It may seem as though some modern college students are just looking to cut corners or find short cuts. Do you think your students are looking for a challenge or an easy A? To find out, we asked thousands of college students if they would rather learn a lot and earn a C, or get an A without any challenge? Discover just how important grades really are to students and some tips for keeping them challenged.

Importance of Grades to College Students

We’re happy to report that 87% of college students say that their grades are “very important” to them. Another 12% admitted they were “somewhat important.” Grades are “not very important” to 1% of students, and 0% find them unimportant.

If it ever seems to you that your students don’t care how they do in your course, remember that 1% or fewer really feel that way! These students may benefit from some additional attention to boost their motivation. Suggest that they come chat with you during office hours to assess their challenges, visit with a tutor, or start a study group.

Challenge or easy A?

Students clearly value their grades immensely, but do they want to work hard for them? Years ago, the Millennial generation got a bad reputation for being “lazy,” but we know that’s not the case. And we can prove it! We asked students if they’d rather work hard for average grades or get an easy A.

Challenging college students

Only 37% of college students say that they would prefer to earn an A, even if it felt like they sailed through without a challenge. Surprisingly, 63% of college students revealed that their top priority is learning a lot from a class, even if they earn a C. Though they value their grades, the majority of students appear to value hard work even more.

Challenging students

When students are engaged with their classroom and their material, they will feel more motivated to work hard. We explained the top factors that make classes engaging for students in our post, “How to Improve Student Engagement in the Classroom.”

College student engagement improves with:

1.)  Relevant, interesting, or fun topics

2.)  Group work

3.)  Comfortable setting for discussion

You can also challenge your students by encouraging them to set high goals for themselves. We’ve all heard the benefits of setting “SMART” goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based. In addition to this, author Christine Harrington explains in her post, “The Process of Becoming a Critical Thinker” that setting high goals is much better than setting easy goals. According to Harrington:

High goals are most likely to lead to high levels of success (Latham & Locke, 2006). College courses need to incorporate academically rigorous tasks that have been carefully crafted to develop high level critical thinking skills.

Teaching Strategies: Questioning and complex, cooperative learning tasks can be powerful ways to challenge students to think more deeply about content. Teaching students how to set challenging goals will also promote higher level learning.

Some students may groan when you propose challenging goal-setting or rigorous lesson plans, but they’ll thank you at the end of term!

What suggestions do you have for keeping your students motivated and challenged? Share your ideas below.