Academic Entitlement, Adults in Graduate Education, and Popular Culture: A Mixed-Methods Study

Open Access
Smyth, David R
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 28, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Ed Taylor, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ed Taylor, Committee Chair
  • Robin Redmon Wright, Committee Member
  • Peter Jones Kareithi, Committee Member
  • Charles David Kupfer, Outside Member
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair
  • Academic Entitlement
  • Student Entitlement
  • Popular Culture
  • Graduate Education
  • Higher Education
The purpose of this study was two-fold: a) to investigate the nature of academic entitlement in adult graduate students, and b) to determine if popular culture viewed from a public pedagogical lens influenced adult graduate students in respect to academic entitlement. Academic entitlement, as applied in this research, denotes student expectations about receiving high rewards or positive outcomes despite the lack of effort or evidence of acceptable performance. To adequately address this research, a mixed-methods sequential exploratory approach was used. Phase one (qualitative) utilized a semi-structured interview process with twelve students participating. A constant comparison analysis integrated the responses into categories and themes providing insights that supported the development of a graduate academic entitlement questionnaire used in phase two. The second phase (quantitative) utilized a questionnaire administered on-line to 1,101 graduate students. One hundred and twenty-six responses (11%) were collected; after screening 104 were usable. Integrating the findings from both phases provided insights about academic entitlement, specifically an entitlement viewed from within an economic exchange lens. A significant number of respondents saw their educational journey as an investment, one focused on career enhancements (i.e., higher incomes) or career prospects. Equally, a dominant viewpoint held was that graduate education was a commodity thereby underpinning entitlement beliefs about students’ expectations regarding course and program quality, content, and personal interests and accommodations. Given a presence of entitlement offered, in part, a rationale why many participants indicated observing mannerisms or personally experiencing scenarios reflective of academic entitlement thinking or economic exchange entitlement arguments. In accord with this stream of thinking, indications existed that a shift in student viewpoints was occurring about faculty’s responsibility in assuring students’ academic success, and in popular culture’s influence on fostering entitlement mindsets and a mentality of deservingness.