Academic Responsibility-Who’s To Blame?

What exactly is academic responsibility and who does it pertain to? 

Every night when I get home from campus, I call my boyfriend (who lives in Miami, FL) to talk about how our respective days went. Now on Monday and Wednesday nights, this call occurs around 9pm when I get out of either my “Contemporary Pedagogy” (GEDI) or “Future Professoriate” class. Naturally, my side of the conversation always drifts towards the discussions that take place these nights. On one particular night, while working on a blog post for the GEDI course, I started asking him what he thought about academic responsibility.

Unlike myself, he is an undergraduate student (studying Sports Medicine at Florida International University), so I was curious to hear how his opinion  compared to my own as a graduate student. In his opinion, academic responsibility is “blown out of proportion” because “teachers are supposed teach material and students are supposed to learn it. It’s as simple as that”. Is academic responsibility really so simple?

Is the responsibility of an educator solely to disseminate information? Is it their job to ensure students are learning? Most of my elementary and high school classes involved teachers guiding us through material in our textbooks, writing key information on the chalkboard, asking us lots of questions we would raise our hands to answer, and administering homework/projects to ingrain the knowledge being taught into our brains. The university-level courses were similar, but involved much fewer assignments, more lecture, and a ton of power point presentations. At all these levels of education, knowledge was being disseminated. However, the level of effort elementary-level educators put into ensuring learning is vastly different than that of university educators. To me, this makes perfect sense-young children need more guidance and assistance while developing academic proficiency. Yet day after day I hear undergraduate complain that their professor “doesn’t do enough to help them learn”. When does the responsibility for learning transfer from the educator to the student? Is it ever shared? In my opinion, the academic responsibility of learning should fall directly on the student-especially when that student is an adult in college. Yes, the educator is responsible, but only for disseminating the appropriate knowledge. It’s up to the student to absorb and commit it to long-term memory.

What about academic institutions? What is there responsibility in all this? If you ask today’s generation of undergraduates about their grades, most will either

A) Attribute good grades to the personal blood, sweat, and tears they put into succeeding in the class.

or

B) Blame bad grades on their professor…and then on the academic institution for hiring such an unqualified person in the first place.

Are bad grades the fault of the educator or the university who hired them? To be honest, grades are awful. Sometimes they motivate students, and sometimes they discourage them. Personally, I feel the responsibility of grades is not directly the fault of the academic institution. If all students are doing terribly in a particular professor’s course, then yes, it is the institution’s responsibility to evaluate the efficacy of that professors teaching practices.  Ultimately, I think students (especially those in university studies) and educators share the responsibility for grades. The grading system, like most scales, is merely meant to be a tool to assess where an individual is “at” on a particular spectrum. Similar to the pain scales in hospital, grading can be useful in determining how well a student is learning. Unlike a hammer, these tools [scales] are meant to assess rather than fix. It is the students responsibility to recognize that bad grades indicate they need to do a better job learning and, if necessary, seek additional help. So…what’s the educators responsibility? Well, every tool is only as good as the quality of materials it is comprised of. If a tool is poorly constructed, how can we expect it to do it’s job properly? If the grading scale is a tool, then homework, quizzes, and tests are the components it’s comprised of. It is the responsibility of the educator to properly design their class so it consists of components that effectively represent the quality of learning that should be occurring.

Overall, I believe academic responsibility is shared between academic institutions, educators, and students. However, it is very complex and continually evolves along with the academic proficiency of the student. By the time that student is enrolling in university-level courses, they need to take responsibility for their own academic success.

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One thought on “Academic Responsibility-Who’s To Blame?

  1. I would agree that grades may demotivate learners from pursuing to expand their knowledge in a field they lack competence, because of the fear of failure. Universities offer the possibility to audit classes, but it does not seem to be part of the plan of studies for the majority of students. Then again who gets a D? Also a graduate student may drop instead of getting a C. Which is why they might be demotivated from pushing against their knowledge boundaries. Which does not ‘feel’ flattering for the institution of education.

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