Millennial Students @OSU - Oregon State University

Understanding and
Working with
Contemporary Students
Larry D. Roper
Oregon State University
Learning Outcomes
• Better understanding of the attributes of
contemporary college students
• Better understanding of dynamics that influence
students’ perspectives and behaviors
• Better understanding of ways faculty can enhance
the engagement of students
Dilemma of Millennials
• Generational influences
• Industry built on stereotypes
• Challenge of labels
Your Students Today?
• Who are your students?
• How do you know they are who you think they are?
• What challenges do they present to you?
• Who are they?
• What influences them?
• What characteristics they manifest?
• What they expect?
• What we can do? (How we can construct better
teaching-learning relationships?)
Generational Context
• Presentation focuses on students moving through a
specific time in history with a distinct image of
• Have a set of common beliefs and behaviors unique
to their generation and their historical context – as
was the case with previous generations
Generational Cohorts
• GI/Veteran (Greatest Gen)
1901 - 1924
• Silent/Traditionalist
1925 - 1942
• Baby Boomers
1943 - 1960
• Generation X (Lost Gen)
1961 - 1981
• Millennials
1982 -2004?
Millennial Generation
• Generation Y
• Net Generation
• Echo Boom
By most accounts this is the largest of generations (in
excess of 76 million)
Influenced by…
• Political focus on children and family
• Highly scheduled and structured lives
• Multiculturalism
• Terrorism
• Heroism
• Patriotism
• Parents as advocates
• Globalism
• Mandatory testing
Major Influences
Their parents
The self-esteem movement
The customer service movement (everything comes
with a toll-free number or web address).
Gaming and technology
Casual communication (IM, email, tweets…)
Parent Profile
• Many Baby Boomers became parents in the 1980s while Gen X moms
were more traditional age, which caused overlapping generations to have
babies e.g., about 30% of births were by women over age 30).
• Millennials have older largely Baby Boomer parents, many delayed
having children until financially secure.
• More highly educated than previous generations, the first in U.S. history
whose mothers are better educated than their fathers, by a small margin.
• Generation of “wanted” children.
• Children central to their parents’ sense of purpose (trophy children).
Parenting Styles
• Deliberate, goal-specific .
• Boomers parents rebelled against the parenting they received
(strictness, “because I told you so” or “because I’m the parent and
you’re the child”).
• Friendship, open lines of communication and close relationship with
• They explain things and involve children in making informed decisions
and rational judgments.
• Raise children to have input into family decisions, educational options
and discipline issues.
• Teach to question authority and information conveyed by the media.
Parent Dynamics on Campus
• Helicopter Parent (n) A parent who hovers over
his or her children.
• Snowplow parent: Parents who clear the way for
their children.
Is this a problem?
Family Life
• Families spend more time with kids.
• Smaller families result in more time with each child.
• Fathers are more involved and spending more time with
• Less housework is being done.
• The social lives of parents and kids are interwoven.
• Parents and children share strong relationships and
children share their parents’ values.
How Do They Show Up?
• What behaviors would you expect of children raised with
the social and parental dynamics described?
• How might the possible behavioral attributes challenge
• What possible strengths might they bring to the educational
Quick Synopsis
• Children of late Boomers and early GenXers
• “Babies on Board” (Reagan) and “Have You Hugged Your
Child Today” (Clinton) influenced
• Social protections dominated legislation (child restraints,
home products, movie/video ratings, campus security)
• Children of Columbine, terrorism, Iraq wars
• Technology influenced
• Nearly 35-40% of Millennials are nonwhite or Latino.
• Twenty percent has at least one parent who is an
• The most racially and ethnically diverse generation in US
• More than half are already voting age adults
• Single largest birth year was 1990, entering college
about 2008.
Generational Attributes
Civic-minded, have had community service emphasized.
Collectively optimistic about our world and what can be achieved by them.
Great belief in their own potential, having been acculturated in that manner.
High achievers, an expectation that they will do well. Used to setting and
achieving goals.
Lower rates of violent crime, teen pregnancy, smoking and alcohol use than
ever before.
Are being asked to provide a new definition of citizenship lead the green
Appreciation of diversity and collaboration
Millennials Are…
Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Strauss and Howe 2000)
Special - inculcated with a sense that they are vital to the nation and to their
parents’ sense of purpose
Sheltered - focus of the most sweeping youth safety movement in American
Confident - high levels of trust and optimism, strongly felt connection to
parents and future; their achievements are good news for their country
Team-oriented - teamwork emphasized from daycare and beyond, very
accustomed to working in teams – tight peer bonds
Achieving - on track to become the best-educated and best-behaved adults in
the nation’s history
Pressured - pushed to study hard, avoid risky behavior, and take full
advantage of opportunities afforded by adults - feel a “trophy kid” pressure to
Conventional - More comfortable with their parents’ values than any other
generation in living memory – support the idea that social rules can help
Conventional Attributes
• They identify with their parents’ values
• They share close relationships with their parents
• They follow rules (if given clear understandable
• They accept authority
• “Whatever” as a common response to dissent
Generational Messages
• Be smart – you are special (Nickelodeon, Baby Gap, Sports
Illustrated for Kids)
• Leave no one behind (taught to be inclusive and tolerant of
other religions and sexual orientations)
• Connect 24/7 (learned to be interdependent-on family,
friends, and teachers)
• Achieve now at a high level(right college, right preschool)
• Serve your community – think of the greater good
• Be inclusive
Behavioral outcomes
• Develop negotiation, rational thinking and decisionmaking skills at young ages.
