The “getting by” Mentality

The TEDxKC video “What Baby George Taught Me About Learning” by Michael Wesch really made me reevaluate my undergrad career. So many of the things he and his students brought forward are so true of the collegiate system today. I think the notion of “getting by” in school is very prevalent. As an undergrad I definitely had this mentality today. You just need to get the minimum amount of work done just to get a desired grade in the class. It wasn’t even really about the learning it was just about hitting the required marks to pass the class. I will say this with a caveat, that most of the courses I applied this to I was not passionate about.  So my question to you out there is who is responsible for correcting this notion? Should I be required to take these courses? Could it be supplemented for something instead? Could the courses possibly be catered to individual students so we actually get something meaningful out of the class?

I think Michael Wesch did a good job of addressing these issues with his student that was constantly sleeping in his class. He pulled that student aside had lunch with him and figured out what was going on with this student. After learning what was going on in his life, he put him in a more applicable course where he was able to peruse what he was passionate about. This is kind of an ideal scenario and I question is it realistic to think we could do this for every student? I also think there are just some courses you have to pay your dues with. Especially for engineering there are some really dry courses that are just requirements and there is no way around it. What do you guys think about some of these points?

14 thoughts on “The “getting by” Mentality”

  1. I think Gardner Campbell said it best, ” easily measured, easily described outcomes linked to detailed prescriptions, policies, and penalties, all contained within the course contracts (i.e. course syllabi)” remain the administrative focus and the priority which gets drilled into the educator, which in turn sends the message to the students that “here’s the bare minimum you need to do to pass this class. That’s your goal. Learning be damned, focus on grades.” I agree that it is unreasonable to expect educators to be able to address each and every student at a one-on-one level unless administrators are made to address and rectify this poor prioritization. Such large-scale changes will only come when students and educators band together at an organizational level though, I believe.

    1. Well put, but if there is not a written contacts outlining expectations how do we assign a grade ? Would it be more subjective as to a teachers opinion ?

  2. I definitely agree that there are courses that encourage the “just getting by” mentality. Every course isn’t going to be super relevant to your interests, and when the course instructor sees that students are just coasting through it, they begin to lose interest themselves. I believe the instructor has a responsibility to engage the students and keep the information as relevant and relatable as possible. If we can get students to see even the smallest connection from the coursework to their lives, we help prevent the just getting by mentality.

    1. I totally agree. Just my 2 cents I have lectured a few of my favorite engineering courses and there are just times when I get black stares. I think it can be hard at time to really make some subject matters interesting.

      1. Oh, those black stares are demoralizing! When the syllabus is that heavy, it would help to remind students regularly why they are going through all this. Based on my TA experience dealing with engineering classes, every student is super motivated at the beginning but they tend to lose faith as the lectures pile on. I try to inquire about their frustration more often, giving them a chance to blow off steam. Sometimes all it takes to overcome boredom is to be able to express it frankly.

  3. I enjoyed your post and like how it highlights what I think is one of the major problems with our education system. We (the students, I have been there myself) look at what we are taught by how we value its contribution to our life, largely in immediate future, and lose track of what it means to learn. I have certainly been there, taking that intro to _____ appreciation that falls so far out of the realm of our interest that it’s hard not to think ‘what’s the point’. From a practical sense, maybe there really isn’t one for most students – at least at the surface. What I think the education system fails to stress is that everything we do, or think about, or subject ourselves to does impact how our minds work, how we think, and how we perceive the world around us. One of the hardest things, in my opinion, is not learning what to think but how to think, and realizing that we can train and hone that ability by taking the classes that don’t immediately seem to hold value for our careers is a major mentality shift that might help with the ‘getting by’ paradigm. Also the practical ability of training yourself to do something you don’t ‘want’ to do and still do it well holds some inherent value since not everything we have to do in our life falls squarely in our wheelhouse.

    1. Interesting points. I really liked how you stated ” not learning what to think but how to think” this is so true. We need an overhaul of the whole system.

  4. I think the old fashioned classes should be promoted in the way you explained to be more learning-based instead of grade-based. however, these changes require a different mentality of both students and teachers and also a modified education system.

  5. Thank you for your post. As you said, not every course is allowed teachers as well as students to make an attempt to do something interesting and interacting, due to the large size of class or nature of courses and subjects. It might be impossible for you to get over 100 students engaged in the class actively. But I believe teachers need to create inclusive environments and to reach out to low performing and less confident students first.

  6. I also wrote about the “getting by” mentality in my blog post! I’m glad that there are others who also think that this is an issue in our current education system. As an undergrad, I was a student who just “got by” with low grades and didn’t learn very much. I am trying to change that mentality in the students that I TA for but it’s so hard, especially in a class of 200+ seniors who just want to “get by” and graduate. Do you have any teaching tips?

  7. Thanks for your post! It made me think of a discussion that I had in another class today about certain classes or aspects of our specific program that some of us have learned to dread and take a “just get by” approach in. We talked about the importance of choosing a shift in mindset about these classes and the difference that can make in the quality of our work as well as our own well being and enjoyment of the process. However, we viewed the responsibility for this change of mindset as lying primarily with the student and secondarily as a responsibility of faculty and the field as a whole. I wonder if we may, at times, place sole responsibility for making these changes in perspective on the shoulders of teachers and professors.

  8. I really enjoyed your post here, particularly, raising the voice from being an engineer. Me, as a trying to be a social scientist, and my partner actually have sometime diverged opinions on this “real learning” issue. While I really care so much about my students learning processes and I am looking at their eyes so close to understanding them, my partner is much more about how good, structured, mechanical information that I give them in class. Indeed, I was thinking that it might be about the contents of our fields. I don’t know. But, yeah at the end, I loved this video but questioning at the same time how far it is realistic when it comes to natural science, and engineering fields.

  9. Your blog post almost mirrored my blog post. I am happy to see someone else get the same thing out of the same reading and video posts. I get the feeling that you are in an engineering or science related field where “pay the dues” classes are necessary. I have been thinking alot that the priority of changing engineering educaiton has to start in the 100 and 200 level classes

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