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How to Effectively Communicate with Generation Z

As we begin a new school year, I have a challenge for you. Over the summer, your kids had lots more “say” in what they did and how they engaged in their days. Few sat in a classroom; more of them chose how they approached each of their activities—be it a video game, summer camp, games in the neighborhood or a vacation trip.

Now, it’s time for school again. Are you ready?

I believe we must teach and train Generation Z differently than past generations of students. They have watched and listened to content on screens all their lives and have consumed more information by the time they reach school age than kids in the past. Because they’ve been exposed to so much material so early in their lives, mere verbal instruction feels both:

  1. Redundant.
  2. Disengaging.

This shift in student culture requires a shift in both teaching and learning.

From Pedagogy to Andragogy

Although Generation Z may be emotionally behind, they are cognitively ahead. Their growth won’t happen through a lecture, but a learning experience. We believe that while Generation Z’s brain is migrating from concrete thinking to abstract thinking, we must begin practicing adult learning (andragogy) more than children’s learning (pedagogy) centered around sitting in chairs and listening. Unfortunately, the way most of us learned to “teach” was with pedagogical practices (seats in rows, listening to someone talk). By the time they reach ten to twelve years old (and beyond) we must begin shifting toward andragogy—”andr,” meaning “man” and “agogos,” meaning “leading.” Here are some of the elements of it.

Elements of Andragogy:

  1. Instruction focuses more on process and less on content.
  2. It utilizes experiences more than explanations in the learning process.
  3. Case studies, role-playing and simulations are most useful.
  4. Spaced repetition enables students to retain what they’ve learned.
  5. Instructors adopt a role of facilitator or resource more than commander.

Sensory Stimulation
In addition to these ideas, Generation Z is especially predisposed to engage with sensory stimulation. Their portable devices have induced this bias in them, and they response well to teachers and leaders who employ it. This means we do well to:

  • Incorporate unique, out of the ordinary images.
  • Utilize a mnemonic as a way to catalogue information.
  • Employ colors. The human brain loves colors, which can help it process information more efficiently.
  • Leverage images which helps it retain information more consistently.

Part of the reason for the success of the Habitudes curriculum is that they teach students through a unique image that represents a timeless principle. Students can remember them because they think in pictures and they can teach them to others because images allow for their own interpretation of the principle. In addition, because pictures are worth a thousand words, they spark conversation which leads to experiences. And those experiences we’ve seen can change their lives.

Communication Ratios
Generally speaking, students can sit and listen the same number of minutes as their age. By this I mean, a six-year-old can sit and listen for about six minutes. A sixteen-year-old can sit and listen for about sixteen minutes, before the information should shift or the delivery of the information should switch. The reason they can binge watch an “on demand” television program is because those programs make several switches in the “what” and the “how” over the course of the show. Recently, I spoke to high school students and broke down my teaching time this way:

  • Activity based on the theme I planned to teach (six minutes)
  • Reflection on the dilemma we all face, illustrated by the activity (five minutes)
  • Teaching a Habitudes image—a single principle I would teach (ten minutes)
  • Video clip, illustrating the principle in real life (six minutes)
  • Debrief the video clip (three minutes)
  • More teaching that included interviews, visuals and stories (five minutes)
  • Small group conversation to debrief the big idea (seven minutes)
  • Reflection and assessment (five minutes)
  • Closing story to cast vision for practicing the big idea (three minutes)

How will you change the way you communicate with Generation Z this year?

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Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

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  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential

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  3. Dane Miodov on August 5, 2019 at 10:49 am

    This is interesting. Would you suggest that this model be taken into consideration even in a context of a Sunday morning Student Church Service sermon? Thanks!

  4. Laura Baker on August 6, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Good afternoon,
    Is there a way to preview a chapter to determine if I’d like it?

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How to Effectively Communicate with Generation Z