How to Handle Three Common Demands from Students in Large Courses

I recently had a conversation with a faculty member about the midterm feedback she had received from the students in her course. Her response to their suggestions echoed one I often hear in my work in faculty development: “Really, I can’t believe all the things students want me to do for them nowadays—they expect to be spoon-fed. This isn’t grade school!” As faculty we can indeed feel beset by student demands today. No wonder—the students attending our colleges and universities come from more diverse backgrounds than ever before, and they may be more focused on attaining credentials for a job than expanding their minds.

But not all of our students’ demands are unwarranted. Sometimes our students are expressing the needs and frustrations of novice learners in our fields. They know that something isn’t working for them, but they may not know the real basis for their problems nor the best way to fix them. In these cases, we need to translate their comments into the language of learning (Hodges and Stanton 2007). Only then can we decide whether—and how—to change our teaching to accommodate an apparent student need.