5 things Gen Z craves from higher education

Teaching the most plugged-in generation won't require the high-tech tools you may think, according to a new study from the University of Hawaii system.

The researchers administered a survey to gen Z students in Hawaii about their technology use and learning preferences. Among the 280 respondents were students enrolled in community colleges, early college high school programs, private high schools, public middle schools, and public high schools.

Researcher Jeff Stearns took his team's findings to heart and identified five ways he's tweaking his teaching approach to reach Generation Z, writes Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology.

1. Step off the soapbox

Stearns, a division chair of language arts at Honolulu Community College, focuses classes around student work rather than lectures. To "surrender the soapbox," Stearns engages students in one-on-one conversations about each assignment's progress and next steps during in-class work time. In the moment, Stearns can demonstrate how he values student work and give instant feedback, writes Schaffhauser.

2. Cultivate a social environment

To see a qualitative difference in enthusiasm, encourage students to make in-person connections rather than virtual ones. On the first day of class, Stearns asks students to write a "quick-and-dirty resume." Spend the next few sessions pulling students into groups to share their resume and bond over their interests, he advises.

3. Chunk up content

How to create an active learning space

Break down your assignments into bullet points that force you to give simple, verbal explanations, says Stearns. By breaking up the content, you can highlight the most important details and appeal to Gen Z's "perceived shorter attention span," notes Schaffhauser.

4. Engage students

Instead of relying on a professor's personal enthusiasm for the subject, relate the assignments to student's interests, suggests Stearns. In his experience, students who write about "something they really believe in" turn in better assignments.

5. Wing it

To find your groove with the new generation of learners, take risks and experiment, says Stearns. In his classroom, Stearns is trying a new group writing exercise where the whole class collaborates to craft a paragraph. This mode of teaching guides students with step-by-step instructions, similar to that of a YouTube tutorial, writes Schaffhauser.

Stearns says he won't limit his new teaching tactics to just generation Z. In fact, he believes if he changed up his style years ago, "it would have been better teaching for everybody" (Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 8/10).

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