Rutgers survey should evaluate student attitudes
Since 2009, Rutgers has been issuing the Survey of Student Experiences at the Research University (SERU). The university has joined the Universities of California, Minnesota, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Oregon, Southern California, Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, and Washington as well as Texas A&M and Purdue University in a combined effort to improve the educational experiences of students. The survey allows students to provide their opinions on what they are or are not satisfied with. The SERU, as well as other surveys, does however lack an emphasis on attitude. It is believed that simply asking about satisfaction of various aspects of the student experience is not enough, and that more emphasis on attitude should be placed when evaluating the college experience.
Students are attending Rutgers University to acquire an education to prepare them for careers. Attitude has been found to have significant effects on learning, and as a result on career choices as well. Students with negative attitudes toward a class have significantly lower performance than students with positive attitudes. This attitude can be caused by preference of professors’ teaching styles, class structure, difficulty and even the class subject. A student’s poor performance in a class is not simply a result of lack of effort — there is much more to it. Putting an emphasis on evaluating attitude provides a more in-depth explanation for educational performance. This emphasis on attitude and its evaluation can shed light on some new ways for the University to improve students’ experiences, by fixing the root of the issue.
One significant cause of negative attitude toward any experience is emotion. Experiencing negative emotions like stress and frustration during a college class or any other activity will inherently force the student not to want to participate in the stressing activity, therefore causing a negative attitude. A student who faces much stress and frustration in a class one week will have a negative attitude about the class the next week, and perhaps the student may even skip the class as a result. We naturally want to avoid the things that bring stress into our lives, which is why we cannot simply attribute poor performance to lack of effort. We must find the specific reasons behind this lack of effort and fix them one by one.
It seems to me that many colleges use the possibility of better careers to interest prospective students in choosing their college as opposed to others. Statistics for example have been used to show how many students found jobs in their preferred careers after graduation, and how quickly they did so. So it is clear that career choice is important to think about throughout college. It has been found that students who used more effective strategies to accomplish their goals in a class, and preferred more challenging tasks, happened to have more positive attitudes toward the class. Students who were fixated on their lack of ability attributed failure to their lack of ability, as a result of negative attitude. This can ultimately affect not only attitude toward a specific class, but also attitude toward the college as a whole, resulting in poor overall performance and low GPA, which ultimately lowers the likelihood of the student achieving the goals he or she set out to achieve by enrolling in college to begin with.
Attitudinal surveys are those that place an emphasis on attitude when making an evaluation, and the proposed solution to this problem is to incorporate attitude-related questions on the SERU survey. These questions will help with the enhancement of the college experience and improving career options, by allowing Rutgers to understand more about the students they are accommodating. The SERU survey is dedicated to retrieving data on academic engagement, time use, academic and personal development, overall satisfaction, and evaluation of the educational experience. Evaluating this data alongside attitude will significantly increase students’ overall experiences at the University.
Adam Kandil is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in biochemistry.