email connection. More and more used the email, but that helped too because I got back to them with information, encouragement, and particular information on student clubs, activities, research ideas...
I also spent a great deal of time early on getting them to speak in smaller groups, giving points for speaking up in class and appointing permanent groups so they begin to have a safe grouping. I explained over and over why their participation was necessary for them to learn.
The last time I taught intro bio I had a section where most if not all were impossible to get talking in lab/recitation and the other one where one could not get them to shut up!!
I have been thinking that more and more people are squeezed for time in classes particularly in HS so they lecture and try to get lots of "info" out there rather than having participation and students are so used to that they like it and they do not trust their peers' judgment only those in power! I think most love to be spoon fed, because it is easier, less work, and they have "exactly what I need to know" and they even feel like they are getting more of their moneys worth! I think that expedience and ease are more important reasons. They fight the idea that learning is hard work. Sadly most have lost the actual love of learning and exploring on their own long before college.
This is more or less off the top of my head... so not really a letter in response but some ideas on what I think is a huge problem in education.
Judith E. Heady
Associate Professor of Biology
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Thank you for your article. I fear it may be even worse than you think. I have been teaching physics for over 25 years in an affluent part of Southern Calf. Most of that time was spent teaching AP Physics in private schools (no Child Left Behind requirements). For the last several years I have taught Conceptual Physics and Alg-based Physics at a two-year college. In your article you described what I would call a symptom of a larger problem. I at first thought the things I have seen over the last five years was due to a sense of entitlement the privileged students seem to have. However, I now see the same behaviors in my college students—all the things you mentioned with one more big one.
I have labeled this behavior as "lazy brain." These are smart students who have never been made to struggle with a new concept until they understand it. As soon as anything gets even a little difficult two things happen. At the college level they drop the class. At the high school level the teacher gets the blame. (I have lots of sad stories I could relate at this level.)
I have had moderate success by being a psychologist as well as a physics teacher. I explain to the students at different times during the semester how they are feeling about the course, that it is natural and what to do about it. I go over the phases of learning a science as opposed to literature.
I try to make them understand that the learning process is just that a process. These students are use to memorizing 10 items and passing a test rather than trying to understand and analyze. Fortunately, one of my Masters degrees is in Science Teaching so I am familiar with a lot of the current research.
Unfortunately, I had more success at the high school level (after I dealt with the hostility from parents and students). At the college level it is much too easy to drop a class and never have to talk to or face the teacher. Although I am running a much higher retention rate than my predecessors it is still discouraging to me that they give up too soon and too easily.
I would be interested in anything you can come up with that will help. I see it as a problem for all level of students due to the fact that we no longer push them to do their best, but let them take the easy way out in all the ways you mentioned in your article. And I'm afraid that it will only continue until we change a lot of things about our educational system beginning at the elementary level and throughout all the years that a student is in school.
Jo Ann Merrell
Associate Professor Physics
I felt relieved to see the title of your editorial, “Creeping Passivity,” in the most recent issue. This is my second year as a graduate student and my second year as a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia. Last year I was surprised at the lack of participation and self-direction exhibited by my students. This attitude seems more pronounced in the students I taught this year. What concerns me more, however, is the almost complete lack of personal responsibility displayed by most students. Granted, almost all of the students in the labs I teach (“The Marine Environment” and “Biology of the Marine Environment”) are first- or second-year students and are non-science majors. I try to express some understanding and sympathy for the fact that they might have limited science background and that they might not be used to the nature of scientific inquiry. What I have noticed, however, is that students tend to blame the instructor when they receive a poor grade on a lab quiz. Suddenly, the student’s lack of preparation has become my fault, because I did not specifically tell them ahead of time the questions and answers that would be on the quiz. I tried to combat this perception by holding a review session at the beginning of lab, immediately prior to the quiz, but I had to stop because I kept getting variations of the question “What’s going to be on the quiz?”
