W. Scott Lewis JD, a partner with the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management and a faculty member at the University of South Carolina Daniel-Mickel School for Executive Education, gave Richmond Community College faculty insight into what makes this group of 18- to 28-year-olds different from their parents.
“From the beginning, they have been special,” said Lewis. “Parents hung 'Baby on Board' tags on car windows to warn others to be careful drivers. Bumper stickers proclaimed ‘My child is an honor student.’ The message sent to this generation is they are special and should get recognition for simply being. Many take this concept into the classroom and aren’t prepared for the reality of college life.”
Lewis said he has had students who want extra credit for not missing class. They expect what has happened throughout their lives will continue.
“There was a false theory that if a child failed, he would lack confidence and not try things in the future," Lewis said. “The fear was they could become alcoholics or go into depression. You don't have to have constant praise to be successful.”
The Internet, social networking, cable television, e-mail, texting, and Twitter have put information and communication at the Millennium generation's fingertips. To emphasize the point, he noted that Facebook and MySpace use the most Internet bandwidth in the world. The average time spent on Facebook is two hours a day or 16 hours a week.
“Students are losing the ability to interact personally. They lose the voice inflection or facial expressions through this mode of communication. They now text and talk. They are disengaged and not paying attention. They multitask. We need to be cognitive of this social change," he said.
For the classroom, he said faculty have to understand where these students are and meet them there.
“This group doesn't recognize you as an authority figure until you establish your authority. At the beginning of the course, set the tone for the class. Remind them you are here to teach and they are here to learn. Lay out your expectations and rules. Explain the rationale behind the rules,” he said.
Lewis tells his students they cannot have cell phones on or out during his classes because they are not paying attention to him, but are waiting for the next call. He reminds them it will affect them academically. He also said students should never call a professor by his first name. Requiring students to use a professor's title establishes hierarchy.
Turning to the law, he talked about the importance of being consistent with policies and the repercussions of not following them. It creates equity problems when exceptions are allowed. Discrimination becomes a real issue if this occurs.
He talked about how to deal with disruptive students and warned faculty to never put themselves in danger. Today's world is quite different from that of a decade ago. He cautioned faculty to check their tone of voice and body language when dealing with disruptive students. At all times, be open and non-threatening, and never touch a student.
RCC faculty requested this topic be addressed as part of their professional development. The majority of faculty attending the seminar are from the Baby Boomer generation. For them, the student in the classroom has changed significantly. As faculty begin classes this semester, they carry more information into their classrooms and look forward to a good semester.