How to teach Gen Z? Children in school today are the Gen Z generation. As with every generation that went before them, these Gen Zers were brought up in different circumstances from the generation before and, from their experiences and preconceived ideas, come to react to circumstances in a certain way. This has an impact on how they learn. It follows that what worked in the classroom when you were at school won’t necessarily work with Gen Zers today.
How to teach Gen Z
Gen Z are digital
The most obvious social context that differs Gen Z from previous generations is that they were born in the digital age. They have no memory of life before the smartphone or tablet. We sometimes refer to them as Generation Glass because of their use of touch screens. Delivering learning on such devices makes learning more meaningful for the Gen Zer so it makes sense to bring learning onto the devices they use. However, assuming that they are savvy in all things tech is a mistake. The Gen Z student is likely to be much more adept on a phone than on a computer and you’ll find that they can thumb type on a phone faster than they can type on a computer. It’s what they are used to using. And while they will learn new platforms quickly, how to teach Gen Z is not to assume they won’t need training on any new interface.
Gen Z demand equality
This generation is more racially diverse than any other and many will either be of mixed race or have mixed race friends. Over a third of the generation prefer gender neutral pronouns and don’t identify as being either male or female. This means it is wise to avoid any form of bias in teaching the Gen Z student if you expect to build rapport with them.
Gen Z need to look after their mental health
While there is the temptation to scoff at Gen Z as being mentally weak and they should “man up” and learn to be more tough, the reality is that they have to cope with so much more than previous generations ever did. The digital age has brought with it easy access to such a wealth of information as to boggle the average mind. The increased social exposure and cyber bullying has seen suicide rates skyrocket among teens. Anyone who doesn’t learn to put their mental health first can be in serious trouble. Considering how much a Gen Z can cope with around their study workload is a new factor that educators are learning to adapt to in learning how to teach Gen Z.
Gen Z are great filterers
Precisely because Gen Zers are exposed to so much information, they have learned from an early age to filter out what they recognise at not mattering. When the goal at school is to pass exams, they will quickly dismiss any information they feel won’t bring them to that goal. This is why it is important to communicate clearly the learning objectives and the relevance of each lesson.
Gen Z have short attention spans
A fallout of the need to filter is that the Gen Z student has a shorter attention span so instruction given for study needs to be on point and brief. When considering how to teach Gen Z, Lessons should rely heavily on visuals, presentations should be short, lessons need to be varied in structure, learning should be active and any videos shown should not stretch beyond five minutes.
Gen Z expect immediate gratification
Because information is available at the click of a button, Gen Zers don’t have the patience to wait for outcomes. This includes feedback on their studies as well, even if they request help in the wee hours of the morning via email, expecting an immediate reply!
As educators, we need to set boundaries to counter this. Set expectations as to when grades will be delivered and how and when they can expect help from you.
Gen Z prefer to work in groups
They tend to be collaborative learners – an extension of their social media lifestyles. When they work in small groups, they tend to bring more creativity. This is a good way to teach Gen Z.
Gen Z are gamers
This generation loves to play virtual games and they love a challenge. Providing lesson reviews in the form of a game will grab their short attention spans and stretch them.
Gen Z need positive reinforcement
We all need to be told we are appreciated, but Gen Zers can’t do without it. They need constant feedback on how they are doing and how to improve. Giving them encouragement motivates them to learn. So when thinking how to teach Gen Z, understand that they need to hear positive words.
Understanding the needs of the Generation Z student helps to create a learning environment in which they can thrive.