College instruction is not so stress free after all: A qualitative and quantitative study of academic entitlement, uncivil behaviors, and instructor strain and burnout

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Abstract

The vast majority of today's college students are millennials, who have traits of confidence, tolerance, but also of entitlement and narcissism (Twenge, 2006). Therefore, college instructors face a unique challenge: dealing with the requests from academically entitled students, who have unreasonable expectations of receiving academic success, regardless of performance (Chowning & Campbell, 2009). We conducted two studies to examine whether student academic entitlement would increase instructors’ strain and burnout via uncivil behaviors. A qualitative inquiry asked 136 instructors with college-teaching experience to describe types of behaviors entitled students display, their responses to entitled students, and the influence of these interactions on instructors’ well-being. Next, a quantitative study with data from 857 college students nested in 34 instructors tested a multilevel mediation model where students’ academic entitlement was related to instructor-reported uncivil behaviors, which in turn related to instructors’ strain and burnout. Both studies largely support our hypothesis that uncivil behaviors fully mediate the relationship between students’ academic entitlement and instructors’ strain and burnout. We recommend employing behavioral modification strategies to decrease uncivil behaviors (e.g., class rules regarding uncivil behaviors might be specified in the course syllabus and consistently enforced) because academic entitlement attitudes are largely stable beliefs and thus may be less amenable to modification.

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