Generation Z is the subject of research, scrutiny, and sometimes criticism because it represents such a large portion of the population. Statista reported the following population sizes for each generation in the United States in 2017:
- Generation Z (born 1997- present): 86.43 million
- The Millennial Generation (born 1981-1996): 71.8 million
- Generation X (born 1965-1980): 65.71 million
- The Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946-1964): 73.47 million
Generation Z outnumbers Millennials and the Baby Boomers. The oldest members of Generation Z are currently 22, making them the focus of the educators now teaching them.1 In addition, Generation Z is enrolling in college at a higher rate than Millennials were at the same ages.2
Generation Z displays a few key trends in the United States. They are the most educated generation, with high school drop-out rates being the much lower than generations before them. Post-Millennial parents are most likely to be college-educated parents. Gen Z are also more diverse than any generation before. Pew Research Center reported in 2018 only 52 percent of post-Millennials age 6 to 21 are non-Hispanic whites.3
Technology plays a large role in the lives of Generation Z. Rather than viewing technology as a tool, they see it as a normal part of life. They’ve been surrounded by it since birth, and as such, they are digital natives They are “early mobile adopters,… expect ubiquitous connectivity, seek on-demand content, and prioritize gaming.”4
How to Engage Generation Z
Teaching Generation Z, like any group, will present unique challenges. Some obstacles educators might experience in making sure Gen Z students are engaged in learning include:
- Dependence on technology
- Limited focus
- Frustrations with being instructed
- Non-linear thinking
- Easily influenced
However, despite what instructors may perceive as challenges, Generation Z displays certain strengths. They are invested in receiving and participating in meaningful education. Generation Z is highly literate in technology and has strong multi-tasking skills.
Educators can engage post-Millennials in the following ways:
- Incorporate technology: Modern students have high technological literacy. Technology can be incorporated in the classroom to drive student’s self-learning.
- Build a social network: Social networking is a way of life now. It can be used to reinforce learning by engaging students outside of class. Creating an open forum, allows students to interact with one another while completing homework and ask questions of faculty.
- Explain “Why?”: Connect what students are learning to the larger context. What’s the bigger picture? Why do they need to know each lesson?
- Be brief: Screens are everywhere, constantly inundating us with information. Post-Millennials were born in this environment, which limits their ability to focus. They learn best in brief installments.
- Use visuals: Learning that engages multiple learning types (auditory, visual, kinetic) can enhance learning. Modern students skew more visual. Incorporating simple graphics can increase learning and retention.
- Encourage participation: Teaching can’t help a student who doesn’t internalize the information. When they participate, students prove they are absorbing information. Influence students to answer questions, offer their own examples, and discuss their challenges during class. 5
Simulation, especially virtual reality (VR) simulation, may prove to be an ideal way to prepare Generation Z for future careers, including healthcare careers. With the development of immersive scenarios, hands-on learning with simulation technology, and a focus on why simulation education is important to future patient outcomes, simulation meets the engagement needs of post-Millennials in a unique way.