Understanding and Working with Contemporary Students Larry D. Roper Oregon State University
Learning Outcomes • Better understanding of the attributes of contemporary college students • Better understanding of dynamics that influence students’ perspectives and behaviors • Better understanding of ways faculty can enhance the engagement of students
Dilemma of Millennials • Generational influences • Industry built on stereotypes • Challenge of labels
Your Students Today? • Who are your students? • How do you know they are who you think they are? • What challenges do they present to you?
Flow • Who are they? • What influences them? • What characteristics they manifest? • What they expect? • What we can do?(How we can construct better teaching-learning relationships?)
Generational Context • Presentation focuses on students moving through a specific time in history with a distinct image of themselves • Have a set of common beliefs and behaviors unique to their generation and their historical context – as was the case with previous generations
Generational Cohorts • GI/Veteran (Greatest Gen) 1901 - 1924 • Silent/Traditionalist 1925 - 1942 • Baby Boomers 1943 - 1960 • Generation X (Lost Gen) 1961 - 1981 • Millennials 1982 -2004?
Millennial Generation • Generation Y • Net Generation • Echo Boom By most accounts this is the largest of generations (in excess of 76 million)
Influenced by… • Political focus on children and family • Highly scheduled and structured lives • Multiculturalism • Terrorism • Heroism • Patriotism • Parents as advocates • Globalism • Mandatory testing
Major Influences • Their parents • The self-esteem movement • The customer service movement (everything comes with a toll-free number or web address). • Gaming and technology • Casual communication (IM, email, tweets…) • Multiculturalism
Parent Profile • Many Baby Boomers became parents in the 1980s while Gen X moms were more traditional age, which caused overlapping generations to have babies e.g., about 30% of births were by women over age 30). • Millennials have older largely Baby Boomer parents, many delayed having children until financially secure. • More highly educated than previous generations, the first in U.S. history whose mothers are better educated than their fathers, by a small margin. • Generation of “wanted” children. • Children central to their parents’ sense of purpose (trophy children).
Parenting Styles • Deliberate, goal-specific . • Boomers parents rebelled against the parenting they received (strictness, “because I told you so” or “because I’m the parent and you’re the child”). • Friendship, open lines of communication and close relationship with children. • They explain things and involve children in making informed decisions and rational judgments. • Raise children to have input into family decisions, educational options and discipline issues. • Teach to question authority and information conveyed by the media.
Parent Dynamics on Campus • Helicopter Parent (n)A parent who hovers over his or her children. • Snowplow parent: Parents who clear the way for their children. Is this a problem?
Family Life • Families spend more time with kids. • Smaller families result in more time with each child. • Fathers are more involved and spending more time with children. • Less housework is being done. • The social lives of parents and kids are interwoven. • Parents and children share strong relationships and children share their parents’ values.
How Do They Show Up? • What behaviors would you expect of children raised with the social and parental dynamics described? • How might the possible behavioral attributes challenge you? • What possible strengths might they bring to the educational experience?
Quick Synopsis • Children of late Boomers and early GenXers • “Babies on Board” (Reagan) and “Have You Hugged Your Child Today” (Clinton) influenced • Social protections dominated legislation (child restraints, home products, movie/video ratings, campus security) • Children of Columbine, terrorism, Iraq wars • Technology influenced
Demographics • Nearly 35-40% of Millennials are nonwhite or Latino. • Twenty percent has at least one parent who is an immigrant. • The most racially and ethnically diverse generation in US history. • More than half are already voting age adults • Single largest birth year was 1990, entering college about 2008.
Generational Attributes • Civic-minded, have had community service emphasized. • Collectively optimistic about our world and what can be achieved by them. • Great belief in their own potential, having been acculturated in that manner. • High achievers, an expectation that they will do well. Used to setting and achieving goals. • Lower rates of violent crime, teen pregnancy, smoking and alcohol use than ever before. • Are being asked to provide a new definition of citizenship lead the green revolution. • Appreciation of diversity and collaboration
Millennials Are…Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Strauss and Howe 2000) • Special - inculcated with a sense that they are vital to the nation and to their parents’ sense of purpose • Sheltered - focus of the most sweeping youth safety movement in American history • Confident - high levels of trust and optimism, strongly felt connection to parents and future; their achievements are good news for their country • Team-oriented - teamwork emphasized from daycare and beyond, very accustomed to working in teams – tight peer bonds • Achieving - on track to become the best-educated and best-behaved adults in the nation’s history • Pressured - pushed to study hard, avoid risky behavior, and take full advantage of opportunities afforded by adults - feel a “trophy kid” pressure to excel • Conventional - More comfortable with their parents’ values than any other generation in living memory – support the idea that social rules can help
Conventional Attributes • They identify with their parents’ values • They share close relationships with their parents • They follow rules (if given clear understandable rules) • They accept authority • “Whatever” as a common response to dissent
Generational Messages • Be smart – you are special (Nickelodeon, Baby Gap, Sports Illustrated for Kids) • Leave no one behind (taught to be inclusive and tolerant of other religions and sexual orientations) • Connect 24/7 (learned to be interdependent-on family, friends, and teachers) • Achieve now at a high level(right college, right preschool) • Serve your community – think of the greater good • Be inclusive
Behavioral outcomes • Develop negotiation, rational thinking and decision-making skills at young ages. • Willing and able to negotiate with anyone on any issue. • Are used to their parents keeping tabs on their every move. • Expect and need praise. • Confuse silence for disapproval. • Expect feedback.
