What motivates you as a student to ask questions on this site? (This is a serious question.)I'm both a grad student and a college instructor. I am genuinely curious about the thinking behind why...

What motivates you as a student to ask questions on this site? (This is a serious question.)

I'm both a grad student and a college instructor. I am genuinely curious about the thinking behind why students resist reading. Professors go to a lot of trouble to present the material as efficiently as possible, and it seems  that more and more students are faking their way through a college education. Some students tell me they go to college in order to get a "better" job. Some students do not work to put themselves through college. It seems that many students (not all) are far more worried about fashion and instant gratification than they are about the great questions and problems of human existence. They seem afraid to speak up during class discussions, of making any mistakes (which are crucial for learning). What do you think? Honestly?

Asked on by gradgrind

14 Answers | Add Yours

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I like your username! Are you a Dickens fan? I am not a student, but I thought I would add a teacher's perspective. There have been times when I had a question or problem and wanted advice or different points of view, and I posted a discussion. Other teachers responded, and some of the answers were helpful. Sometimes a student will ask me a question that I do not know the answer to. I have a great deal of respect for enotes editors, and I have not asked questions often, but when I have I got quick, reliable, and detailed answers. Enotes is a powerful tool for both teachers and students.
booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Honestly, I think, as a teacher myself, that there are two kinds of students that use eNotes. First are those who are really stumped. They may struggle with a certain subject and needs some extra help or some ideas. If a student asks for possible topics for an essay, the essay is not being written for them, but they have the chance to get some input outside of the classroom. They may even be afraid to raise a hand and ask. It's quite common.

Then there are the students who want their homework done for them. It is the nature of the "beast." The irony is that many of the questions the students ask are in the summaries of novels, etc., that is provided on the site. What scares me about these kids is that they aren't even motivated to search and read, and so how are they going to survive college or life? And will they be taking care of me when I'm in a retirement community asking for my meds—kids that never thought for themselves and casually trip over my life-support power cord?

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I think that many students today are not as information literate as those of us who use a range of sources (including paper based ones) to reach a conclusion. Technological advances have created the 'just Google it' generation, and this means that as teachers we need to coach our students to use all of the sources they have critically.

I would have loved a site like this when I was an undergrad, not to get my work done for me, but to see a range of perspectives and approaches to texts that could help me develop my own response. 

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I think they're looking for a quick fix.  Rarely does an amazing question come through that I don't see it from several students...when this happens, my immediate response is, "A-ha!  A teacher-imposed question to which the student wants an answer but doesn't want to think about it for himself."  Or, more likely, a simple question which is easily answered by just reading the work, is posed.  I want to write back, "Did you read this?  If so, this question couldn't possibly be so difficult." 

Society as a whole is lazier.  Hardly anyone reads, and if he/she does, it is not classic literature...more like fashion and soap opera mags or gossip.  The vocabulary and ability to think for oneself is obliterated.  The people who think they can do these things are in Washington DC and the ones who actually can are in the classroom beating their heads against the wall.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Sometimes I sense that a student is struggling to find inspiration (perhaps for a writing assignment) and wants a little jump-start. Other times they seem to expect (demand) that we do their work for them. What is often ironic to me is that students don't always know what they're asking and therefore will not get the answer they need. Their having a basic understanding of the work is of value to us as well as them, and they don't always get that. Lazy, yes. Lazier than we were, perhaps. Access to more "cheating tools" than I ever had, certainly. Let's face it, internet accessibility and profiteering make it easy for students to cheat; it's not really fair to blame the students for taking advantage of something from which we profit.

trophyhunter1's profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

As a person who frequently answers questions on this site, I think many students are asking for homework help. I also think they are on this site for clarification on subject matter that is eluding them, for whatever reason. I notice that with my own students, they rarely seem to read a passage holistically, rather, they skim the article for the answer, all the while missing the main idea. Students in this era need quick bytes of information and are not patient enough  for the most part to sit through an entire passage or book.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I'd take issue with the idea that students now are lazier.  Back when I was in college in the 1980s, and when I was a grad student/low-paid instructor in the early '90s there were plenty of students who were taking advantage of fraternity test banks, etc.   There were plenty of students who were complaining about the amount of reading assigned (which I found laughable when I was teaching at a state school after having attended a snooty liberal arts college).

