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 know that Generation Z students bring different interests and learning needs to the classroom. 

To get their attention and engage Gen Z students, teachers must also change the way they teach to match their student’s needs.

Who are Generation Z Students?

According to the Pew Research Center (2018), members of Generation Z are those born after 1997.

Pew researchers found that in the United States nearly half of them or 48% are racial or ethnic minorities. Twenty-five percent of them identify as Hispanic, 13% as Black, 6% identifying as Asian and 4% other races.

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.

Meeting the Learning Needs of Gen Z Student in the Classroom

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.

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.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gen Z Student Learning

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, researcher from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (McCoy, 2020) have found that Gen Z students prefer “in-person” group activities, printed materials and interactions with teachers over digital learning. They did still enjoy learning via YouTube (59%) and learning apps (47%) however.

While Gen Z students are better at focusing in the classroom than their predecessors, they do have shorter attention spans so active learning methods are a must.

The conclusion of this study recommended that teachers use a blend of traditional face-to-face teaching methods supported by online learning activities including the use of digital devices.

Meeting 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.

Updated – 10/01/2022

You Might Also Like:

Fake News – How to Analyze Online Information