UNDERSTANDING — AND APPRECIATING — GEN Z
To best understand this highly technical generation, you need a closer look at how society has shaped them. Then consider how their unique qualities relate to your program’s curricula and teaching techniques — and how you may need to adapt.
THEY EXPECT EVERYTHING ON DEMANDIt’s not that Gen Z is particularly impatient or entitled. They simply have never had to wait, whether renting movies or searching for answers.
PERSONALIZATION IS THEIR NORMALThey’ve received targeted feeds of information, entertainment, suggestions, and requests since birth. (Google, after all, is older than they are.)
YOUTUBE IS THEIR FAVORITEVideo is Gen Z’s chosen form of entertainment and learning. (They also prefer leaving video messages over texts or emails.)
TEACHING TIPS FOR GENERATION Z
EMBRACE DIGITAL DEVICESGen Z has been watching YouTube on their parents’ smartphones since they were toddlers. They’re accustomed to learning through online sources and chatrooms. And being as they’re on their phones nearly all the time, anyway, wrap your arms around technology (apps, interactive whiteboards, etc.) to create engaging, collaborative, interactive experiences that play to their interests and preferences.
In real life: The University of Iowa has set up a connected A/V system to support two-way communication. Seated in groups around a single monitor, students and teachers share materials and use devices for interaction rather than distraction.9
PERSONALIZE THEIR LEARNINGEducators don’t need a tailored approach for every student. Instead, use formative assessment to evaluate group progress, review challenging concepts, dig deeper where interest is evident, and adjust on the fly. (Note: 66 percent of higher-ed leaders are researching artificial intelligence to analyze student data to personalize learning.1)
RETHINK HOW YOU CONGREGATEAdopt video-chat applications such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime for one-on-one and group dialogue. Enable screen-sharing so students can show concepts or display work. Similarly, make yourself available. Offer your email and cell number and set up group texts so students can help one another.
PUBLISH DIGITALLY FOR PEER LEARNINGAssign students to generate and share content online. The platform is a natural for them and may inspire them in reviewing and assessing others’ work. Portals also allow easy access to resources such as lecture notes and e-books.
BE COGNIZANT OF FINANCIAL AND TIME CONSTRAINTSMore Gen Z students are from families facing financial difficulties, and many combine studies with jobs, caregiving, and other responsibilities. Help them by maximizing their time. Explain the relevance of every lesson and describe its application in the real world. They’re used to immediacy, after all, so putting the relevance first will be appreciated.
CONSIDER THE IMPACT OF DIVERSITYWhether students’ differences are economic, political, religious, or sexual, Gen Z comes to class with distinctly unique backgrounds. These differences will enrich the classroom but also create sensitive challenges. Be prepared when controversial topics arise and help students less familiar with the college experience feel a sense of belonging.
MAKE CIVILITY A CORE CONCEPTMental health is a serious issue among Gen Z — not necessarily because they have more anxiety and depression; they simply may be more comfortable discussing the topic. Whatever the reason, with civility a continuing concern in nursing, you’ll need proactive measures to reinforce healthy behaviors.
TRY PROJECT-DRIVEN INSTRUCTIONGive Gen Z students a shot at lesson planning. Explain learning goals and set them free to create tutorials on their preferred platform (YouTube, podcasts, blogs, gaming, etc.). Then share and nurture peer advising. Such learning also keeps students busy, so they don’t get distracted.
CREATE IMMERSIVE ENVIRONMENTSSimulation is the norm in most nursing programs, but consider other ways to incorporate virtual and augmented reality. Gen Z students thrive and enjoy the challenges of an immersive educational experience. In fact, 51 percent said they learn best by doing; only 12 percent said they learn through listening.2
MIX UP YOUR MEDIARemember their limited attention span and love of YouTube? Keep that in mind and deliver information that is digestible and presented graphically whenever possible. Rely on charts, graphs — even memes and emojis — to keep them engaged.
RECOGNIZE YOUR INFLUENCEGen Z ranked teachers as their preferred learning tool, followed by YouTube — which you know they love. So while technology has shaped their educational expectations, these students appreciate and respect their educators.9
1Higher Ed Survey: AI and Academic Video [Web log post]. (2018, September 11). Retrieved from https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-WMXZKSNNL/.
2Barnes & Noble College. Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring Middle and High Schoolers’ Expectations for Higher Education. Basking Ridge, N.J., 2016.
3The Center for Generational Kinetics. The State of Gen Z 2018. Austin, Texas, 2018.
45 Differences Between Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z [Web log post]. (2017, November 27). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/11/27/5-differences-between-marketing-to-millennials-vs-gen-z/#7cc03d8e2c9f.
5Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 [Web log post]. (2018, May 31). Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/pi_2018-05-31_teenstech_0-05/.
6Generation Z: What to Expect From the Newest Addition to the Workforce [Web log post]. 2019, February. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/meet-generation-z-the-newest-member-to-the-workforce/.
7Flanigan, A.E., & Kiewra, K.A. (2018). What College Instructors Can Do About Student Cyber-Slacking. Educational Psychology Review, 30, 585-597.
8How to Teach Gen Z Students [Web log post]. (2017, May 9). Retrieved from https://www.aicpa.org/interestareas/accountingeducation/newsandpublications/how-to-teach-generation-z-students.html.
9Meeting the Generational Demands of Gen Z [Web log post]. (2018, October 25). Retrieved from https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2018/10/meeting-educational-demands-generation-z.