How to Meet the Needs of the Gen Z Student

Who are Gen Z Students and What are they Like?

Teachers who want to meet the needs of the Gen Z student in today’s classrooms know that Generation Z students bring different interests and learning needs.  To engage Gen Z students and get their attention, teachers must also change the way they teach their students.

According to the Pew Research Center (2018), members of Generation Z are those born after 1997. Pew researchers found that nearly half of them (48%) are racial or ethnic minorities. Twenty-five percent of them identify as Hispanic, 13% as Black with 6% identifying as Asian. The majority of Gen Z children live in metropolitan areas of the country with only 12% living in rural areas.

Generation Z students live in the “digital age.”  They use smartphones, e-readers, digital assistants, laptops, and iPads. They text their friends,  download music, and create and share digital pictures online. Gen Z students communicate on social media networks and are “connected” nearly every waking hour of the day. 

While they “live online,” they also trust what they see and read online. A study by Adweek showed that 72% of Gen Z students want a website to already know what they are looking for when they search it. Many are willing to trust their favorite brands with their personal information as long as the website gives them what they want.

Two teen girls looking at a computer.

What Do Gen Z Students Want in Learning?

Generation Z students like autonomy and personalization in their learning. According to Fisher (2016), they have grown up on having everything personalized just for them – everything from playlists to newsfeeds to products. As a result, they have grown up expecting that.

Researchers, Seemiller & Grace (2017), found that some Gen Z students like learning in a social setting where they can build relationships with others. Others prefer “in-person” learning or to work independently on their assignments.

Gen Z students grew up on short, “how to” videos from YouTube and “googling” information they wanted to know on the spot. T

Gen Z students want active learning and engagement rather than lectures. Gen Z students learn by doing and experimenting. They enjoy being shown how to do something rather than hearing about it. They are entrepreneurial in nature and often express interest in starting their own businesses.

How Can You Meet the Needs of Your Gen Z Students?

Teachers can meet the learning needs of Gen Z students by providing self-paced and self-directed learning opportunities. Increase student engagement by providing bite-sized learning that is time-efficient and focused.

Generation Z is more career-focused than previous generations. Help them connect mastering the content in front of them with career advancement to increase interest. Gen Z students also value altruism. Gen Z students will respond better if you can help them see how what they are learning contributes to the greater good.

Students who belong to Gen Z value diversity so creating inclusive environments in the classroom where all students feel welcome and valued is important. Gen Z students enjoy sharing their ideas and learning with others. Many would enjoy tutoring their peers on content they have already mastered.

People struggle with large amounts of text in our daily lives. Readers must read, analyze, synthesize and respond – often with a sense of urgency and immediacy to the information with which we are presented.

The jobs most of our students will do in the future most likely have not even been created. As a result, our teaching must leave behind the obsolete “factory model” and capture the realities of life in the 21st century and beyond.

We must prepare our students to be not only strong readers, but also thinkers, questioners, and managers of text and information. Education must prepare students to meet the demands of a world as yet undefined. Like it or not – that is what being a teacher in the 21st century requires of all of us.