Volume: 8, Issue: 1


Generation Y: Methodology of interaction in an educational space
Александрова, Е.А. [about] , Логинов Д.А. [about]

KEYWORDS: Generation Y, an individual development trajectory, potential resources, an educational space.

ABSTRACT: Applying a SWOT-analysis method, the authors substantiate important principles of teachers’ interaction with Generation Y students. These principles of openness, variability, surprise, “puzzlement”, gamification, and excessiveness of opportunities enable students to work out and carry out individual development strategies in three directions: anthropological, subject-based and social. The paper also discusses changing methodological foundations in organizing lectures, tutorials, and independent studies.

Instead of introduction

Recently teachers have been dealing with students who belong to the so-called Generation Y, i.e., those who were born between 1980 (in Russia, it is 1984) and 2000. To have a close look at the interaction patterns with such students we applied a SWOT-analysis used primarily as a strategic planning method. A SWOT-analysis allows identifying factors of internal and external space in a company and dividing them into four categories: S (Strengths), W (Weaknesses), O (Opportunities), and T (Threats). In what follows, we will show how these categories work in relation to Generation Y.

Most researchers find the strengths of Generation Y to be the ability to develop fast, to work long and hard (if such work offers financial or status rewards), and to multitask. Unlike the previous generations, modern young people have no problems in changing their residence or jobs; they find it easy to adjust to new circumstances. The majority of young people have freedom of traveling abroad (either in reality or virtually). They are communicative and idealistic as may be seen from their belief that they can easily avoid punishment or have many lives (just like new rounds in a computer game); they have access to multicultural online and offline communication, to different jobs in transnational and international companies and, finally, they are interested in the development of distance learning and the so-called freelance.

However, if we accept the standpoint of Generation X (the predecessors of Generation Y), then, as it is a common practice in culture, they cannot stop criticizing (from their point of view) the weaknesses of Generation Y. According to numerous researchers of Generation Y, such people are self-centered, revealing inflated self-esteem and self-assurance; they need their individuality to be respected and, as a result, they reject egalitarianism; they demonstrate infantilism, and they are spoiled as they exhibit a high level of claims, including claims for comfort. According to the older generation, the youth are less interested in books, and they believe that there is nothing impossible in their world. Indeed, the development of culture and society has opened new opportunities which young people cannot miss as they have a different view on life. 

The opportunities, which will be well used by Generation Y, include rapid development of new technologies, world diversity, and openness, innovations in economy and education, and unlimited job opportunities.

At the same time there are threats or situations which representatives of Generation Y prefer to avoid: routine and dull jobs which lack opportunities for self-realization; the need to “do something for the future” while restricting oneself “here and now.” Consequently, an educational space should be also directed towards the principles of openness, variability, and excessiveness of opportunities that serve as resources for students’ personal and professional development.

Potential resources for students in the educational space of a modern university

Let us make use of another principle of tutors’ work in contemporary education – the principle of educational space “expansion” – and present the analysis of personal and professional development resources in three vectors: anthropological, subject-based, and social.

The anthropological vector of individual development trajectory is determined, in its turn, by three essentially meaningful attitudes that motivate a student’s self-development: actual demands (“I want”), basic possibilities (“To achieve something, I possess this” – various personal qualities) and prospects (“To achieve something, I lack this…” – whether I need to gain or develop this knowledge or skill).

The subject-based vector of individual development trajectory is shaped by the anthropological vector and involves three successive meaningful attitudes that motivate a student’s self-development: “subject interest, research field,” “knowledge and the subsequent paradoxes,” and “competences in a specific personal/professional sphere.”

The social vector of individual development trajectory is defined by the need to find resources and tools for personal and professional development in the educational space (we should emphasize the difference between the terms “space” which we use in contrast to the “environment” as the latter also includes the utilized structure of the urban community) of a university also based on three attitudes of a student: an appeal to the Meaningful Other” (such as a teacher, supervisor, tutor, another student – all of them could be equally important); “an appeal to the university infrastructure” (resources of departments, labs, student research teams and associations, libraries, web portals,  publishing houses, clubs, etc.); “an appeal to a social partner” (for example, in case of teacher training, the list of social partners may include preschools, elementary and secondary schools, institutions of supplementary education, museums, research institutes, pedagogical communities, specialized websites, etc.).

Using the specific knowledge about Generation Y and elements of vector modeling related to students’ personal and professional development trajectory we may receive a new way of defining methodological foundations of interaction with students during classes and in their independent study.

Thus, our interaction with students has shown that freedom of attendance granted them by the university is not translated into the wish to skip lectures or tutorials. On the contrary, certain rights and freedoms contribute to students’ responsibility for the results of their education. Paradoxically, students’ attendance often even increases rather than decreases.

If students are offered an excessive amount of various assignments for self-study, they will have a freedom of choice. As a result, students will determine their own individual sets of assignments suitable for their academic and personal needs as well as for their professional plans. Consequently, this will increase their learning motivation and make it more meaningful. Such self-study will not look pointless.

We have already mentioned that young people try to satisfy their needs as fast as possible. This does not seem out of the ordinary. Terrorist attacks have made the world less peaceful. As a result, young people do not feel safe here. So they try to satisfy their basic needs “here and now,” try not to postpone important matters and attempt to realize their vital and meaningful projects faster and more efficiently. Consequently, young people need to act trying to obtain maximum of positive results within the shortest period of time.

