Every generation has its stereotypes: Baby boomers are thought to be set in their ways and unable to use current technology. Generation X, the ‘middle child’ generation, are seen as apathetic and cynical. Millennials are unmotivated, praise hungry and phone obsessed.
Generation Z also has its defining features.
In the fall of 2016, Westminster College welcomed the class of 2020, many of whom belong to Generation Z—a cohort of those born from 1996 on, according to The Center of Generational Kinetics.
Students from the class of 2020 represent 33 states and eight countries around the world, according to Westminster’s Admissions Office.
“There is a rule in my house that I can’t go to school in state or in the surrounding states,” said Ben Stover, a first-year student from Pennsylvania. “So I had to expand, and Westminster looked pretty cool.”
Stover, a member of Generation Z, said he decided to come to Westminster because of the learning environment and a desire to be independent.
“The professors here really want me to learn,” Stover said. “They want to help me and will take the time to help me understand the material.”
It’s not uncommon for members of Generation Z to seek independence and collaboration, according to research from Barnes & Noble College, an independent public company of Barnes & Noble. The company did a survey of over 1,300 students from middle school to high school to understand the generation’s “attitudes, preferences and expectations regarding their educational and learning experience.”
Research from Barnes & Noble College shows that members of Generation Z value “face-to-face interaction and collaboration” when it comes to their learning experience in any form of education.
“For me, it’s the class sizes,” said first-year student Amber Lamborn. “I learn better in smaller groups.”
The study found that 51 percent of the members in Generation Z learn best through examples, and 12 to 38 percent learn either by seeing the course material or through a traditional classroom lecture.
“Gen Z wants engaging, interactive learning experiences,” according to Barnes & Noble College’s research. “They want to be challenged, they want to be empowered to make their own decisions, and… play an instrumental role in their educational experience.”
In the study, 89 percent of the students rated college as valuable in preparing them for their careers.
“Everyone always talks about the importance of college,” said first-year student Aria Cederlof. “A majority of everyone that I’ve talked to has mentioned going to college. Or if they aren’t starting it immediately, they have plans for it in the future.”
With 449 new first-year students joining Westminster this fall, the research from Barnes & Noble College provides information on what schools like Westminster can do to help incoming students prepare for college and post-graduation life.
To prepare students for their time in college, institutions of higher education should adapt their teaching methods to educate Generation Z most effectively, according to research from Barnes & Noble College. One of the suggested changes is to enhance traditional learning materials with digital opportunities—capitalizing on Generation Z’s tendency to self educate.
“Because of [Generation Z’s] ability to discover, self-educate and process large amount of information quickly, incoming students are smarter than ever before, which makes now the perfect time for the education industry to embrace and implement the next level of innovation,” according to research from Barnes & Noble College.
As colleges across the country adapt to new learners, first-year students must adapt to their new environments as well.
“I want to graduate, but I want to learn how to live on my own,” Stover said. “Being able to do things my way is one of my biggest goals this semester.”
As every generation carries its own stereotypes, Generation Z will instill a new set of values at Westminster College.
“My generation has a lot of stereotypes,” Stover said. “We’re lazy, we look at our phones too much and we’re always connected to our devices. We’re efficient. We like to have things work quickly, fast and I don’t see a problem with that.