I take this to be a comment on the nature of teaching at the high school level, that students are taught precisely (and only) that which will be on various exams (standardized or otherwise), and are not taught in ways that promote critical thinking skills, the synthesis of new knowledge, or independent thought. Even after being told multiple times (in both verbal and written form) that anything discussed in a lab or written in the relevant exercise in the lab manual might be on the quiz, I noticed a large number of students not taking notes and not reading the lab manual. In addition, despite almost weekly encouragement, I almost never see more than a handful of students in my office hours over the course of a given semester. At the end of a semester, however, my fellow TA’s and I usually receive several panicked e-mails from students, asking why they have such a low lab grade and if there is any way they can get a few extra points. Many of the students honestly don’t seem to understand that the level of preparation and participation displayed throughout the semester will almost certainly determine their grade. Very few non-science majors can coast through a lab class and earn an “A”. We try to emphasize that the syllabus is a contract; it spells out when and how the points are earned. The emphasis is placed on the concept of the student earning a grade, as opposed to the professor/TA giving a grade. I have noticed, however, that most students tend to ignore this point.
What actually concerns me more than the lack of personal responsibility and the passivity, as you pointed out, is the lack of moral fiber (I know that’s cheesy, and I sound like my parents, but I couldn’t think of a better term). We had almost a rash of cheating in both the lecture and lab courses this semester. I attended the facilitated discussion for two of the incidents (if you’re curious about our process, see: www.uga.edu/honesty/ ), and the general attitude of the students was that they were just looking around (one guy was “checking” his answers against those of his neighbors) and that it wasn’t a big deal. We experimented with on-line quizzing last spring, and at the end of the semester we did an anonymous on-line survey to get the students’ input regarding the on-line quizzes. Over three-quarters of the respondents admitted to cheating regularly on their on-line quizzes (with a variety of unauthorized assistance, including textbook, lab manual, notes, and friends), despite repeated warnings that they were to use no unauthorized assistance (by which we meant, nothing besides your brain and a calculator).
I am not that much older than my students, and yet I feel like the general attitude they display is almost alien compared with the way that I was raised and the behavior required of me and my peers at all levels of our education. Unfortunately, I think you are correct in saying that we seem to be experiencing a shift. The students’ paradigm of learning and generally appropriate behavior has shifted. They expect to have the answers and their grades given to them and they also seem to expect that the grades they are given will fall in line with their perception of their own self worth and their place in the university and the broader society. I have also noticed that these students seem to have an unusually high sense of entitlement; they seem to think that they should be able to do what they want and have as much fun as they want without experiencing any negative consequences. My parents raised me to be very conscious of the outcomes of my actions, and I knew that if I were to make bad decisions I should be prepared to accept the consequences of my actions. That attitude has served me well in life; I have made my share of mistakes and conscious bad decisions, but I have learned from them and come away a stronger and more capable person. Your perception on an NCLB society seems frighteningly accurate -- the students seem to expect that Mom/Dad/teacher/counselor will ride in on a white horse and save the day the moment things start to go sour, in or out of the classroom. I try to instill in my students a sense of personal responsibility and self-direction, but I haven’t had much luck. I’d appreciate any advice you might have on ways to encourage my students to be more proactive.
Erin M. R. Romer
Department of Marine Sciences
University of Georgia
I enjoyed reading your May/June editorial in the Journal of College Science Teaching. Enjoyed is a strange word for such a problem, but like you, I'm glad it isn't something I'm doing/not doing, or something unique to Purdue.
I have called the student's behavior "willful non-learning". I give it this name since they seem to go out of their way to construct a relationship with the course that results in passing without learning. If you try to construct the course in such a way that non-learning is difficult, they get really irritated. We had a chem ed candidate two years ago talk about "dealing", where the students were constructing ways to deal with the course (or college experience) that minimized their efforts.
It's really sad that the goal of taking a course has devolved into nothing more than a desire for an entry on a transcript. I don't know the last time a student, any quality of student, has told me they were looking forward to learning the material in my course. It's just something they need to deal with to get a degree. My friends in industry tell me the same attitude is becoming more prevalent in new hires. Showing up for work is nothing more than something that needs to be dealt with to get a paycheck.
Department of Chemistry
I read your editorial from the latest NSTA today. Coincidentally, I also read William Pannapacker's article on "Remedial Civility Training" in the Chronicle. Perhaps it was just the timing, but I was struck by the similarities in your ideas, namely that rudeness and lack of classroom participation stem from a poor high-school learning environment.
I am not a big fan of NCLB, so I'm not sure I can be the least bit objective about your suggestions (of course NCLB is the source of all evil!!), but I certainly feel that my students seem to desire more and more "spoon-feeding" each year.
I will look forward to others' more insightful responses to your column.
