Education Opinion

Generational Learning

By LeaderTalk Contributor — June 05, 2009 2 min read

I just finished reading The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream by John Zogby of Zobgy International, a public opinion polling company. In addition to compiling lots of interesting findings about how the American dream has / is shifting, Zogby creates a picture of generational differences. From many national surveys, the picture of the typical American is drawn based on generational attributes. Zogy describes the generations as:

The Private Generation (1926-1945)
• Defer gratification
• Oppose equal rights for gays and women
• Vote to cut school budgets
• Favor go-it-alone foreign policy
• Expect to live into their 80s and 90s
• Loyal and faithful

The Woodstock Generation (1946-1964)
• New set of values about gender, equality, sexual orientation, premarital sex, and the environment
• Want to remain youthful
• Endured high disappointments
• Most likely to demand products purchased be environmentally friendly
• Penchant for complaint

The Nike Generation (1965-1978)
• Learned no institution is permanent
• Reached sexual maturity with AIDS and STDs
• Raised by television
• Include Generation Xers
• Most libertarian generation in America
• Do not believe the government is the problem solver
• No institutional attachment
• Live for the moment

First Globals (1979-1990)
• Highly materialistic and self-absorbed
• Caring and tolerant
• Change-oriented
• OK with high educational debt
• Most cosmopolitan age group in America
• Does not expect job security

Granted, these generational traits are generalizations. But nonetheless, what does this mean for educational leaders? After just completing a book review of Learning Cultures in Online Education by Robin Goodfellow and Marie-Noëlle Lamy, I started thinking about the role of online education in meeting diverse generational needs and learning styles. The crux of the the second book is that a one size fits all online learning model simply does not work. Culture adds layers upon layers of complexity leading to the inevitable failure of online learning that takes this approach. Thus these generational students bring in unique sets of cultural qualities. For those of us in higher education, we need to create online courses that meet the needs of our diverse stakeholders. How I approach preparing an online course for my freshman (i.e., First Globals) should not take the same approach as I would in creating an online class for my doctoral students (i.e., The Nike Generation & The Woodstock Generation).

This leads me to the big question: “How well are online courses differentiating based on the needs/experiences/cultures of the students?”

Jayson Richardson

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.