The oldest of Gen–Zers have entered colleges! And educators across the world are waking up to this new batch of mature youngsters who come with their own unique characteristics, wants, and dreams.
It is easy to think up a few stereotypes and lump them all of them together under a name, but that will not make teaching them or working with them any easier. What is needed is a genuine attempt to understand their complexities and to create meaningful engagement models.
At SoaringEagles, we routinely interact with hundreds of students and young professionals and with time have gained an insight into their thought process (we have set out some core characteristics of Gen-Z in an earlier article, do check that out). In this article, we share our experience to help teachers and educators teach their students more effectively.
I. Adopt Technology To Reach Gen-Z
As digital natives, Gen-Zers have never really seen a time without perfect Internet connectivity, and many have grown up using smartphones and tablets. Naturally, they expect these technological aids to follow them in the classroom.
As an educator, you must employ technology to interact with them to some extent – the usual textbook-chalkboard routine is just not interesting or engaging enough to keep their attention. Naturally, eLearning aids to some extent depend on your school/college budget, but as far as possible do try to include digital content in your teaching methodology – a simple way to do this by adding multimedia content, creating social networks and forums that flow outside the classroom.
(Lobby your institution to bring in relevant digital educational tools and while you are waiting for that to happen, use an online forum or even a WhatsApp group to share interesting snippets, article and push notifications to your class)
II. Change From Guru To Guide
The Gen-Zers live in a world of information overload. With just a couple of clicks, they can connect with experts and get hold of information on ANY topic whatsoever. This means they no longer regard their teachers, classrooms, or textbooks as the sole repository of knowledge.
Teachers must shed the traditional role of a guru and instead show them the value of what they are learning in the classroom as guides or mentors. This can only be done when education becomes a two-way process.
Gen-Zers don’t like to be told what to do; they want to be a part of the process – they want to have control over what they learn, how they learn, and when they learn.
Your main job is to teach your students skills that enable them to sift through mountains of information to find the most relevant and accurate data. You must become a sounding board for ideas and information and ensure that youngsters know how to evaluate sources and find what’s best without getting overwhelmed or confused.
(Planning is key here. A teacher is bound to some extent by a syllabus and the need to get children ready for exams. Planning fun activities around topics or letting students come up with discussion and ideas on a theme are good ways to keep following the curriculum while allowing students to take control of some parts)
III. Drop Passive Learning Methods
The one-sided, rote learning methodology is passé. Attention spans have shortened, and students have access to too much information for them to sit still and learn slowly from you!
Teachers have to evolve more interesting teaching processes – collaborative or social learning is one approach that works really well with Gen-Zers.
(You can use social media groups to reach and encourage students. As enthusiastic social media users, Gen–Zers seek validation from peers on social media and using a public platform to implement a rewards and feedback process can become an encouraging exercise.)
IV. Visual Media
All that you have heard about attention spans becoming less than a goldfish is true! With so much information competing for their attention, Gen-Z finds it hard to focus unless encouraged to do so.
Marketers across the world have realised it and are churning out videos and graphics to attar the new generation of buyers. It s time educators understood and acknowledged that they need to add more visual aids to their teaching process – the idea is to stand out and hook their attention and curiosity.
(There are plenty of resources available online which can be accessed for free or for a small fee. And if nothing seems possible then a simple PowerPoint presentation could be pressed into service)
Gen-Zers love a challenge – they WANT to do more, they WANT to learn and use that learning effectively. For them, education is not just about waiting for years to finish a degree to move on to the next phase- they are highly entrepreneurial and are keen to find job security and financial security. They WANT an education that they can apply in their professional journeys and they want it NOW.
Underneath all the jargon, Gen-Zers are a lot like everyone before them – the product of their time, technology and upbringing. Engaging with them with an open mind and patience will teach you all you need about dealing with them.
Talk to us for your challenges related to engaging with Gen-Z students or employees.