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Teaching Techniques for Young Adults:

Implications from Millennials Research

Major Points of this Presentation
What is a millennial? sifting through the hype: definitions, characteristics, cautions.
How do they compare? What does AE say about current youth vs millennials?
Teaching Techniques from Millennial Research Discuss and share strategies/ideas
that may work for millennials, youth, and/or anyone with these learning preferences.

Millennials Who are they?

Age Range: 6 25 yrs - Born between 1982-2002 (sources vary)
Many names: Generation Y, Generation Next, Digital Natives, Media Learners, .Net generation,
Web 2.0 Generation, Neo-Millennials
Diverse: on average, 45% Non-white (vs 38% GenX, 25% Boomer, 20% Silent Gen) US Census 2000
Large: 36% of population 2-3 x Generation X, equal or greater than Boomer generation.
Millennials Characteristics:
o Raised very Sheltered More easily stressed, look to authority/parents for guidance,
used to highly scheduled/structured life where desired were easily and quickly met.
o Digital natives while fluent in technology- it is just another tool; 24/7 on-demand
lifestyle; multi and multiple media-based interaction with knowledge; adaptable
o Social & Team oriented Web 2.0 collaborative creation of knowledge, live publically
online, staying networked is key myspace/facebook/twitter/texting/blogging
o Ambitious but Unrealistic - focused on notoriety, money, big ideas; unrealistic
expectations of workplace and real-work opportunities, goal-focused
o Globally, Socially, Environmentally conscious embrace/accept diversity of all sorts,
activists want to make a difference, more politically involved than GenX
o Action-oriented Focus on new experiences, trying things out, rather than thinking
about or reflective activities, virtual world acceptable substitute for real-world
activities, highly mobile, TV is boring.

CAUTION: Not all youth/young adults demonstrate millennial characteristics.

Individuality: All generational research is expressed in generalizations. Every person is an

individual and has individual characteristics that may or may not align with their generation.
Be careful of labels!
Bias: Generational research is strongly biased towards well-educated, middle and upper class
populations. Youth/young adult literacy learners (and ESOL) are poorly represented.
Rate of Change: What is true today, may not be so tomorrow. A recent trend shows that
Millennial characteristics can be demonstrated by students of any age, particularly those of
Generation X. These characteristics may better reflect a mindset rather than a specific
generation. Stay informed.

Youth in AE How do they compare to Millennials research?

Age Range: 16 24 =41% of AE served 04-05 (millennials are moving into the 25 44 range)
Diverse: 66% Non-white (vs 78% GenX, 74% Boomer, 74% Silent Gen) 04-05 NRS Rpt to Congress
Large: 1/3 of population served in AE and growing (despite declining drop-out rates)
Youth in AE Characteristics:
o Family Issues: abuse, teen parents, lack of family support for education, poor parental
supervision/examples Page 1 of 5
Teaching Techniques for Young Adults:
Implications from Millennials Research
o Poor: generational poverty/welfare background, health issues, transportation issues,
desire for instant gratification
o Immature: Compared to peers, poor decision making skills, unrealistic (high AND low)
expectations, impulse control, poor organizational skills
o Pessimistic: poor self-esteem, low expectations, low value on the education process
(although they want what the paper can get them)
o Socialization Needs: peers are their primary social group, need to belong, gangs,
drugs/alcohol as a way to escape/belong
o Unsuccessful at school: Atypical learners, learning disabilities, mediocre/poor
readers, prefer video/visuals, hands-on, music & discussion; ADHD, ADD

Teaching Strategies/Recommendations from the Research (our ideas)

Social/Team oriented/Web 2.0 I like to discuss, network, work with others.
Structured Cooperative Learning:
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Cooperative Learning
o 5 Levels of Cooperative Learning
o Kagan Online
Collaborative discussion-based activities
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Collaborative Lear http://www.c-
o Collaborative Learning in Adult Education. ERIC Digest No. 113
o Kagan Strategy: Rally Coach
o Peer Tutoring in Adult Basic and Literacy Education. ERIC Digest No. 146
o Effective Practices for Mentoring

Action/real-life oriented How does this apply to my goals? My life?