To meet students’ requirements teachers should let each student have an individual pace of learning.

By the way, this idea is not new. As early as in 1732, cadets from a Russian military school had freedom in their learning. They could go to the next grade upon completion of the necessary studies without waiting for their classmates. It was not unusual for a student to take courses in different grades. 

It is typical for Generation Y to value their time (perhaps, it is high time to implement flexible school schedule); they are free from the tradition of long and pointless monologues preferring brief and accurate answers to their questions. It means that the time has come put forth more short-term tasks, hold one- or two-day-long tutorials instead of six-month-long electives, and offer young people specific practice-oriented workshops.

Consequently, methodological foundations of lectures and tutorials need to be modified. Lectures should become problem/research-based and reflection-oriented rather than reproductive, explanatory, and illustrative. Tutorials should become case-based.

It is necessary to remember a centuries-old practice when students were prepared to perceive professors’ lectures. It had been long believed that the system of lectures and tutorials “penetrated” into high schools. However, it was actually just the opposite. Indeed, lectures and tutorials as a form of instruction began to dominate in high school routing schooling (the teacher explains new material, then students study it again at home and revise in the next class) penetrated, unfortunately, to colleges and universities.

It is characteristic of Generation Y to strive for self-organization. In Russia, lectures are still practiced as a way to introduce and explain the new information. Therefore, the time has come to borrow a common foreign practice of delivering lectures when a student is first given an opportunity to study the suggested literature and get ready to perceive a professor’s lecture and only then to arrange a reflection-based monologue with elements of discussion so that the professor can present to the students not so much the new knowledge but the process of reflection, thinking, and search.

In this respect it is also important to rephrase the assignments for students’ self-study. Teachers should understand the value of self-study for young people’s personality development. We need new activities that require critical thinking, comparison and contrasting, search for similarities and their comprehension. Examples of such activities were given in our two previous papers [5, 6].

It is also important to remember that the young generation people tend to work in a team and interact with many people, often simultaneously. This explains their interest in discussions, debates and team competitions as forms of both social and academic education.

Another distinguishing feature of modern youth is multitasking. Representatives of Generation Y are able to simultaneously solve even completely different tasks. This fact shoould not be ignored in the instruction process.

Young people’s yearning for novelty, changing situation and video support should also be used in the teaching process and organization of educational environment. Young people value creativity and ergonomics of their work place.

Indeed, the network technologies’ era has brought about new ways of interaction in the educational community. Some of the examples may include e-mail, Skype, media resources (e.g., YouTube), and social networks (Livejournal, Facebook, Twitter) to look for pedagogical precedents and discuss them in class.

Student motivation in learning should be based on the Generation Y’s need for constant positive support in their activity and its results.

The Generation Y representatives are often accused of their destructive selfishness. However, in practice this trait is expressed in greater self-orientation. Indeed, young people are prone to reveal more individualism and reject egalitarianism. Therefore, we must take this into consideration when selecting ways and strategies of interaction with students.

We, teachers, should understand that young people are looking for their own purpose in doing anything and, if they find it, then “Monday begins on Saturday” [this is a title of a 1965 science fiction novel by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky], and they are also ready to study hard beyond the school schedule. Students used to ask, “What for?” but now they are looking for the answer to the question, “Why?”

Numerous opponents also point out to the fact that young people read less. In this case, what should we do with the established fact that representatives of Generation Y develop faster than their predecessors? In fact, printed media is less attractive for them, but this does not mean that they read less – they just read different sources, which we do not expect them to be interested in. And, as one of the author’s personal experience shows, if students are recommended to read original sources (rather than from abridged and adapted compilations) and encouraged to read through paradoxical situations, they are prepared to read.

As a result, it is hard to classify the principles of surprise and “puzzlement” as specifically aimed at the organization of interaction with representatives of Generation Y because these are universal pedagogical principles.

Present-day students are less oriented towards a vertical career. Instead, they prefer a horizontal one. In this regard it is important to apply the principle of network interaction of educational, cultural, and other institutions the resources of which can be used for the instruction purposes.

Generation Y is also called Peter Pan’s Generation because of their love for games. We believe that this fact will cause an increasing gamification of education. However, business games, cases and precedent analyses should have (hypothetically speaking) long ago become part of the mainstream education. Although due to young people’s greater (than earlier) pragmatism it is vital in an educational institution to pay attention to the relationship between potential employers and students not only during students’ teaching practice but also during tutorials and self-study. And if we used to speak about the principle of relationship between theory and practice, now we need to learn how to implement this principle not only by explanation and illustrations but also in real educational situations.

Instead of conclusion

Today, it is vital for young people to use education in order to acquire applied skills, leadership qualities, and organizational abilities. They find it important to have public recognition and timely appreciation of their success. That is why teachers should learn to put more trust in their students, provide them with opportunities to use their initiative not only during “self-governance days.” Instead of organizing special events to attract young people, teachers should become really interesting people for them and offer young people a freedom to choose ‘tools’ while achieving their goals. In this respect we would like to quote Winston Churchill who once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”


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