On a recent sunny morning, Gina D’Orazio ’17 and Dr. Sarai Blincoe sat side by side, studying the results of their research like political pundits poring over returns on election night.
They hoped their analysis of thousands of data points from 210 students would shed light on a topic often debated by professors but rarely put to the test: Does a student’s sense of academic entitlement (AE)—in other words, a high expectation of academic success without feeling personal responsibility for that success—negatively impact his or her actual exam grades and GPA? At the same time, the researchers were looking at what influence self-control has on academic performance. Psychologists have found that self-control is a better predictor of success in life than IQ.
"What our data suggests is that both variables (academic entitlement and self-control) are significantly related to academic performance, which is exciting," said Blincoe, a psychology professor, as she and D’Orazio peered at numbers on the computer screen.
The research, part of Longwood’s PRISM program this summer, is "the first study to get multiple objective measures of academic performance related to AE," said Blincoe.
One thing that D’Orazio and Blincoe have found is that high AE is associated with lower exam grades but not with lower GPAs. In addition to determining how much AE and self-control predict academic performance on their own, they also want to know how the two variables work together.
"We don’t know exactly how AE and self-control might blend ," said Blincoe. "AE could be good or bad depending on self-control. Our analyses suggest that self-control is more important in the long run for GPA, but academic entitlement could matter more in the short term for performance on exams in a specific course, for example."
D’Orazio was asked about her academic entitlement and self-control. "I would say I am not that academically entitled, and I have pretty good self-control," she said with a smile. "I feel like everyone can be a little academically entitled at times because students expect a lot. But where you place the blame when you fail, that matters a lot."
As part of the research project, D’Orazio is coding various aspects of the emails that the study participants sent to one of their professors to see if there is any link between what Blincoe called "email communication style" and academic entitlement. "We want to see if the faculty-student relationship is different for entitled students," said Blincoe.
This student and this faculty member are enjoying their relationship. "I like working with Dr. Blincoe," said D’Orazio, who is thinking about graduate school and possibly pursuing a career in sports psychology. "Plus, the research is really interesting. I’m excited to find the results."
Blincoe welcomes the opportunity to pursue research, which she says improves her teaching. "At Longwood, faculty have a lot of freedom with regard to their research; they can get involved in a deeper way, especially when working with students," she said. "I would love to see more students do research with faculty."