Skip to Main Content

Teaching & Learning Center Resources

Teaching Across Generations: Home


Teaching Across Generations

What is it?

Across higher education there has been a great deal of curiosity about how educators can best develop learning experiences that meet the needs, wants, and pressures of students today. This discourse often centers around questions of generational differences and what that means in general and also more specifically in the teaching and learning space. 

A Pew Research Center survey found that approximately 79% of respondents believe in a generational gap. This sentiment, however common it has been for millennia, often oversimplifies generations and the reasons why differences within and across generations are appreciated. Additionally, these narratives often promote an “us versus them” approach and leans into what is often called, “rosy retrospection.” To this end, researchers have been advocating for more nuanced conversations about generations and generational differences in order to more accurately understand shifts in societal beliefs, needs, and wants. 

So while generational differences may not definitively exist, we do want to be sure that we are employing evidence-based and contemporary approaches in our classes and training that support all of our adult learners (regardless of what generation they could be categorized into). Below we have outlined several important techniques that leverage clear communication, incorporation of technology, and draw from students’ lived experiences. Additionally, we have linked to more opportunities to learn more about this topic.

Examples and Implementation

  • Clarifying expectations and goals - Learners of any generation often want to understand why they are being asked to complete a task and can benefit from seeing how it aligns with the course goals and their own learning goals. So you can help make the implicit explicit by telling your students why you want them to read, watch, or engage with certain content and what they will be expected to know based on that content. You might also articulate how it relates to the class or their future goals. This can help increase the relevance of the material and in turn, this can help students retain the information.

  • Maximizing practice time - “Sticky learning” or long-term retention requires effortful retrieval of information. This means that that students need opportunities to actively practice with the information they are learning. Utilizing technology, we can maximize practice in a number of ways such as flipping the classroom to allow students to engage with the lecture before class and using class time for active practice or leveraging polling techniques during a live or asynchronous learning experience. Simulations also allow students to get hands-on experience in ways that mimic authentic situations.

  • Leverage students’ funds of knowledge - Funds of knowledge refers to the wealth of skills and experience students bring with them into the learning experience. By actively encouraging students to draw from these experiences, you can facilitate peer-to-peer learning, promote inclusion, and empower students to take an active role in their own learning.