Role play live or online
o Role Playing Games and activities (written for presenters, but good overview)
o A Biography Study: Using Role-Play to Explore Authors' Lives
Contextualized/relevant instruction
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Contextualized instruction http://www.c-
o EFF Teaching/Learning Toolkit
o Creating Authentic Materials & Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom
Project/problem-based learning (especially community involvement social/global issues)
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Problem-Based Learning http://www.c-
o NCSALL: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities Page 2 of 5
Teaching Techniques for Young Adults:
Implications from Millennials Research
o 1999 & 2000 Families First Idea Books: Integrating Work Skills and Basic Skills.
Note: The goal/real life focus is related to Millennials desire to know exactly what is
required to complete the activity/assignment. Do not be surprised if they do ONLY what is
required and no more. Provide explicit and clear expectations of performance and
behavior, and follow through on consequences. Provide strong positive feedback if they
meet expectations, and set expectations at the level you *want* performance.

24/7, Mobile, On-demand, customized I want to learn stuff right when I need it any
time, any where. Learning should be fun and aligned with my preferences.
AVOID passive learning -just sitting and receiving. Opportunities for *everyone* to
discuss and/or use what they have just learned should occur every 7-10 minutes.
Build choice into learning as much as possible students have input into the pacing,
frequency with which they switch tasks, learning or performance modalities, etc.
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Pacing &Practice
o Provide individualized learning plans based on long and short term goals.
Allow Millennials to multi-task (which is really microtasking) participate in several
tasks at once. Work with them on options if microtasking does not lead to efficient
Millennials prefer instant feedback, and need ways to attain it other than from the
instructor. See Social/Web 2.0 strategies online communities can meet this need.

Media/Digital-based I seek multiple sources for information and distrust best or only
way statements/learning. Doing several things at once keeps things interesting.
Multiple Learning Modalities (Learning styles, Multiple Intelligences Theory, etc.): While
these learners have a slight preference for visual learning, they are comfortable accessing
many different learning styles. Also, they are comfortable accessing more than one
modality at the SAME TIME.
o AVOID Text in large blocks and as an intro to topics. Text is generally not their
1st choice, but is perfectly acceptable for deeper investigations.
o C-Pal: Basics of Adult Literacy Education: Learning Modalities http://www.c-
Trial & Error Learning
o Provide opportunities to find information, seek patterns, and build knowledge from
many disparate sources. Not afraid of failure and repeated tries as long as they
have many solution options.
o Gee, James Paul ( <2005) Good Video games and Good Learning
o Using Games to Promote Communicative Skills in Language Learning

Build in time for reflection, encourage metacognition

o Building Metacognitive Awareness Page 3 of 5
Teaching Techniques for Young Adults:
Implications from Millennials Research
Note: Technology is one TOOL for addressing millennials needs. They are comfortable
accessing many types of resources, via many types of tools. Do not assume they want to
use tech all the time (they dont). Use Technology when it is easy, smooth and effective
otherwise they will want to switch to another method/tool. Page 4 of 5
Teaching Techniques for Young Adults:
Implications from Millennials Research
Our contact info:
Duren Center for Literacy Studies, University of
Beth Tennessee
865-974-4109 312 UT Conference Center Bldg
Knoxville, TN 37996-4135

Millennial Generation References & Resources

Easy Reads:
Coates, Julie (2007) Generation Y The Millennial Generation, from Generational Learning, LERN Books
Excerpt at
Focus Adolescent Services (2007) Youth who Drop Out
Oblinger, Diana (2003) Boomers, Gen-Xers & Millennials: Understanding the New Students.
Pew Research Center for The People and The Press (2007) How Young People View Their Lives, Futures,
and Politics: A Portrait of Generation Next

Deeper Stuff:
America Connects Consortium (2002?) America Connects Consortium Noteworthy Practices: Serving
Youth in Adult Education Programs. [No longer online]
Dede, Chris (2005) Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles.
Jekielek, Susan and Brown, Brett (2005) The Transition to Adulthood: Characteristics of Young Adults in
America A Kids Count/PRB/Child Trends Report
Lynch, Art (2009) Ready or Not: Adult Education and Millennial Generation
Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) Is it Age or IT: First steps toward understanding the Net Generation
Prensky, Marc (2001) Digital Natives Digital immigrants Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.pdf

Sale and Sims (2008) Online Learning Design: Does generational poverty influence the young adult
Stearley, Sean (2008) What Generational Diversity Means to e-Learning, Aetna. (Good overview of
generations, and interesting research findings on media learning preferences.)
Wikibooks (2009) Web 2.0 Learning Styles

SMS language (Text-ese)
NetLingo list of Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand
Fred Lynch (2009) Slang Dictionary (caution R rated) Page 5 of 5