By Alyssa Chmura ’12, English Content Tutor
Those of you reading this blog must think that fellow CAE tutors Melissa Lauretti, Ashley Briglia, Michelle DiPinto and I are always together and partaking in one adventure or another – from the Ethics Bowl to the founding of the Edgar Allen Poe Society and so on. Unsurprisingly, then, this post is all about another one of our escapades.
Last Friday, Ashley, Melissa and I ventured to Trinity College for a conference titled “Teaching Millennials in the New Millennium: A Conference on the Theory, Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching College-Age Students in the 21st Century.” What a mouthful, right? The conference aimed to explore how generational differences affect college learning and what to do about it. Since we fall under the category of millennial students (being born between 1982 and 2000), this conference was extremely relevant to us and how we learn in a college setting.
Scholars from Trinity and other colleges from around the country presented on different facets of the issue. The morning panel was devoted to defining the characteristics that describe the millennial generation.
The seven characteristics typically associated with the millennial generation are:
Those traits don’t exactly paint a nice picture of millennials! Personally, I could identify with some of the characteristics (pressured especially), but saw no concrete evidence that these “traits” could be applied to an entire generation of people or that the characteristics could be chalked up to more than just individual preferences. I found it difficult to label an entire generation of people by one word.
Many of the later presenters, notably the panel of Trinity students who spoke in the afternoon, brought up this same issue about the ability to accurately classify people by broad generalizations. Regardless of my purely conditional belief in the theory of millennials, I found the discussion fascinating. The description of the millennial traits was only the beginning, though; the main focus of the conference was in determining how these characteristics have an impact on the college classroom.
Conclusions made by the majority of presenters were that the college system should not be completely revamped to suit the needs of this new generation of multi-tasking, pressured, “special” students.
How ridiculous would it be if teachers and professors had to switch up their teaching practices and style every time a new group of students came to the college? There is definitely value in offering a variety of approaches to classroom activities (varying between lectures, discussions, projects, presentations, research, etc. rather than just one), but it seems as though some take the “customer service” mindset regarding college classes a bit too far.
Yes, professors should take the initiative to provide multiple opportunities for a diverse student body to connect to the course and its concepts (it’s called differentiation in education-lingo), but students have to take the initiative as well!
This idea came across best in the student-led panel, which I thought was a great addition to the conference. The conversation between students and professors that occurred at the conference was valuable because each got a glimpse into the other’s world and crossed generations. Although no definitive conclusions were made about the link between millennial characteristics and classroom changes, the discussion sparked by the conference was one that will undoubtedly affect education in colleges.
I was glad that Melissa, Ashley and I decided to go to the conference. It was a great opportunity to:
1. Get off campus.
2. Do some outside-of-the-classroom learning about a relevant topic.
3. Be around and engage in conversations with professionals and students alike about an issue that affects our lives in a big way.
Attending a conference on an issue that is interesting is an experience I would recommend to any and all students!