David Kneip led a session in the Adams Center on Generation Z characteristics and the implications for teaching practices.
The content for the session was drawn from a report released by The Chronicle of Higher Education that was researched and written by Jeffrey J. Selingo, a New-York-Times-bestselling author on higher education who also teaches at Georgia Tech. The written report includes discussions of the implications on pedagogy, recruitment and campus life.
Cultural observers like to note differences between “generations.” ACU’s current students are part of the emerging group known as “Generation Z,” and while it is presumptive to make overarching generalizations, there are some factors that tie this group together.
Gen Z members were born between 1995 and 2012 and represent “the most diverse generation in modern American history,” They are distinguished by their attitudes towards college costs (pragmatic and resistant to debt), experiences of culture (awareness and exposure to a broad range of diverse people and viewpoints), social interactions (frequent and virtual) and how they acquire learning and knowledge (Google).
Relevant and resonant teaching practices will acknowledge that students toggle between the “real” and “virtual” worlds without experiencing them as two separate realities. Thoughtful classroom practices that help students navigate the divide are required. For example, some ACU profs require students to select their level of device usage and sit in an area of the classroom designated accordingly. Among Gen Z there is actually a level of ambivalence toward technology, as devices and tools of the “virtual world” are simply their conduit for connection to others and the world.
Gen Z is career focused and practical and therefore values course content, and teaching, that draws practical applications. They prefer variety in the classroom experience with in-class activities, independent work, group work and individual components to group work. Incorporating content that acknowledges and honors diversity is also key to connecting with Gen Z.
Another feature of the current college student is their discomfort with “real” social interaction, often preferring to interact through screens rather than holding face to face conversations. They are less likely to seek out teachers during office hours and may need teachers to be accessible in a variety of ways. This could include assignments that mandate (and also guide) faculty/student interaction.
The Chronicle of Higher Ed report also includes implications for other campus services, including the increasing importance of career centers and mental health services.