Certain students more likely to accuse professors of bias

Instructors can help students understand the greater purpose of higher education

Students who demonstrate a sense of entitlement and are concerned with getting high grades are more likely than their peers to perceive their instructors as ideologically biased, according to a new studypublished in Teaching in Higher Education

Darren Linvill, assistant professor of communication studies at Clemson University, and Will Grant, a lecturer in the Center for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University, surveyed 232 undergraduate students at two unnamed institutions—one in the United States and one in Australia.

Students were surveyed about whether they believed their instructors were biased and also answered questions to determine whether they had what researchers defined as attitudes demonstrating academic entitlement (AE) and grade orientation (GO).

Students with a high degree of academic entitlement respondent positively to statements like, "It is the professor's responsibility to make it easy for me to succeed," and, "I am a product of my environment. Therefore, if I do poorly in class, it is not my fault." Students with high degrees of GO were more concerned with getting good grades than they were with learning.

Both Australian and American students with high scores for AE and GO were much more likely than their peers to perceive their instructors as biased. Students with high GO scores also said they had behaved differently in response to their professors' biases and either keep quiet about their opinions or pretend to agree with instructors whom they believed were biased.

According to Linvill, the study does not determine whether bias actually exists in classrooms, although it is a possibility. What is particularly concerning, he says, is the finding that students hide or lie about their political views in class. 

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Linvill hopes that instructors can work with students so that they are less entitled and put less emphasis on grades.

"It may not be about liberal or conservative," he says. "It's about the importance of professors helping students be enculturated to higher education and to understand its purpose and to understand that education is fundamentally a two-way street" (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 10/10). 

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