Learner-Centered Instruction in a Multi-Generational Classroom

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The andragogy approach to instruction is to allow students to make a connection between what we are teaching, and how to apply it outside of the classroom. I will discuss how different generations of students learn, and how we can help them make that connection. 


I live in Michigan, enjoying the beaches of Lake Huron. After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education I earned a Master of Child Development from Michigan State University, a Specialist Degree from Oakland University in Administration, and a Doctor of Education from Walden University in Teacher Leadership. My dissertation focuses on effective teaching tools when working with students reading above grade level. Teaching 25 years in public schools, my experiences ranged from a classroom teacher, small group instruction for students struggling in math and literacy, to administering the state assessment tests. Working with students who struggle both academically and economically from the start, inspired me to focus my attention on the at-risk schools in my community. After completing my doctorate in 2010, I began teaching at the university level, both on campus and online.

Extended Abstract

University classrooms today include students with a wide variety of experiences. They include those who are full-time students right out of high school putting all their focus on their classes, to those returning after many years in the workforce. No matter where they are in the continuum, students want to be able to leave class and immediately apply what they have learned. Having students from a wide range of age groups, they will each have different learning styles. Characteristics of the different learning styles can affect student motivation as well as their ability to learn. Understanding this needs to be taken into consideration when planning and implementing different teaching strategies. The attendees for this session will gain a better understanding of what instructors need to know in order to create the right atmosphere, course content, and structure in the classroom when developing an environment that is inviting to a wide age range of students. Using the andragogy approach to learning, discussions will focus on ways to connect students from multiple generations in allowing them to make direct links of their own lives to the content being discussed.

More and more, it’s not uncommon for university classrooms to have students from multiple generations. This is even more common for online classrooms, and instructors need to make sure to get all students engaged. In this presentation, topics will be discussed regarding how to do this on a personal level. We will share the different barriers students may have from different generations. For many, this includes the outside stressors of life. Students want to find ways to make a plan that will fit together with their individual academic goals.  

In order to get adult-learners engaged through discussion, it is important to focus on  the relevance of using peer participation through discussion boards as well as synchronous and asynchronous connections via audio/video communications. Utilizing these different forms of communications can be a great asset for online learning. It requires all students to be involved in the class learning objectives as well as making it more manageable to fit their own schedules.

We will also discuss the various ways students from different generations learn. The importance for students to feel they can take what is being discussed and immediately utilize it outside of the classroom is the focus for andragogy instruction. Students from different generations, with different life experiences, need to be able to share their individualized expertise in relation to the curriculum in order to help themselves and others make relevance to the subject matter. Having the opportunity to think about topics from multiple perspectives can have a positive effect on student motivation, allowing them to examine various issues from different perspectives.

In order to dig deeper into how different generations learn, this presentation will focus on the learning styles of previous, current, and future generations. These will include the Baby Boomers, Generation X students, the Millennials, and Generation Z.  We will also include a brief projection of what the students in Generation Alpa will bring to the classrooms of the future. 

Specific goals for this session are to have attendees understand best practices in creating an inviting environment for both traditional and non-traditional students. We will discuss different learning styles of students from different generations and how to make instruction applicable to them. Various strategies that instructors can use to guide students such as life experiences and current educational goals are examples. They will specifically focus on characteristics of the andragogy methods which include allowing students to be self-directed/autonomous, assisting them in utilizing knowledge and life experiences, delivering class activities in a goal-oriented framework, making the learning relevant, emphasizing the practicality of the discussions, and encouraging collaboration.

In conclusion, we will find the commonality of all the generations and the basics to always include in order to have a learner-centered classroom. The key components discussed will focus on how adults at all ages want to be responsible for their own learning, that different generations prefer different types of instruction, how important it is to move beyond memorization and basic recall of information, and the importance of respecting the different levels of technological understanding in each class. Each of these key components are important aspects in order to create a comfortable, successful, and learner-centered environment for the multiple generations that are a part of a college classroom.