Below are some largely unedited ruminations I jotted down a couple of  
years ago. I suspect that they may not be the typical response and,  
thus, may get some conversation going.

Student responsibilities and rights

I address this issue in relation to faculty responsibilities and  
rights and students' rights as well as responsibilities. I draw upon  
role theory from sociology to think about responsibility and rights.  
First, student responsibilities are in reciprocal relationship to  
faculty rights (they have a reasonable right to expect students to do  
such and so in the name of teaching and learning). Helping students  
see faculty perspectives and why the ascribe particular  
responsibilities to students helps them UNDERSTAND WHY they have these  
responsibilities and not just THAT they have them. This is vital if  
you want students to have the motivation to actually take on these  
responsibilities. Second, locating this discussion in terms of  
students’ rights helps them see their power in the learning process.  
Faculty have  responsibilities with respect to students, and these  
too, are in reciprocal relationship to students' rights. I have found  
that if the focus is solely on what students have to do  
(responsibilities) the discussion  can get preachy and students can  
feel lectured to. This undermines them really being engaged with the  
topic. Moreover, responsibilities without the rights and privileges  
that accompany them are mere obligations, and obligations tend to  
invoke different motivational dynamics (the root of engagement) than  
do responsibilities.  Lastly, it's simply  fair to put the  
responsibilities and rights of faculty in dialogue with those of  
students and it helps them, as I said, see faculty perspectives. With  
responsibilities come rights, with rights come responsibilities.  
Students’ emphasis on rights to over their responsibilities may come  
in part from the fact that they are rarely discussed by faculty (and  
in part from our current litigious ways of thinking) explicitly. Such  
a discussion has the added benefit of promoting students' critical  
thinking. They should be critical, engaged participants in teaching  
and learning--that includes making critical, INFORMED judgments about  
teaching and teachers.

Shifts in responsibility from teacher to learner can be interpreted by  
students as a lack of caring on the part of instructors. Here’s how:

The shifting of responsibility to students for their own  learning  
can  be, and often is, interpreted by students as instructors not  
caring whether students learn or not.  I believe students frequently  
attribute college faculty’s expectations as a lack  of concern on this  
matter not to a redefinition of role boundaries,  but to a moral or  
emotional failing (because if it is instructor’s responsibility to  
ensure learning and they do not then they are either incompetent  
(unlikely given that they are experts) or not trying (uncaring)). The  
implications of students’ attributions go much beyond mere role   
delineation. When students feel that they are not being appropriately  
cared about,  they can feel threatened and disheartened, and even that  
they are in a hostile environment.  Which, in turn, can lead to  
students pitting themselves in opposition to, rather than putting  
themselves in alliance with, their instructors. This, then is the near  
opposite outcome of students taking greater responsibility for learning.

A solution may be clarity and transparency of expectations and the  
rationale for such expectations on the one hand and, on the other,  
acknowledging the rights and priveleges that come with increased  

On Mar 28, 2009, at 6:40 PM, Panitz, Theodore wrote:

> How do you encourage your students to take responsibility for their  
> learning?
>     Please respond to my blog ( 
> blog/ ) as well as the list.
> Here are some questions you might consider when responding to my  
> blog question:
> ·          What does taking responsibility for one’s learning mean?
> ·         How do you implement your approach/philosophy in the  
> classroom?
> ·         How do your students react to being encouraged to assume  
> more responsibility for their learning?
> I have a site that may provide you with some interesting links to  
> adult education theories. I believe that most of our current  
> students are in a transition from being child learners to becoming  
> adult learners.To find out what this means and get some additional  
> ideas for the blog  please visit:
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your  
> web browser to
> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]

"A university is, according to the usual designation, an alma mater,  
knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a  
treadmill."-John Henry Newman


Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
Study Strategies Program Coordinator
University of California, Berkeley
Student Learning Center
136 Cesar Chavez Student Center  #4260
Berkeley, CA 94720-4260

(510) 643-9278
[log in to unmask]

Spring 2009 Schedule

Appointment Times:

Mondays: 2-2:30, 2:30-3

Wednesdays: 10-10:30, 10:30-11

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Office Hours:

Strategies For Success: Tuesdays: 4-5

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To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
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To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]