April 24th, 2012

Unprepared and Unmotivated Students the Two Biggest Challenges for Faculty, Survey Says

By:

If unprepared students and student motivation are two of your biggest teaching challenges, you’re not alone. They scored number one and two in the annual Faculty Focus reader survey conducted earlier this year.

More than half of the 1,000-plus readers who completed the survey rated unprepared students as either “very problematic” (32.9%) or “extremely problematic” (22.8%); with another fourth (25.2%) saying the issue of unprepared students was “moderately problematic.”

Meanwhile, more than one-third of readers rated student motivation as “moderately problematic” (36.5%); with just over one-fourth (25.4%) saying “very problematic” and 11.6% calling it “extremely problematic.”

The issues of unprepared students and student motivation far outpaced the nine other potential challenges listed in the survey question which asked: What are some of your biggest day-to-day challenges? Coming in at number three was technology distractions, which nearly half of the readers said was either “moderately problematic” (28.4%) or “very problematic” (18.2%). All the remaining issues, which included student incivility, faculty incivility, class size too big, helicopter parents, classroom safety, and limited resources, were rated much lower.

Other results from the survey:

  • In terms of article topics, the five areas of interest that scored the highest were: learner-centered teaching, teaching with technology, course design, assessment and grading, and assignment strategies.
  • 60.5% of readers identified themselves as professor/instructor, 10.3% as dean/administrator, and 10.7% as other.
  • 28.1% of readers have worked in higher education for more than 20 years, 22.1% for 6-10 years, 18.4% fewer than 10 years, and 18.3% for 11-15 years.
  • 29.2% of readers work at a four-year public institution, 26.9% at a two-year public institution, and 26.3% at a four-year private institution.
  • 61.8% of readers teach or manage at least one online or blended course.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey. We take all of the insight and feedback received very seriously and will use it to continue to improve Faculty Focus throughout the coming year.


  • Hello Mary:

    Thank you for a thoughtful post.

    I’m curious about the results of the survey. I can understand the issue of student motivation; however, I’m interested in knowing more about the perspective of unprepared students. Does this refer to a lack of academic skills or coming to class unprepared? It seems that the instructor is responsible for helping students be prepared by clearly outlining the resources required and providing the necessary tools. Of course reading the materials and using those tools may depend upon the student’s level of motivation.

    Dr. J

  • Hello Dr. J.,
    I suspect it's a little of both…students who are unprepared for the academic rigor of the college classroom and students who come to class unprepared because they didn't do the reading or other assignments.

    Mary