Generation Z Rising A professor offers some hints on engaging members of Gen Z, who are taking college campuses by storm. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   December 01, 2017
Generation Z Rising
Author Notes
  • Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a professor at Sacramento State University and a clinician in the San Juan Unified School District. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. celeste@csus.edu
    Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a professor at Sacramento State University and a clinician in the San Juan Unified School District. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. celeste@csus.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   December 01, 2017
Generation Z Rising
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 36-38. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.22122017.36
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 36-38. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.22122017.36
“There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” a Gen Z-er recently told me. “But there is in ‘win.’”
This same Gen Z-er (OK, my 19-year old son Mark, a freshman at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.) called me last night. The first words out of his mouth? “Mom … I hate group projects.” So I listened patiently while he described the agonizing process of having to actually collaborate with other human beings, all of whom were not industrious and focused enough for his liking. “I feel like I have to do everything myself,” he explained.
So who is Generation Z? What happened to the millennials, born between 1980 and 1995, who were group-oriented and collaborative? Born in 1996 and after, here comes Gen Z—moving into our university classrooms and soon to be members of our workforce. In some ways, they are very different from millennials!
The children of Gen-Xers, Gen-Zers are realistic, tech-oriented, very competitive, individualistic and highly driven. They are more private and often prefer to work alone (see sources). Articles on Gen-Z students from the New York Times, for example, and Forbes, agree on some defining characteristics of their learning styles: they have short attention spans and hate to be bored; they prefer visuals; they want to be interactive and hands-on; they are curious and love challenges; and they want to succeed (win) using strategies, practice and do-overs.
Gen Z is intensely practical, and wants the bottom line immediately: How is course information relevant? With limited patience for theory and research that seem unrelated to the working world, Gen Z needs to see the practical side of my lecture material immediately. As Gen Z students have started to enroll in my undergraduate classes, I have found some tactics that are helpful for student engagement and learning.

Gen Z is intensely practical, and wants the bottom line immediately: How is course information relevant?

Use relevant YouTube videos.
YouTube videos appeal to two characteristics of Gen-Zers, who are visual learners and deeply into social media. So I incorporate them into my teaching. For example, I will play a two- to three-minute video of a young child with a speech sound disorder. I will ask the class to listen carefully and write down errors that they hear the child making. In another example, I will show a speech-language pathologist obtaining a language sample from a child. I will ask the class to write down three or four techniques she successfully uses to draw out the child.
Incorporate hands-on activities.
In the language-science class for juniors in the fall, we study morphology. It’s hard to make morphology attractive to Gen Z—they have a hard time seeing how grammar is relevant to the real clinical world they’ll be working in. So I created a fictitious case of a child with a delay in semantic and morphological skills, and we created a treatment activity in class. In October, we made haunted houses out of 4” x 6” index cards and Post-it notes. The students had to generate verbs, adjectives and nouns associated with Halloween and then create new words with bound morphemes (which were under the Post-its—the “windows” of the haunted house). The students then turned these in for extra-credit points on the next exam. I’ve found that Gen Z just loves this type of activity, as it really makes them think about how to apply what they learn to treatment. These types of activities keep them engaged and help them remember course material better.
Talk constantly about how what you teach applies in the “real world.”
I bring examples from my clinical work with male teenagers into the classroom. For example, I was telling my speech sound disorders class about a 15-year-old client who was highly unintelligible. As the class discussed techniques for increasing clients’ overall intelligibility, I had the students brainstorm ideas for how to teach this particular teenager (and motivate him!) to work to become more intelligible.
Bring in guest speakers.
Speakers who are practicing clinicians help amplify the course material you teach. This helps satisfy students’ craving for engagement and variety.
At the risk of stating the obvious … always use visuals.
I prefer PowerPoint, and my Gen-Z students love the outlines, clipart and pictures. Because they are so highly visual, I believe that I would not be able to teach them effectively without illustration.
Mix it up.
My 75-minute class sessions sometimes feel like a three-ring circus, but it works! In one session, I will lecture, have large-group discussion, a small-group activity, a YouTube video or two or three, and maybe a hands-on activity. The variety and fast pace work well to motivate Gen-Z students, who seem allergic to lengthy lectures. According to “Gen Z @ Work,” by David Stillman and Jonah Stillman, Gen-Zers have an eight-second attention span—and I teach accordingly.

In one session, I will lecture, have large-group discussion, a small-group activity, a YouTube video or two or three, and maybe a hands-on activity.

Always talk about why you are doing certain things.
My exams are challenging and contain difficult multiple-choice questions, like those on the Praxis examination. I explain that while this hurts me more than it hurts them (OK, a white lie), they will blow the Praxis out of the water a few years down the road. And it’s true. This explanation helps them understand how challenging them now will benefit them later.
Encourage them to work phone-free.
I recommend that my students put their phones in another room when they study. I have seen students go from getting D’s to getting A’s and B’s through this simple technique.
Motivate equal participation in group work.
When students do group projects in my classes, they evaluate one another on their team-player skills. Everyone in a group receives the same grade on the project—but if someone in a group has received poor team-player evaluations, I will not write that student a letter of recommendation for graduate school. This method has made a big difference in encouraging collaboration!
I am greatly enjoying Gen Z. They help me focus on new ways to engage students. My greatest concern is helping them learn to be more collaborative with others and demonstrate good people skills. Gen Z is open to mentoring if they understand the rationale for what I teach. They genuinely want to serve the world and create a brighter future for others.
I keep it real, and have been happy with the results.
Flippin, C. S. (2017). Generation Z in the workplace: Helping the newest generation in the workforce build successful working relationships and career paths. USA: Candace Steele Flippin.
Flippin, C. S. (2017). Generation Z in the workplace: Helping the newest generation in the workforce build successful working relationships and career paths. USA: Candace Steele Flippin.×
Jenkins, R. (2017). Generation Z vs. Millennials: The 8 differences you need to know. Available at https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/generation-z-vs-millennials-the-8-differences-you-.html
Jenkins, R. (2017). Generation Z vs. Millennials: The 8 differences you need to know. Available at https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/generation-z-vs-millennials-the-8-differences-you-.html×
Scott, R. (2016). Get ready for Generation Z. Forbes. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2016/11/28/get-ready-for-generation-z/#1346bb922204
Scott, R. (2016). Get ready for Generation Z. Forbes. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2016/11/28/get-ready-for-generation-z/#1346bb922204×
Stillman, D., & Stillman, J. (2017). Generation Z at work: How the next generation is transforming the workplace. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Stillman, D., & Stillman, J. (2017). Generation Z at work: How the next generation is transforming the workplace. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.×
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December 2017
Volume 22, Issue 12