Story by Reginal Fields - Photo by JaNae Williams
At Rose State, the average age of undergraduate students is higher than that of most universities; in fact, the average student is 25. Almost half of Rose students are older than 25, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This means classes at Rose State consist of students spanning more than one generation.
Because of the technological and educational changes over the years, learning styles for the different generations vary. Thus, it is crucial for a successful educational institution to address and accommodate different learning styles. Multi-generational classrooms are considered to be called “merged learning environments.” It provides an opportunity for students and faculty alike to exchange information, share knowledge and talk about careers and life.
The generations found in the Rose State classroom include: Traditionalists (also known as the Silent Generation), born between 1925-1942; Baby Boomers, born from 1943-1960; Generation X, born between 1961-1981; and Millennials, born from 1982-2000, with some introducing a new micro-generation called Xennials for those born between 1977 and 1983 (people who did not grow up with at-home computer technology but were introduced to it in their late teens/early 20s). The ways in which each group approaches their education are different and so are their learning styles.
Technology is the catalyst that is changing how students learn. Rose State Business Professor Amanda Foote stated that the educational system has changed over the years by offering early morning, evening and online classes. Today’s merged learning styles are about bringing the technical skills of the Millennial and the work-centric skills of the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations together as partners that build confidence. Research has shown that Millennials work well with these specific generations.
Janet Griffith, Rose State Coordinator of Student Access Services and Special Services, discussed how older generations can learn to speak the language of the younger ones. They no longer expect the Millennials to adapt to the older generations’ languages.
“We all need to learn to speak each other’s language. The Baby Boomers and Traditionalists need to go the [extra] mile to understand the younger generations,” she said. However, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers experience a learning curve when it comes to working with constantly evolving technology. With the elevated number of older generations in the classroom, merged learning opportunities exist for everyone—no matter their generation—providing chances to teach and learn about work ethic and life experiences. Clearly, there are many benefits to having multi-generational classrooms.