N. Shapland

Griffith University (AUSTRALIA)
This paper explores the changing nature and attitudes of students today. I and many academic colleagues have oft been bewildered by, and astonished at, the attitude displayed by students today. Are we in academia simply getting old and tired... or are the students today really that different?

Increasingly the evidence suggests that today’s generation of students do view the world, and their place in it, through a different lens. Generation Me or “GenMe” exists and are unapologetically self-focused (1, 2, 3).

Significant generational differences have been found particularly in relation to individualism (2). Twenge (2) provides a useful summary of these ‘individualistic’ traits. These include higher levels of self-esteem, narcissistic personality traits, agentic traits and assertiveness. This generation of students tend to hold an inflated perception of their own academic ability, which is not reflected in any objective measure; and this is coupled with (unrealistically) high expectations for their future success (2, 3).

Academic Entitlement (AE) as “the expectation that one should receive certain positive academic outcomes (e.g., high grades) in academic settings, often independent of performance” is a burgeoning problem in higher education. Anecdotal evidence of students’ comments such as “But I came to class nearly every day! I think I should receive at least a B” is rising (4). It would seem that a growing cohort of students have little regard for standards and actual levels of academic performance. Rather, their self-confidence and sense of entitlement has them believing that their effort (or simply even enrolment) should be sufficient to be awarded superior passing grades!

When a student is not awarded the grade or outcome expected, increasingly incivility and demanding behaviours result. AE is now thought to be a major contributing factor to the rising levels of student incivility occurring within higher education institutions (5).

On the positive side, GenMe are much more likely to be tolerant and accept diversity in all its forms, believing in racial and gender equality and are markedly more supportive of gay rights (1, 2).

Whilst the catch cry “it isn’t me ... it’s generation me”, can be substantiated by the evidence; it is proposed that a clearer understanding of GenMe and their approach to life and learning will help academics to navigate connecting, engaging with and successfully teaching this new generation of students.

(1) Twenge, J. (2006). Generation Me. Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled – and more miserable than ever before. Free Press. Simon & Schuster, Inc.
(2) Twenge, J. (2013). Teaching generation me, Teaching of Psychology, 40:1, 66-69.
(3) Twenge, J., Campbell, W., & Gentile, B. (2012). Generational differences in agentic self-evaluations among American college students, 1966-2009. Self and Identity, 11, 409-427.
(4) Kopp, J., Zinn, T., Finney, S., & Jurich, D. (2011). The development and evaluation of the academics entitlement questionnaire. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 44:2, 105-129.
(5) Cain, J., Romanelli, F., & Smith, K. (2012). Academic entitlement in pharmacy education. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76:10, Article 189.