• Willing and able to negotiate with anyone on any issue.
• Are used to their parents keeping tabs on their every
• Expect and need praise.
• Confuse silence for disapproval.
• Expect feedback.
Behavioral outcomes
• Technology and multitasking are a way of life - expect
nomadic connectivity, 24x7
• Trial and error is a common approach to learning
(Nintendo logic)
• Live in a world of bits and bytes, flash and color –
acculturated to the stimulation of the internet
• They want their parents involved (deeply involved) and
solicit their involvement
• Progressive views in all areas and big expectations for
• They don’t want the stressed jobs and
exhausted lives of their parents.
• They seek lives of value and meaning,
including careers characterized by
responsibility, independence, creativity and
Generational Themes
• The most monumental financial boom and busts in
• Saw steady income growth through the 1990’s, then
saw parents lose significant portions of their stocks
and mutual funds (college funds) during the late
Learning Preferences
With technology
With each other
In their time
In their place
Doing things that feel significant (worthy)
Technology usage
• Digital Natives
• Gamers
• Computers are an assumed part of life.
• Always connected – seen as essential.
• The Internet is used for research, interactivity, and
socializing – their preferred medium.
• Affects their tolerance- zero tolerance for delays.
• Cell phones are a “lifestyle management tool”
• Communication much more casual (IM, email
and cell phones.
• 100% use the internet to seek information
• 94% use the internet for school research
• 41% use email and IM to contact teachers
and schoolmates about school work
• 75% have a Facebook account
• 81% email friends and relatives
• 70% use IM to keep in touch
• 56% prefer the internet to the telephone
Educational Needs
They need to understand the objectives of classroom activities and projects.
They want to have input into their educational processes.
They want their work to be meaningful.
They respond well to learning communities and service learning.
They want clear expectations, explicit syllabi, and well structured assignments
(including detailed instructions and guidelines for completing assignments).
They are accustomed to active learning and constant change in classroom
Teachers are viewed as guides and facilitators of learning.
• More Choices and Selectivity
• Experiential and Exploratory Learning
• Flexibility and Convenience
• Personalization and Customization
• Rapid Response
• Collaboration & Intelligence
• Balanced Lives
• Less Reading
Expectations of Faculty
• Enthusiasm
• Enjoyable to be around
• Provide intellectual challenges
• Have flexible class policies
• Clear direction
• Are sensitive to their needs/feelings
• Emphasize preparing for future career
Classroom Issues
Plagiarism (blurred lines between what it means to be a consumer and creator)
Cheating (students need clarity about what this means)
Cell Phone Policies (off or vibrate)
Typing vs. Handwriting (What proficiency to build)
• Accommodations –many have been diagnosed with ADHD and have been
medicated (@80% are boys).
• Number with disabilities has jumped from 3% to 9%.
Many have had individual education plans.
Many need testing services (quiet, separate).
Need to self-advocate to teachers.
Major transition from high school to college.
What To Do?
• Develop policies and practices around appropriate
• Give students electronic access to as much as is philosophically
• Draw a line on negotiations.
• Provide students with definitions, boundaries and rules.
• Provide group-oriented activities
Service learning
Study groups
Supplemental instruction
Learning communities
Enhancing Teaching
• Student-Faculty Contact
• Promote Reciprocity and Cooperation
• Break Course Assignments into Small Chunks
• Provide Frequent Feedback
• Allow Sufficient Time on Task
• Establish High Expectations
• When possible, allow for student input on assignments and
course dynamics
• Honor Diverse Talents and Ways of Knowing
Enhancing Teaching
• Create opportunities for small group work, but keep
the teams small.
• Provide a clear structure for managing classroom
teams, including an approach to removing nonperforming members from the team.
• Incorporate their preference for team-style
activities by emphasizing collaborative and “active
learning” pedagogies
Mediating Student-Faculty
• You don’t want to talk to their mother when they are having problems,
but they want you to.
• Are used to getting points for showing up, you don’t give them.
• Don’t understand definition of plagiarism and cheating, you do.
• May think it’s appropriate to call you at home after 9pm, you don’t.
• May not draw a distinction between IM language and language
appropriate for papers, you know there is a difference.
• It’s okay to email you many times a day if they have not gotten an
immediate response, you know there is a reason you haven’t replied.
• That you go to sleep and are not at your computer when they email you
at after midnight, you’re older.
• The business office (and most others) close at 5pm, this can change.
Social Class Differences Appear
• Not all students will be proficient in technology first-gen and low income student, particularly.
• Students from poorer school districts may be
minimally exposed to educational technology.
• The digital divide begins in pre-K and widens over
• New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation
• Barrett Seaman, Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and
Excess (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2005
• Barbara Schneider and David Stevenson, The Ambitious Generation:
Motivated But Directionless (New Haven: Yale University Press,
• William Strauss and Neil Howe, Millennials Rising: The Next Great
Generation (New York: Vintage, 2000)