I wonder if it's more that you yourself were a good student and did not realize that everyone at your college wasn't like you?  Or maybe you went to a good school with more motivated students than the one where you teach.  But one way or another, I think that every generation sees later generations as slackers whether or not the characterization is warranted.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Well, gradgrind, I do think you do report accurately a trend that is occurring amongst students. The majority are concerned above all about getting their qualification or graduating from high school so that they can then go on to the next stage of life. I have found it harder to engage students in such existential questions as their purpose and identity and I have had to be more creative to think up better ways of helping them to think through such issues. However, I don't think we should lose hope entirely. Part of me believes that students are just as ready, if not even more ready, to engage in such questions, but that we as teachers need to find different ways of approaching them.

sovay's profile pic

sovay | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

As a student, I haven't asked many questions on this site for the books I'm studying really, I've focused on reading everyone elses because sometimes, those questions just don't occur to me. I think the reason why I visit this site isn't because I don't read the material I'm presented with -I always go out of my way to get extra books from the library if it's a topic I'm not familiar with, or admittedly I try to google an ebook, but really I come here becuase my I know any question I ask my teacher is going to give me a uniformed answer, I want something different. I don't want to pass my exams with the same answers as everyone else. I suppose it is lazy, but if I could come up with the answers myself, I wouldn't be here.

hannapark's profile pic

hannapark | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I am a highschool student. The reason I refer to this site is not because I don't enjoy reading or not pay attention at school but rather because I don't understand the material or to make sure I am on the right track. As a grade 11 student, it is crucial that I have the grades to get into university. I don't slack of or skip. I am a student that really wants to get into a great university and earn my grades on my own. So simply put, no I use this site to help me with my learning and to improve my insights rather than use it as a substitue towards my learning. 

gradgrind's profile pic

gradgrind | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

As a person who frequently answers questions on this site, I think many students are asking for homework help. I also think they are on this site for clarification on subject matter that is eluding them, for whatever reason. I notice that with my own students, they rarely seem to read a passage holistically, rather, they skim the article for the answer, all the while missing the main idea. Students in this era need quick bytes of information and are not patient enough  for the most part to sit through an entire passage or book.

I doubt that a student's impatience, particularly if the student is an adolescent, requires trots in place of books. However, I do think that the ways in which we set up students' expectations for how to read a work of literature can become self-fulfilling prophecies--or worse yet, substitutes for actual engagement with the work itself.

Teachers (and students) love mnemonics, checklists, quick-and-dirty "solutions" to "problems." Sometimes, however, these shorthand references become stand-ins rather than guides. Witness the five-paragraph essay formula. SQ3R is fine and dandy, but it's not how readers naturally engage with books. I get students so completely brainwashed that they apply such cookie-cutter methods to EVERY academic assignment. It takes a lot of gentle leading and encouragement to get them to think critically. It takes a cattle prod to get them to value risk over safety. Without risk, meaning the chance of failure, learning stops. As a result, many college students engage in silent protest, afraid to speak up for fear of losing the 4.0 they fantasize is the goal of a college education.

What do you think about the *kinds* of questions students here tend to ask?

gradgrind's profile pic

gradgrind | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I'd take issue with the idea that students now are lazier.  Back when I was in college in the 1980s, and when I was a grad student/low-paid instructor in the early '90s there were plenty of students who were taking advantage of fraternity test banks, etc.   There were plenty of students who were complaining about the amount of reading assigned (which I found laughable when I was teaching at a state school after having attended a snooty liberal arts college).

I wonder if it's more that you yourself were a good student and did not realize that everyone at your college wasn't like you?  Or maybe you went to a good school with more motivated students than the one where you teach.  But one way or another, I think that every generation sees later generations as slackers whether or not the characterization is warranted.

pohnpei, I, too was an undergrad back in the 80s. If you reread my post, you'll note that I was careful to say "some" or "many" students, "not all." You'll also note that my question to *students* on this site was about their reading habits, not about why students may or may not be "like me." I'm less interested in the perennial "kids-these-days" stance than in understanding why and how students use this site.

gradgrind's profile pic

gradgrind | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Well, gradgrind, I do think you do report accurately a trend that is occurring amongst students. The majority are concerned above all about getting their qualification or graduating from high school so that they can then go on to the next stage of life. I have found it harder to engage students in such existential questions as their purpose and identity and I have had to be more creative to think up better ways of helping them to think through such issues. However, I don't think we should lose hope entirely. Part of me believes that students are just as ready, if not even more ready, to engage in such questions, but that we as teachers need to find different ways of approaching them.

accessteacher, you make a good point: that it's apparently getting more difficult to convince many students of the value of more complex questions than "If I do X, will I get Y?"

Some of that is of course related to where any individual students' development of higher-order reasoning falls. But I sense that years of outcomes-based education (however well-intentioned it may be) has grossly overemphasized a certain false utilitarian POV. Also, universities run by "customer-service" admins pander to this because it boosts enrollment and thus income for the school. (Of course, precious little of this ends up funding, say, fine arts, humanities, or liberal arts). Some of it is surely attributable to pop culture, which has grown increasingly shallow (alongside cutbacks to art education--if I hear one more out-of-tune commercial jingle, I'll shoot my TV!).

gradgrind's profile pic

gradgrind | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Would any students like to chime in? I know all the pedagogical issues, and, yes, I do know that students have been lambasted for laziness since time immemorial (because I read).

This question is directed *specifically at students* who use this site. I am asking students to tell me a bit about why they use this site, and whether they use it as a supplement to reading or a substitute for it.

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