Sample Chapter 1: Generation Y

Here is today’s sneak preview from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘. This extract is taken from Chapter 1 ‘Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners’.

Chapter 1 | Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners

Caroline Hills

All supervisors want their student(s) to develop the requisite skills, attitudes and knowledge that are essential for graduating with competency in their profession. Indeed, taking a student on placement is indicative of the supervisor’s desire and commitment to mentoring and guiding the student towards the attainment of these essential skills and attributes. From the student’s perspective, the most successful placements are those in which the student has had a good relationship with their educator and have been facilitated towards independence with some degree of autonomy in that particular work setting. While many studies have reported that the most preferred characteristics of the supervisor are that they are enthusiastic and approachable (Francis et al, 2016; Perram et al, 2016), students have also used the term ‘belonging’ in their descriptions of successful placements (Hills et al, 2016a). ‘Belonging’ is the human need to be accepted, recognised, valued and appreciated by a group (Maslow, 1943). Social scientists have defined ‘belongingness’ as a feeling of being respected and appreciated and having an integral role in an environment, which is achieved through participation in that setting (Anant, 1969). People who experi- ence ‘belongingness’ feel they ‘fit in’ as they feel needed, valued and accepted (Hagerty et al, 1992). However, it is not only the relationship with the supervisor that facilitates this essential feeling; it is also being part of the team, feeling like a colleague – and for students it has been reported as a prerequisite to both enabling and optimising their learning (Levett-Jones and Lathlean, 2008).

In order to create a feeling of ‘belongingness’, the placement must begin with consid- eration of the student’s attributes in relation to their learning needs and preferences. This recognises that we do not all learn in the same way. To begin with acknowledging difference enables individualised learning approaches to be adopted. Considerations such as learning style, gender, cultural and family background, or the presence of a health condition or disability, may be important starting points, in addition to the student’s life and previous work experience relevant to the area of practice (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010). However, age or ‘generation’ has been noted as another factor that can affect student learning in placement (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010).

 

In her book Generation Me (2006), Jean Twenge describes the fundamental premise which underpins a generational perspective:

 

Everyone belongs to a generation. Some people embrace it like a warm familiar blanket, while others prefer not to be lumped in with their age mates. Yet, like it or not, when you are born dictates the culture you will experience. This includes the highs and lows of pop culture, as well as world events, social trends, economic realities, behavioural norms, and ways of seeing the world. The society moulds you when you are young and stays with you the rest of your life.

(Twenge, 2006, p 2)

 

Defining differences in generational cohorts was first proposed by the German soci- ologist Karl Mannheim in the 1950s. Mannheim (1952) postulated that each gen- eration has a similar worldview due to exposure to common historical and social events during their formative years. Every member of  a  specific  generation  will not have experienced the same life events, but they will have a shared awareness which creates a type of ‘generational personality’. This is attributed to belonging to the same generational age group and sharing a common location in the social and historical world. Subsequently, generational classifications have been developed by social commentators in westernised countries. These include the ‘GI Generation’ (born 1901–1924); the ‘Silent Generation’ (1925–1942); the ‘Baby Boomers’ (1943– 1960); ‘Generation X’ (1961–1981); ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennials’  (1982–2002)  and ‘Generation Z’ from 2003 onwards (Prendergast, 2009). Supporters of a gener- ational perspective have argued that each generation’s personality has a unique set of characteristics, developed as a result of their experiences during their formative years. These characteristics comprise beliefs, values, attitudes and expectations, which affect behaviour in general, as well as in educational and work settings (Boudreau, 2009; Lavoie-Tremblay et al, 2010).

Foster’s (2013) analysis of the narrative discourse of workers confirmed that being part of one generation or commenting on other generations is a reality in contem- porary society. For example, in this author’s research, participants used language such as ‘that generation’ or ‘the younger generation’ and ‘my generation’, when discussing approaches to doing things differently in the workplace. However, many qualified these stereotypical comments by stating that not everyone of a particular generation fits the generalisation. Foster (2013, p 211) concluded that a generational perspective:

 

… proves particularly useful when people attempt to understand and convey perceived differences in older and younger contemporaries, and the social, cultural, and especially technological changes affecting their lives. It is a one-word lens through which both choice and determinism are rendered visible in the lives of others.

 

Table 1.1 Societal influences during the formative years of generations

 

Baby Boomers (1943–1960) Generation X (1961–1981) Generation Y (1982–2002)
Notable occurrences Civil rights movement Rise of mass media and consumerism, end of Cold War Globalisation, digital age, age of terrorism
Major influences Family and education Media, AIDS, nuclear disasters as well as family and education Witness the growth of millionaires. Digital explosion. Family major influence. ‘You are special’.
Entertainment Television Multiple TV channels, VCR, Nintendo, cinema YouTube, live streaming,  multiple media and

technologies. Social media.

Communication and technology Touch-tone phones, calculators Mobile phones, beepers, laptops, email More complex mobile technologies, WiFi, social media, creation of apps, more interactive video gaming and computer programs. Most homes own a computer.
Spending styles Buy now pay later – with plastic More

cautious –pessimistic

Security

Growth in designer labels and personalised items, ie phone covers
Value Regularity, predictability Fun, want challenges Fun but want to achieve
Work ethic ‘It pays to work hard’ – workaholics Satisfying teamwork Likes teamwork

but wants to achieve. May have multiple careers.

(Adapted from Prendergast, 2009)

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