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Friday, June 19, 2009

Engaging our students

Hat tip to Jim Julius, SDSU's fabulous Associate Director of ITS, for a pointer to this article on Engaging Milliennial Learners. Anyone truly interested in reaching our students needs to go read it but I'll warn you that you may not be happy about it. Here's what the author found when she asked Millennials about the characteristics of their ideal professor and ideal learning environment:
Millennials feel that the ideal professor should be:

5. "Energetic," "enthusiastic," and "upbeat" with a "positive attitude." I know upon reading the student quotes above, some of you may suddenly feel nauseous. Or perhaps, like me, the very thought of students desiring me to be "upbeat" drains my energy. The audacity of it all!!!

4. "Open-minded" and "flexible." Unfortunately, students are not using the term "flexible" in the physical "Pilates" sense, as they desire flexibility in assignments, course policy, and our interactions with them.

3. Alert as to whether students understand.

2. "Nice," "friendly," "caring," and "helpful."

If all this is not disturbing enough, the number one characteristic of the Millennials' ideal professor is:
1. "Approachable" and "easy to talk to."

It is hard to believe that what these students basically want is for us to be decent individuals who are responsive to them! As the sarcasm begins to drip from the page, it is important to note that I did ask for Millennials' views of the ideal professor. We should at least give them credit for not expecting us all to have chili peppers at ratemyprofessor.com. Upon further analysis of their responses, what is most intriguing is not what is on their list, but perhaps what is missing. In other words, they seem to care more about who we are and how we interact with them, than they care about what we know. What is painfully obvious is Millennial learners' responses suggest they highly value positive interactions with their professors.

The Millennials' Ideal Learning Environment
The next Top Five List below summarizes Millennials' perceptions regarding their ideal learning environment. Millennials felt the ideal learning environment was one in which:

5. "Students know one another" and "work together in groups." This is consistent with Millennials' team orientation, interdependence, and desire for connection.

4. Learning is "relaxed," "enjoyable," and that awful "F" word we dread hearing... "fun"

3. A multimedia format is utilized, including podcasts, on-line activities, video, PowerPoint, etc.

2. "Real examples" that are "relevant" to their culture are used.

The number one characteristic Millennial respondents desired in an ideal learning environment was that it be:
1. "Interactive" and "participatory."

Interestingly, the most consistent theme present in the analysis of the Millennial responses was they preferred a variety of teaching methods as opposed to a "lecture only" format. It is important to note that these Millennial students did not attack the lecture method altogether, but they had strongly negative perceptions of learning environments in which lecture was the only method used. According to one Millennial respondent, "If you lecture all throughout the time then we get bored. If you are constantly changing from lecture, to discussion, to group work, that helps a lot. It helps keep us awake and we learn more. Stuff gets into our head better."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tip o' the hat - I in turn will tip my hat to Mark Laumakis, psychology instructor extraordinaire and half-time faculty in residence, who made me aware of this! It originally came out on a psych teacher listserv.

    Anyway, glad you found it interesting ... looking forward to hearing more thoughts on it -

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