Behavioral outcomes • Technology and multitasking are a way of life - expect nomadic connectivity, 24x7 • Trial and error is a common approach to learning (Nintendo logic) • Live in a world of bits and bytes, flash and color – acculturated to the stimulation of the internet • They want their parents involved (deeply involved) and solicit their involvement • Progressive views in all areas and big expectations for change.
Aspirations • They don’t want the stressed jobs and exhausted lives of their parents. • They seek lives of value and meaning, including careers characterized by responsibility, independence, creativity and idealism.
Generational Themes • The most monumental financial boom and busts in history. • Saw steady income growth through the 1990’s, then saw parents lose significant portions of their stocks and mutual funds (college funds) during the late 2000’s.
Learning Preferences • With technology • With each other • Online • In their time • In their place • Doing things that feel significant (worthy)
Technology usage • Digital Natives • Gamers • Computers are an assumed part of life. • Always connected – seen as essential. • The Internet is used for research, interactivity, and socializing – their preferred medium. • Affects their tolerance- zero tolerance for delays. • Cell phones are a “lifestyle management tool” • Communication much more casual (IM, email and cell phones.
Technology • 100% use the internet to seek information • 94% use the internet for school research • 41% use email and IM to contact teachers and schoolmates about school work • 75% have a Facebook account • 81% email friends and relatives • 70% use IM to keep in touch • 56% prefer the internet to the telephone
Educational Needs • They need to understand the objectives of classroom activities and projects. (Why?) • They want to have input into their educational processes. • They want their work to be meaningful. • They respond well to learning communities and service learning. • They want clear expectations, explicit syllabi, and well structured assignments (including detailed instructions and guidelines for completing assignments). • They are accustomed to active learning and constant change in classroom activities. • Teachers are viewed as guides and facilitators of learning.
Expectations • More Choices and Selectivity • Experiential and Exploratory Learning • Flexibility and Convenience • Personalization and Customization • Rapid Response • Collaboration & Intelligence • Balanced Lives • Less Reading
Expectations of Faculty • Enthusiasm • Enjoyable to be around • Provide intellectual challenges • Have flexible class policies • Clear direction • Are sensitive to their needs/feelings • Emphasize preparing for future career
Classroom Issues • Plagiarism (blurred lines between what it means to be a consumer and creator) • Cheating (students need clarity about what this means) • Cell Phone Policies (off or vibrate) • Typing vs. Handwriting (What proficiency to build) • Accommodations –many have been diagnosed with ADHD and have been medicated (@80% are boys). • Number with disabilities has jumped from 3% to 9%. • Many have had individual education plans. • Many need testing services (quiet, separate). • Need to self-advocate to teachers. • Major transition from high school to college.
What To Do? • Develop policies and practices around appropriate communication. • Give students electronic access to as much as is philosophically possible. • Draw a line on negotiations. • Provide students with definitions, boundaries and rules. • Provide group-oriented activities • Service learning • Study groups • Supplemental instruction • Learning communities
Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness • Student-Faculty Contact • Promote Reciprocity and Cooperation • Break Course Assignments into Small Chunks • Provide Frequent Feedback • Allow Sufficient Time on Task • Establish High Expectations • When possible, allow for student input on assignments and course dynamics • Honor Diverse Talents and Ways of Knowing
Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness • Create opportunities for small group work, but keep the teams small. • Provide a clear structure for managing classroom teams, including an approach to removing non-performing members from the team. • Incorporate their preference for team-style activities by emphasizing collaborative and “active learning” pedagogies
Mediating Student-Faculty Differences • You don’t want to talk to their mother when they are having problems, but they want you to. • Are used to getting points for showing up, you don’t give them. • Don’t understand definition of plagiarism and cheating, you do. • May think it’s appropriate to call you at home after 9pm, you don’t. • May not draw a distinction between IM language and language appropriate for papers, you know there is a difference. • It’s okay to email you many times a day if they have not gotten an immediate response, you know there is a reason you haven’t replied. • That you go to sleep and are not at your computer when they email you at after midnight, you’re older. • The business office (and most others) close at 5pm, this can change.
Social Class Differences Appear • Not all students will be proficient in technology - first-gen and low income student, particularly. • Students from poorer school districts may be minimally exposed to educational technology. • The digital divide begins in pre-K and widens over time.
Resources • New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation - http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/05/millennial_generation.html • Barrett Seaman, Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2005 • Barbara Schneider and David Stevenson, The Ambitious Generation: Motivated But Directionless (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999) • William Strauss and Neil Howe, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (New York: Vintage, 2000)