Department of Biology
The most recent Journal of College Science Teaching just arrived in my mailbox today and I read your editorial regarding the lack of engagement in your freshman class with great interest. I have had a similar experience this year with a large class of non-science majors, and so have many of my colleagues in my department at Penn State. Until I read your article I had two possible explanations: The first was that as I get older, I get farther removed from the age of undergrads, thus I'm less able to engage them because I relate to them less well. This is possible, but I'm only five years out of my PhD! The second explanation was that since I have taught this particular class several times, maybe I just wasn't as fresh and enthusiastic this time around.
These two possibilities are still plausible, but I had never considered the NCLB effect as you have described it, and I fear that your explanation is the best. I say "fear" because your explanation is certainly the most difficult to ameliorate. When some of these non-engaged but otherwise intelligent students decide to pursue graduate work in science, how will we be ready to help them overcome this ingrained barrier to conducting original research?
Thanks again for your insightful editorial.
Assistant Professor of Geophysics
Penn State University
Thanks for the article "Creeping Passivity" and the chance to enter the discussion. Faculty at Marymount Manhattan College, where I teach, have had many such head-shaking talks about this problem, which we equate with learned helplessness. We try to examine our own role in the situation. For example:
- A student misses class and asks her professor to re-teach the lesson during an office hour. The professor does.
- A student is absent the day of an exam and, in spite of the "No Makeups" warning on the syllabus, asks for a makeup. He gets it.
- A student has no pen on her; the professor lends her one.
- A student has no paper; the professor hands out sheets from her notepad.
- The whole class obviously did not read the assignment for the day's lesson. The professor accommodates by covering the material the students should already have read.
And if a professor does not display this type of behavior, she is nonetheless dealing with students who are used to this treatment. A recent student of mine missed eight class sessions, was granted three extensions on several papers, and finally broke this camel's back by failing to honor the extension on the extension and instead attend an end-of-term party on campus, very visibly I might add. I failed her for the course and received the following email from her: "I thought the beauty of this school was that teachers were understanding. I could have concentrated on other parts of my life that I didn't have time for, rather than doing this work for your class that I will not get credit for."
All faculty need to examine not only our students' behavior but our own contributions to that behavior. Some bemoan grade inflation; I believe our expectations of student responsibility could benefit from a bit of inflation!
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Marymount Manhattan College
Well you asked for comments, so here's a few from me.
1. Is this an issue?
My opinion is yes, but the college level is not where addressing it collectively will do much good. It must be addressed at the K-12 level.
2. Are we all observing the same phenomena?
My opinion is yes.
3. Are we "observing a significant seismic shift in behavior"?
My opinion is yes.
4."None of my freshman may have ever seen a child left behind."
I believe I could say the same. (PS - should it be 'freshmen'?)
5. "if there was ever an issue about successful learning, it was the fault of the teacher"
Yes, I believe that is the attitude these days.
6. "They may be coming to believe that they are not intellectually responsible for themselves."
I agree, you have expressed this well. I wish I could have come up with those words.
7. "it's highly possible that the shift to self-responsibility may be further postponed as no child is left behind in college, as well."
Once again, very well put.
8. "I'd like to hear from you"
And so you have.
9. "where we go from here?"
I'm afraid I believe that it will be a long time before the attitude pendulum swings another direction.
10. The only area I might disagree is that you make this sound like a "quantum shift" of a change. I feel it has been evolving this way for a period of time, and yes, NCLB maintains a force in the wrong direction.
A very well written editorial you did.
I can offer another perspective and a few questions about "creeping passivity" based on my experiences with pre-service science teachers in my methods classes and from student teachers that I supervise in local schools. Nearly all of them identify student motivation as their primary concern rather than classroom management and discipline, keeping up with clerical responsibilities (attendance, grading, etc.), and building positive relationships with parents, administrators, and departmental colleagues. At some point over the last year, each has remarked how difficult it has been to get students engaged in, let alone excited about, science lessons of all types; cooperative learning, lab and field work, genuinely open-ended and inquiry-based activities, etc. "Passive" is a common descriptor that the pre-service teachers and their mentors use to describe students in middle school and, in particular, high school science classrooms.
