Are Millenials really different than Gen X or Baby Boomers?

I want to draw your attention to this NPR article about Millenials. Do Millenials, Gen Xers, or Baby Boomers really need different instructional methods? While millenials may use technology differently then a Baby Boomer, do they really learn differently?  Some individuals suggest that Millenials need the 5 Rs. These are research-based methods, relevance, rationale, relaxed, and rapport.

But let's think about learning theory. Students need a say in the content they are learning and the process of their learning. They need relevance in their classroom experiences, and  learning through problem solving rather than memorizing content. 

When you have a classroom with a range of academic ability and ages, how do you address the instruction? Do you think that millenials need to be taught differently than baby boomers, or gen x? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Kathy Tracey


I teach both HSE and college composition at a community college. Both classes involve multi-generational students. I work to integrate students of all ages to get to know each other and work in teams/pairs. I try to show that I value all experiences and encourage students to cross life-lines. I have only had one student say in an evaluation that they felt uncomfortable working with students who were "older" and wanted to work only in a team with students his own age. This student was a concurrently enrolled high school student. I see this ability to work with people of all ages as an important life and workplace skill; most likely my students will end up in jobs where they will work with people older than them! Interestingly, the rest of the concurrently enrolled students in the same class said they valued and appreciated working with people they originally didn't think they had much in common with. 

Building community between students is really important. As a person in my mid-30s, I'm currently in the middle of the age range of many students in my classes. I want the classroom to be inclusive and a fun, safe place to learn. Having team work in class, and encouraging interaction and discussion has seemed to work well in my classes, no matter what student ages are present. I don't really have collective issues with younger generational students; it tends to be more on an individual level. Just like many generations, we aren't all that easy to categorize, other than to say many people under the age of 30 have had access to the internet and can be more comfortable with technology. 


What an insightful connection to this theme. Providing opportunities for students to build relationships and rapport across generations. This is a perfect example of a soft-skill! What do others think? Kathy