Higher ed administrators may have their hands full adapting to Generation Z, but it's not too early to prepare for the generation that will come after, argues Karen Gross, president emeritus of Southern Vermont College.
In an interview with the Guardian, Gross, former senior policy adviser to the Department of Education, explains why colleges must prepare for Generational Alpha now, not later.
While many administrators expect to welcome students who look, act, and learn like them, Gross predicts that Generation Alpha will differ from previous cohorts in two ways. First, the generation will experience technology across all socioeconomic classes. Second, the cohort will contain more racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, she notes.
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To prepare for the coming changes, Gross encourages colleges to study how these students learn as they move through the education system. Gross recommends reaching out to educators already working with Generation Alpha to better adapt the college classroom for this cohort. She also argues that institutions must be "culturally prepared" to serve a new wave of students who may not resemble their faculty's racial and socioeconomic background.
Gross warns against relying on in-the-moment meditations to fix the challenges that will undoubtedly arise. Instead, administrators should be proactive in embracing the next generation of students and understanding how they learn, she argues.
Changing instructional culture is critical, but Gross is under no illusion that it will be easy. Even now, college students are asking for more faculty-student engagement and bucking against the long established "sage on a stage" teaching tradition. But studying Generation Alpha will help tackle the challenges of Generation Z as well, she notes.
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And while it may seem premature to begin imagining the college landscape 20 years ahead, change within the academy doesn't happen fast. To be certain your institution can adapt to the coming cohort, start cultivating a culture that "enables quality change to occur," she advises.
Ultimately, waiting until Generation Alpha steps onto campus to "suddenly fix" your institution is not a sustainable practice, argues Gross. Instead, she advises administrators to think about the planning process like chess—if you're not thinking five moves ahead, you're already behind (Hall, The Guardian, 8/14).
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