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“It’s Like Herding Cats in Here!” Transforming Age Diversity into Synergy in Multigenerational Classrooms. MCLI Student Success Conference - October,2010. Presenters. Anne Robey-Graham, Ed.D. Doctorate in higher education from ASU.

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Mcli student success conference october 2010

“It’s Like Herding Cats in Here!” Transforming Age Diversity into Synergy in Multigenerational Classrooms

MCLI Student Success Conference - October,2010


  • Anne Robey-Graham, Ed.D.

    • Doctorate in higher education from ASU.

    • Adjunct Communication Faculty, Mesa CC. Also an adjunct for Central Arizona College, Kaplan University and Capella University, and a lead mentor for Northcentral University (Prescott Valley, AZ).

  • Gordon Graham, Ph.D.

    • Earned first Canadian Ph.D. in workplace learning from Univ. of Calgary.

    • Research Professor, Northcentral University (Prescott Valley, AZ), and adjunct faculty and doctoral mentor for Capella University.

  • Jill Wendt, Doctoral Candidate

    • Doctoral candidate in higher education from ASU.

    • Adjunct Social and Behavioral Sciences Faculty, Mesa CC, SMCC, and CGCC. Arizona Program for Policy, Ethics and Leadership (APPEEL) Fellowship for emerging leaders in education

Why generational theory
Why Generational Theory?

“Everyone belongs to a generation. Some people embrace it like a warm, familiar blanket, while others prefer not to be lumped in with their age mates. Yet like it or not, when you were born dictates the culture you will experience. This includes the highs and lows of pop culture, as well as world events, social trends, economic realities, behavioral norms, and ways of seeing the world. The society that molds you when you are young stays with you the rest of your life (p. 2). “

Twenge, J. (2006). Generation me: Why today's young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled--and more miserable than ever before. New York: Free Press.

Statement of the problem 3 generations learning in the same classroom

Statement of the Problem:3 Generations Learning in the Same Classroom


Baby Boomers

Gen X’ers

Statement of the problem
Statement of the Problem

  • Embracing connections to overcome generation gaps – When can we foster connections across generations of learners?

  • Everyone’s expecting something different – Where do different generations of students get their assumptions about learning and communication?

  • Enemies or Friends –How can multigenerational interaction promote collaboration in the classroom?

    Who knows only his own generation remains always a child. – George Norlin

Let s look at 3 generations
Let’s Look at 3 Generations

  • Baby Boomers

  • Gen X’ers

  • Millennials

Mcli student success conference october 2010

  • Which generation do you represent?

    • Baby Boomers

    • Gen X’ers

    • Millennials

      Overview of generational chart

Generational attitudes learners bring into the classroom
Generational Attitudes Learners Bring into the Classroom

  • Generational experiences that learners bring into the classroom:

    • Academic K – 12 experiences

    • Experience with family and social structures

  • Generational attitudes towards academics and work ethic:

    • Attitude toward authority figures and professors

    • Attitude towards learning

    • Attitude towards work

  • Generational attitudes towards others:

    • Attitude towards diversity

    • Attitude towards relationships

    • Attitude towards trust

Multigenerational learning creates synergy
Multigenerational Learning Creates Synergy

  • Synergy is sparked in multigenerational settings

    • Single generation classrooms lacked synergy

    • Learners stretched by new ideas and perspectives

  • Synergy is dampened when generations refused to learn from each other

    • Bauerlein’s (2007) “perpetual adolescence”

    • Different academic preparedness – reading, writing and interacting in groups

  • Synergy is sparked when generations learned from each other

    • Not just older teaching younger but also younger teaching older

    • Learning in activities together promoted learning from each other

Developing an effective 3 r s strategy for promoting multigenerational learning
Developing an Effective “3 R’s” Strategy for Promoting Multigenerational Learning

  • Reach outto other generations of learners in class Stop segregation now!

  • Respect reasons for differences in academic preparedness and attitudes NO to tolerance; YES to respect.

  • Respond in new ways based on expanded perspectives

    See the world with a new lens.


Adelman, C. (2006). The propaganda of numbers. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 53:8. p. B6.

Bauerlein, M. (2008). The dumbest generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). New York: The Penguin Group.

Cross, K.P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Davis, J. B., Pawlowski, S. D., & Houston, A. (2006). Work commitments of baby boomers and gen x’ers in the IT profession: Generational differences or myth? The Journal of Information Systems. 46:3. pp. 43 – 50.

Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gilbert, E. & Karahalios, K. (2009). Predicting tie strength with social media. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Session: Online learning. New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery.

Howe, N. & Strauss W. (2000). Millennials rising. New York, NY: Vintage.

Jarvis, P. (1987). Adult learning in the social context. London: Croom Helm.

Knowles, M. S. (1990). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Co.


Kohl, H. (1994). “I won’t learn from you” and other thoughts on creative maladjustment. New York, NY: The New Press.

Kostka, J. (2005). Three generations unite in name of patient care. AORN Journal. 3:3, pp. 15 – 18.

Merriam, S. B., & Caffarella, R. S. (1999). Andragogy and other models of adult learning. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Mikami, A., Szwedo, D., Allen, J., Evans, M. and Hare, A. (2010). Adolescent peer relationships and behavior problems predict young adults’ communication on social networking websites. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), pp. 46 – 56.

Robey-Graham, A. (2008). Teaching multi-generational students: A case study of community college classrooms. Arizona State University.

Strauss, W., & Howe N. (1993). 13th Gen: Abort, retry, ignore, fail? New York, NY: Vintage.

Strauss, W., & Howe, N., (1997). The fourth turning: What the cycles of history tell us about America’s next rendezvous with destiny. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

Twenge, J. (2006). Generation me: Why today's young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled--and more miserable than ever before. New York: Free Press.


Walker, J. T., Martin, T., White, J., Elliott, R., et al. (2006). Generational (age) differences in nursing students’ preferences for teaching methods. Journal of Nursing Education. 45:9, pp. 371 – 375.

Willis, S. L. (2006). Technology and learning in current and future generations of elders. Generations. 30:2, pp. 44 – 49.

Wood, S. (2005). Spanning the generation gap in the workplace. American Water Works Association Journal. 97:5, pp. 86 – 89.