Profs discuss students’ thinking

Students born between 1982 and 2002 are part of what is known as the “millennial generation”. According to research completed by psychology professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University, today’s student is among a generation that has been taught to put themselves first.
Last Wednesday, Jeanette McDonald from Laurier’s education development department hosted a presentation for faculty on how professors and students can work the most effectively together to create a positive learning space. McDonald cited Twenge’s conclusions that students’ attitudes, sense of identity and forms of self-expression are a reflection of the “me” culture they have been raised in.

 “[Students] see their undergraduate degree as a ticket … a ticket to get somewhere else,” said McDonald. “Sometimes I think that they are so focused on getting through this, getting the grade, that they don’t always stop and value the learning experience.”

 According to Twenge’s research in her book titled Generation Me, the millennial generation’s consumer culture, inability to learn from their own mistakes and unrealistic prioritization of happiness above all else is a result of the baby boom generation trend to have children later in life after ensuring financial stability.

Despite these findings, the presentation discussed a number of positive qualities of the millennial students. Faculty members considered that students appear to be more engaged in volunteering than previous decades. It was also mentioned that students today could access information much quicker due to research and multi-tasking skills developed through their early exposure to using a computer.

“I’ve certainly noticed changes, whether that’s all driven by what’s around students or the students themselves…Technology has revolutionized the way students do things,” said psychology professor Rudy Eikelboom.

 Commenting on the disadvantages of technology, professors representing a variety of faculties discussed the frequent misuse of cell phones and laptops in the classroom. The question of whether to post notes online or not was also discussed along with concerns it could have a negative effect on class attendance.

 “I’ve noticed class attendance has plummeted [in recent years],” continued Eikelboom. “And the students who are in class aren’t always present in mind and body in the classroom…laptops can be a useful tool, but sometimes I’m afraid to walk to the back of the classroom to see what students are really looking at.”

 The benefits of technology in the classroom professors raised included immediate feedback from iclickers, as well as being able to find and utilize video clips and other media with the internet.

 With that in mind, conclusions were drawn to alter teaching techniques in order to improve student engagement and experience in the classroom.
Providing a combination of online notes and exclusive class material was recommended along with dividing class time in to segments that incorporated lecture, discussion groups and examples of applying the course to the real world to help students see the relevance of what they are learning.