A new academic year is about to start. Data shows (Tulgan, 2013) an increasing number of Gen Z teachers, the first truly global and digital educators, will be joining schools’ weakened pipelines. Are you and your school ready to include them in your staff-line up?
Here are a few Z-friendly easy-to-implement strategies that may come in handy in any educational sphere.
Know the new Gen Z; Know their DNA
This generation of teachers mostly born between 1995 and 2012 (Twenge, 2017) have not experienced a world without the Internet. Task-switchers, hacktivists, micro-learners, prosumers (Stillman & Stillman, 2017), key-word spotters and crowd-source searchers, Gen Z educators bring with them the power of youth and creativity and are in-sync with fast social change. Just what schools need to transit more smoothly from a 19th-century school paradigm to a 21st-century one.
Yet, bear in mind that this digitally-mediated cohort may approach all aspects of the profession in an innovative way. Recognizing their distinctive generational traits may ease the transition from teacher training institutions to formal working environments. Try your hardest to differentiate them. They will value that. And remember: they are not millennials!
Go visual: They are key-word spotters
Due to their generational DNA, Gen Z educators prefer image-based information. They would rather ‘see’ than ‘read’ about an issue. Useful channels of communication are random-access visual lists, infographs, contrast diagrams, or graphics-first-Pinterest-style images. And the rule also applies to recruitment ads on social media.
For professional development, notice that Gen Z educators belong to what is called a DIY or tutorial generation. Question and Answer Sections (FAQs) also match their preferred communication and learning styles. You-tube-tutorial-styled type of videos count among their learning-source favorites because they are available 24/7, to the point, and brief. And that is precisely what they need.
Decrease to increase: They are micro-learners
Helping novice Gen Z teachers may require some generational twist. For professional development, reduce the length of formal meetings and increase virtual and real face-to-face informal learning encounters that teach less but in depth.
Supply Z novice teachers with simple rules or mental sketches to help them organize themselves while supplying right-amount, focused information. Let them ask-and-try and ask-and-try again. More than ever before, their trial and error preferred learning style requires safe environments and flexible institutional cultures (Dweck et al, 2014) to learn from mistakes.
Feed back and back again.
Create opportunities for continual assessment: scaffold and spiral their learning, assess achievement, revise goals, and create follow-up guidance and assistance. Better if you gamify (Din et al., 2017) or use role-playing to simulate professional situations they may encounter (cases may vary from writing report-cards to conducting successful parent-teachers meetings) and, if possible, add fun throughout the process. Imaginary students or media characters really work.
It is of paramount importance to keep your Gen Z staff motivated by showing professional respect and personal regard for novice teachers in word and actions, constantly and immediately. Couch constructive feedback in a positive loop (sweet-sour-sweet) to build their confidence and trust.
Problem pose to problem solve
Z educators expect to be involved and feel empowered to take charge right from the start. Make room for their voices in institutional issues and allow for their democratic participation in small scale, risk-safe projects that will both motivate and make room for their creative wave.
Challenge Gen Z teachers to overcome difficulties through one of their preferred approaches to learning: problem posing and problem solving. Turn their professional development aims into quizzes to be solved. Yet, remember they may tend to crowd source, so state your rules clearly if you do not expect to see your case shared on Facebook or Instagram with the world’s opinions on it.
Beyond do’s, don’ts, and maybes
More than ever, mutual empathetic understanding and flexibility are needed to accommodate and retain novice teachers in the arena. Therefore, adjusting traditional visible and invisibilized procedures to their idiosyncratic characteristics remains vital. And although it is also true that newcomers need to adjust to ongoing structures and institutional cultures, all attempts heading for their successful incorporation, motivation, development and retention, will surely contribute to ease the path from older to more actual school paradigms.
Abrams J. & von Frank, V. (2014) Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate, and Create Community Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin
Breiburd, S. (2018) Supporting Novice Teachers: Tips for Z-Friendly Professional Development. ASCD Inservice Available at https://goo.gl/EExY6M June 25, 2018 [accessed 6 July, 2018]
Ding, D. et al. (2017) Game-based Learning in Tertiary Education: A new learning experience for the Generation Z. Available at: https://goo.gl/dU6uuy [accessed 6 July, 2018]
Dweck, C. et al (2014) Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and skills that promote Long-term learning Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Available at: https://goo.gl/dchWrJ [accessed 6 July, 2018]
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
Tulgan, B. (2013) Meet generation Z: The second generation within the giant “Millennial” cohort Reinmaker Thinking. Available at: http://goo.gl/BhoFn0 [accessed 6 July, 2018]
Twenge, J. (2017) iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. New York NY Simon and Schuster