Generation Z is the generation that follows the millennials, commonly referred to as Gen Z. With birth years starting around 1997, Gen Zers are well into their early careers but not yet as experienced as millennials. This makes them malleable employees who are prime for job training, particularly in the fields of hospitality and future management positions. Teaching Gen Z effectively takes a bit of finesse. This generation has been brought up with technology and is comfortable using devices, computers, apps and social media. In addition, Gen Z is more open than, say, baby boomers, and is, in general, more comfortable sharing private information. If you are a teacher with a classroom full of Gen Zers, you'll appreciate these tips on how to teach them.

Proclivities of Gen Z

While Gen Z does have certain things in common with millennials, such as a high level of comfort around technology, this generation is distinctive. Note that these are generalizations that do not hold true for every single Gen Z individual. This is especially important to remember in the classroom environment, where an understanding of each students’ individual best learning methods is essential.

Generally speaking, Gen Z tends to be more serious-minded. They are focused on success and willing to work hard to attain it. They recognize how millennials have eschewed the traditional roles of older generations, but are not willing to toss all old standards away just to facilitate change. Gen Z tends to be more middle-of-the-road in the positions they believe in. Gen Z is less likely to smoke, take drugs or drink to excess. Studies have shown that rates of unwanted pregnancies are lower with Gen Z than in previous decades. Finally, visual imagery in the form of video is their preferred method of receiving information. YouTube is a favorite learning resource for everything from “How to change a car tire” to “Do aliens really exist?”

At the same time, Gen Z has their own way of thinking about things. They were reared in the age of instant gratification through on-demand videos, apps, etc., and many struggle with focus and persistence when things get tough. They are accustomed to personalized content and have a feeling that nothing is out of their reach; it’s all possible. They are more socially active online than in real life. For Gen Z, the drama happens online. Problems with social media can impact their personal feelings and hence have a higher tendency to feeling depressed and anxious.

How to Teach Gen Z

In the classroom, teachers of Gen Z should be prepared to adapt to the way Gen Z tends to learn. This may take some adjustment, especially for teachers accustomed to traditional teaching methods, but there is nothing groundbreaking. All of these suggestions are completely accessible to teachers in any environment. It’s all about flexibility, patience and a commitment to compromise.

1. Provide Assignments in Multiple Formats

In order to avoid the aforementioned allusion to overstated generalizations, consider providing assignments in multiple formats. This will accommodate Gen Zers who prefer digital format as well as those who work best with traditional paper and pen. Also consider implementing video into assignments when it seems appropriate. To take this even further, consider creating assignments where the students themselves have choices to submit in various formats. For example, you could have an assignment where the student must demonstrate hospitality when a guest is being challenging. Rather than have students submit written answers, you could allow them to pair up and videotape some role playing and have them submit that.

2. Allow Personal Devices in the Classroom

This is counterintuitive; remember the days when teachers had students drop their cell phones in a basket at the classroom door? But for young adult Gen Zers, allowing personal devices in the classroom is a way of giving them their safety “blankets” in school. Cell phones are the new Blackberries. You’ll likely find that your students use their devices to record your lectures, take photos of the white board or otherwise use cell phones productivity apps to learn better.

3. Personalize the Lessons

As stated, Gen Zers expect personalized content. This doesn’t mean you email them using their name every day. It means offering some tailored lessons for individual students. Yes, this is more work for the teacher, but once having created these lessons, you can easily tweak them for similar students in the following semesters/years. Besides, the payoff will be huge when you see your students responding to the personal treatment they receive in your classroom!

4. Offer Chat and/or Help

Some of your students will need extra help outside the classroom. Try offering chat or Skype help instead of traditional “office hours.” Gen Zers will love being able to quickly reach out to you from their home via online chat or a video chat app. You can still set boundaries with “off-hours” limits, but the availability in a format they love will really resonate with the way Gen Z interacts with the world.

As you can see, these ideas are different than what you may be used to as a teacher. But giving Gen Z the support and foundation they crave to be a success in the world will be very satisfying to you. Consider trying out at least one of these ideas in your classroom. If you see that it makes a difference, then you can incorporate anothers and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be connecting with your Gen Z students in ways you never thought possible!

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