Between the 1940s and 1990s, there have been significant shifts
in student attitudes toward education and teachers. Student
attitudes are shaped to some degree or another by time frame
and type of institution. For example, student motivation and
work habits in an art school can be expected to differ from
those found at a state university art department. All student
attitudes changed drastically during and following the period
of student activism associated with the 1960s.
It is important for teachers to be aware of, and sensitive
to, student attitudes as they shape motivation and behavior.
The effectiveness of an educational program can be greatly
enhanced if instruction is in sync with prevailing student
interests. The difficult part is knowing when to build on
student interests and when to challenge them.
Student expectations of what a teacher should be are sometimes
unrealistic. Too often the teacher is expected to embody all
the Hollywood notions of the mentor as an orator, philosopher,
eccentric but wise and nurturing person with all the answers.
Teachers are human and they vary enormously in style and abilities.
I have had teachers who were inarticulate, but they were effective
even if unorthodox in their teaching methods. Some teachers
were inspirational by their enthusiasm, others created respect
through professional accomplishment and they served as valuable
role models; yet others incurred respect by exhibiting an
amazing knowledge of the field.
recent years, there have been increasing numbers of students
who believe they must like the teacher in order to do well.
If students do not like the teacher, they are less productive
at the least, and in the extreme, become rebellious, transfer,
drop out or fail. They are putting more emphasis on a personal
relationship with the teacher than on education. It is not
important that students like teachers but it is extremely
important that students respect teachers. My observation has
been that teachers who attempt to cultivate students to like
them will invariably end up without respect.
Design education tends to be rather informal with students
and teachers on a first name basis. I would suggest that during
the first year, the relationship should be more formal. The
student right to informality with teachers should be earned
and not automatic. It is earned by commitment and hard work.
No matter how informal the working relationship, teachers
should let students know that there is a line which they cannot
cross. Under no circumstances should informality include teachers
dating or living with students. It is entirely too destructive
to other students and instructional integrity.
are always students who conduct themselves in a positive and
responsible manner, but today, there are serious problems
with student attitudes which are inhibitive to learning. Too
many students want teachers to give them an education even
if they have to force them to learn. Students expect the impetus
for learning to come from teachers rather than from themselves.
World War II, there has been a dramatic increase in the number
of homes where both parents are working. One result of this
is that student attitudes and values are shaped more by peer
group pressures than by parents. As a teacher at the university
level, I often found myself having to fulfill a parental role,
particularly in the area of values. What was once learned
at home from parents is now learned in university from teachers.
These values pertain to self-discipline and commitment including
perseverance, a sense of responsibility and the difference
between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
our society, youngsters are conditioned to feeling that they
have to please parents and most adults. They do not always
understand that restrictions or demands might have do with
concern for their safety or well-being. When students reach
the university as young adults, they are naturally resentful
of having to please everyone else; they want to do what interests
them and to be themselves. They do not realize that the situation
has changed, and from this point on, the parental role diminishes
and they have responsibility for their own conduct. What they
are asked to do does not have so much to do with pleasing
others as it does with shaping their future. This attitude
of pleasing is most apparent when a frustrated student blurts
out to the teacher, Is this what you want? Students
are expected to do what the teacher asks, but at the same
time, they have to recognize that they are doing it for their
benefit, not the teachers.
often spring from rebellion against doing what someone else
wants. If students do not believe that assignments are pertinent
to their interests, they are likely to sluff the work. To
some extent, this reflects student perception of teachers
shifting from authority figures to service persons. Students
believe that if they pay tuition, they should be able to do
what, how and when they want, and it is the teachers
responsibility to assist them in that task. The student notion
of teachers as service personnel has been strongly reinforced
by administration introducing the procedure for student evaluation
often believe that attending university automatically results
in an education. During the seventies, one student told me,
I pay tuition and attend classes. This proves my commitment
to education. There is a student assumption that if
they attend class and do every assignment they should receive
a high grade. They want problems defined to a point that if
they do everything they are told, they cannot fail.