Three Leaders Who Made a Difference for Generation Z

Jacob and Alexa are both sophomores in college. They’re like millions of other 19-year-olds in the U.S. They’re savvy to what’s happening in culture. They are smart and make good grades, and they plan to, one day, own their own company.

Unlike millennials, however, Jacob and Alexa don’t feel they need to finish college to begin a start-up.

They are both from Generation Z, a population of kids who grew up informed by pop-ups, notifications on social media, newsfeeds, and a 24/7 news cycle on television. The knowledge gap between teachers and students has diminished. They’ve consumed adult information since childhood, but not adult experiences. They feel they know so much, and if they don’t know something, they live in an on-demand world where they can find it now.

I think it’s time we change the way we teach adolescents.

Pedagogy vs. Andragogy

Let me suggest an idea. Because our teens possess a great deal of adult information, why don’t we try teaching them like adults? While I recognize their brains are still developing, we won’t engage them for long if we teach them like we do children. This means we must move from pedagogy to andragogy.

  1. Pedagogy – to lead children.
  2. Andragogy – to lead adults.

Andragogy was introduced by educators like Alexander Klapp, Eduard Lindeman, and more recently, Malcolm Knowles. Let me offer the differences between andragogy and pedagogy in a nutshell:

Pedagogy Andragogy
1. Methods for teaching children 1. Methods for teaching adults
2. Focus is on teachers’ lesson plans 2. Focus is on self-directed learning
3. Grades are often very important 3. Grades are often less important
4. Learning centers around a subject 4. Learning centers around a problem
5. Teachers are commanders 5. Teachers are consultants
6. It’s about memorizing information 6. It’s about practice and application
7. Informs the student 7. Transforms the student

Three Leaders Who Made a Difference

Below are three leaders—educators and employers—who changed things and made a difference in the way students engaged and learned by using andragogy to teach.

1. Cory Scott and a Pig Named Ms. Boots                    

Cory is a teacher at Paoli High School who decided to use a pig, Ms. Boots, to teach science, math, and English. How did he do it? Ms. Boots was due to give birth a few years ago. Her presence on the school’s campus awakened the students to apply some vivid lessons in genetic selection, husbandry, feeding, and even breeding. Ms. Boots later sparked math lessons as the students wanted to expand the pigpen, increase the livestock beyond pigs and, later, raise money to build a barn. Ms. Boots gave birth to her piglets over Christmas break, and the students didn’t want to miss it. They set up cameras to watch during the holiday. Once the pigs were born, the students garnered a vision to build a barn. They raised over $200,000 for the barn; they received grants for research (here is where their English skills increased) and they gave over 100 presentations to both students and adults around the community, including city councilmen. School had become completely engaging because it was experiential. It was because they owned it, and it was about real life.

2. Uduak Afangideh and Create Your Own Biology Class

A college professor from Faulkner University recognized five years ago that her students were not engaging well in biology class. They asked questions about items that were in the syllabus and seemed lackluster about the subject. So, she let her students gain more ownership of the experience. Instead of passing out a syllabus during week one of class, she had the students write it, including how many exams she would give them, what they would learn, and what needed to happen for them to master the subject. She was pleased to discover that putting students in charge of these important elements awakened them to act smarter. They made many of the same decisions she had made in previous years about the number of tests and what they would cover during the semester. The students were seated in pods and actually researched different portions of the textbook and taught each other. This class about life actually came to life when the students were given more control.

 3. Geoff Goodman and Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt

I met Geoff a few years ago when he became the president of Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, a chain that had about 300 frozen yogurt stores at the time. What makes Geoff different is his perspective on leading young team members who may not stay at one of his frozen yogurt stores for long. Instead of debating about how the company can retain employees longer, he’s chosen the mantra: America’s Best First Job. Geoff is working with his franchisees to make Orange Leaf a “launching pad” for kids to start their careers. While working at one of the company’s locations, they’ll learn customer service, profit and loss, resume writing, and anything else they’re interested in learning about doing business well. Interestingly, Geoff said this mindset often has a reverse effect. When employers invest in young team members, those kids often stay. He encourages his managers to be mentors, using hands-on tasks like bookkeeping, sales, set up and tear down, and food prep to equip young adults (usually teens) for their upcoming careers.

The bottom line? Each of these leaders converted a traditional teaching style into a model that empowered students to own their learning experiences. This is what Generation Z desperately needs.


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Three Leaders Who Made a Difference for Generation Z