Unique Insights into Engaging Your Millennials in Learning


There is no doubt with all the literature that has been created about the millennial generation that they must be the most studied generation in history. It’s important that we don’t generate a stereotype around the millennial, the large body of research on those born between 1981 and 1999 has provided us with unique insights into their learning preferences, behaviours and attitudes.

Dr Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State College in the USA, has researched millennials from her findings regarding the characteristics of millennials ideal learning environments, their preferences regarding assignments and assessments and their attitude to technology – v – classroom. Her research involved a qualitative analysis of narratives provided by more than a hundred millennial learners to get a more accurate picture of what makes them tick. She then outlined the instructional implications of her finding with the following five R’s for engaging millennial learners.

1. Research-based Methods: Research suggests millennials prefer a variety of active learning methods. When they are not interested in something, their attention quickly shifts elsewhere. Interestingly, many of the components of their ideal learning environment – less lecture, use of multimedia, collaborating with peers – are some of the same techniques research has shown to be effective.

2. Relevance: Millennials have grown up being able to Google anything they want to know; therefore, they do not typically value information for information’s sake. As a result, trainers are shifting their role from delivering information to directing learners to the sources of information for the learner to investigate. One of the greatest challenges, says Price, is for trainers to connect course content to the current culture and make learning outcomes and activities relevant.

3. Rationale: Unlike the generation before them who were raised in a more authoritarian manner in which they more readily accept the chain of command, millennials were raised in a non-authoritarian manner and are more likely to comply with course policies when trainers provide them with a rationale for specific policies and assignments.

4. Relaxed: Millennials prefer a less formal learning environment in which they can informally interact with their peer group of learners. In Price’s interviews with learners the term “laid back” was used repeatedly.
5. Rapport: Millennials are extremely relational. They are more central to their parents’ lives than previous generations and are used to having the adults in their lives show great interest in them. They appreciate it when their trainers show that same interest, and they seem to be more willing to pursue learning outcomes when trainers connect with them on a personal level.

In my experience after thirty years of classroom training, the last ten being mainly with millennials, I have to agree with Dr Price and that is why I have introduced technology based modules into my classroom training as a source of discovery and variety.

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