I am concerned that, in addition to students losing their sense of intellectual responsibility, teachers might begin or continue to lose their sense of professionalism referring to their ability to use their own judgment to make decisions about curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment. We are all certainly working in environments where what and how we teach and how our success is gauged is increasingly influenced by state and national policies and the inevitable standardized assessments and reporting mechanisms that accompany them. It is also well understood that personal and collective decision making is a primary reason that teachers enter and remain in the profession. In the drive for standards and accountability, however, are we unwittingly eroding teachers' professionalism and, consequently, reducing their motivation to design engaging lessons for their students? In other words, are not only students, but teachers, becoming more passive as decisions about what constitutes a good education are made by those outside of their classrooms and schools?
Just a few thoughts to keep the discussion moving forward. Thanks for the invitation to respond to your insightful editorial.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Science Education
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
I just read your editorial in the May/June Journal of College Science Teaching and was struck by your comments. I have been teaching for 37 years, the last ten of which have been post-secondary. I currently teach in a Technical Institute and teach the Allied Health Students. In the past, these students are a joy. They come to us knowing what they want, many are nontraditional students and they work very hard to accomplish their gaols.
This year, however, my colleagues and I have noticed exactly what you describe. The students sit passively, rarely take notes, no reaction to a joke (however lame it might be), and no reaction on their faces. It makes you wonder if words are really coming out or your mouth. When given information, both good and bad, the reaction is "OK". One of my fellow teachers can get reactions from stones, but is having a hard time with this group.
We had not thought of the NCLB as possibly being the cause. Perhaps you are right. I was especially struck by this comment of yours. "They may be becoming to believe that they are not intellectually responsible for themselves. Even more concerning to me is the shift I see emphasizing retention rates in college as a measure of value in higher education." I could not agree with you more.
I look forward to reading in future columns the result of your editorial comments. I think you might have opened Pandora's box here. I intend to pass on copies of your editorial to my administration.
I am writing in response to your request for feedback concerning your editorial in the /Journal of College Science Teaching/, May/June, 2007.
I found it to be an interesting contrast reading your editorial and comparing it to the article in the same issue by Thomas Lord (Teach for Understanding Before the Details Get in the Way). Lord's premise supposedly solves your problem, doesn't it? In addition, I too have noticed a similar "Creeping Passivity" in my classes, especially the freshman-level classes. I ask a question directed to the whole class and there is no response, no volunteering of answers; after a little wait I call on one person and the answer given is "I don't know", even if it is a fairly open-ended question about something they probably did experience or observe. After several more "I don't knows" and not without some prompting in a Socratic type of way, I just give up. Then it is back to the old lecture mode.
The passivity can be extended to learning how to learn. I used reading quizzes and that did not improve test scores. I used the Discussion Board of Blackboard and students would not participate because: (1) they forget to look at it, (2) I don't remind them, (3) takes too much time, (4) it is not worth any points (at least not immediately, I do tell them it is worth points because some of the information will be on the tests!). I make available outlines of my lectures (not really discussions, see previous) so students would not have to spend too much time writing, they could just add a few additional key words as needed and do more listening. How many students do I see actually adding to my notes? Very few. Some rely only on the notes I give for the tests, without knowing concepts underlying the information in the notes, which comes out in the lecture.
How about the labs, the hands-on? Quite a few just try to get it done as quickly as possible to get the points and get out. Some whine asking if their answer is correct...so they get all the points possible, and when we reply to their questions with Socratic additional questions, comments, leading statements, they just get frustrated, all they wanted was the correct answer. Is it just me, the instructor, who is the problem?
Not all students are like this, some are quite good and into the proper process with attitudes they are willing to learn and be challenged, but my observations lead to a conclusion of increasing passivity and/or lack of caring about the process of learning and doing and more concern just about getting a good grade or at least adequate to pass at a certain level. You hope what you observed in one academic year is a fluke. I hope it is also. Your passive students may still be good students, in that they may get good grades on tests. My observations suggest there is a declining ability or skill as witnessed in test scores. This is not necessarily the fault of students. You ask how can we help these students when they come to us with this passivity. First and foremost, change the system they came from, something is not working in the pre-college system. Second, after they have arrived, there is not much we can do in one semester or year, so be patient and continue to build the foundation. Third, if we are persistent as a team, not just in one class but within and between departments and across all disciplines, if we hold high standards, I believe the students will adjust by the end of the four years of college. Hopefully!
Thomas L. Chamberlin
Associate Professor, Earth Sciences
University of Indianapolis