Sunday / April 21

Designing PD With Teacher Generations in Mind

Do mixed mindsets require multiple training styles?

There is no denying it. Generational footprints may influence the way teachers relate with other stakeholders, keep up-to-date with their practice and want to teach or be taught. Problem is many times PD is just designed in a traditionalist fashion with a top-down, in service approach that includes printed or formally organized material and a conference-like style of delivery.

It’s important to design PD with different generations in mind as this approach may facilitate communication, lower the affective filter and enhance learning. If you want to provide effective, generationally-inclusive professional development, the following profiles may help you design training opportunities that cater for all generational styles.

  • Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964), value teacher-centered professional training and prefer activities that imply teamwork. Additionally, they may want to receive information provided in textbooks or detailed handouts. Make sure some of this is included in your next session and do not forget to give them space to share how they did something similar in the past.
  • Gen Xers (born between1965 and 1976) show a more proactive approach to training to match their personal and professional development aims. Besides, they prefer individual work and activities that do not interfere with family life and that give them credentials. To cater for their needs, plan to include distance learning alternatives through virtual environments that may help them learn on their terms. And let them choose what suits them best.
  • Gen Y (born between 1977 and 1995) favor continuous customized development styles that include high-quality information technology and have direct impact on their needs. They also prefer interactive collaborative learning and experiential activities (group activities, problem solving and case studies, among others). Plan to include team work and ‘food for thought’ in the widest and most comprehensive sense, if you want your training session to become a success.
  • Last but not least, Gen Zers (born 1996 onwards) are showing a tendency to demand high-quality, fast-paced and tutorial-style training. But as in all other areas of their performance at schools, more information is yet to come on the impact of their newly-arrived presence and the way in which they want institutions to respond to their professional needs and wants.

Mind the mind map!

Ideally, professional development should be planned in a multi-generational style, however, variables such as time, funding or administrative regulations tend to end up restricting the spectrum of alternatives. Schools are dynamic organizations so drawing a generational chart[1] is a useful strategy that may come in handy to detect the dominant mindset and respond to, at least, its core needs.

It is also important to note that generational mindsets are ideal collective categories that may fail to provide an explanation for individual expectations (Shaw, 2013). And this statement may apply to the way educators want to learn. Yet, considering that ‘how students are taught affects how they later teach’ (Strauss & Howe, 1991:33) and presumably, impact how they want to learn, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach may help school managers and leaders deal with the ‘generational-friction’ factor that poses a challenge in  professional development and make design offerings more effective.


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Behrstock, E., & Clifford, M. (2009) ‘Leading Gen Y teachers: Emerging strategies for school leaders’. Available at: [accessed June 2015]

Coggshall, J. et al (2009) ‘Retaining  teacher talent: The view from Generation Y’. Naperville, IL & Washington, DC: Available at: [accessed August 2017]

Fox A. et al (2014) ‘Cross-Generational Differences: Benefits and Challenges among Teaching Professionals’. The Texas Forum of Teacher Education, vol. 4 pp. 42-62. Available at: [accessed May 2017]

Lancaster L. & Stillman, D. (2002) When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to solve the Generational Puzzle at Work. Collins Mobipocket Reader

Lovely S. and Buffum A (2007) Generations at School: Building an Age-Friendly Learning Community. Corwin Press. California.

Molinari, P. (2013) Turbulencia Generacional (3ra  edición) Buenos Aires. Temas Publishers

Shaw, H. (2013) Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Singh, A. (2014) Challenges and Issues of Generation Z. Volume 16, Issue 7 59-63 Available at: [accessed  May 2017]

Stillman D. & Stillman, J.(2017) Gen Z@Work. Brooklyn New York. Harper Collins Publishers

Strauss, W. & Howe, N. (1991) Generations: The History of America’s Future. 1584 to 2069. Harper Perennial New York.  William Morrow

Tolbize, A. (2008) ‘Generational differences in the workplace. Research and Training Center on Community Living’, University of Minnesota. Available at: [accessed June 2017]

Tulgan, B. (2013) Meet generation Z: The second generation within the giant “Millennial” cohort Reinmaker Thinking. Available at: [accessed April 2017]

[1] Molinari (2013) describes a generational chart as an instrument  to  register mindsets and express them as percentages within an organization

Written by

Silvia Breiburd is an E.S.L teacher and researcher on generational theory with wide experience in primary and secondary teaching and managerial positions. An author of numerous articles and international lecturer, Silvia advocates generational-friendly, sustainable leadership and 21st century education.

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