Intergenerational Communication in the Classroom: Recommendations for Successful Teacher-Student Relationships

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT Intergenerational communication between teacher and student is especially important today, because of the gaps of time and understanding that exist among four active generations--Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Faculty have opportunities to be successful by learning the values, learning styles, past generational experiences, and current expectations of today's highly technologically competent students. Recommendations are offered for communication strategies in schools of nursing.

Key Words Intergenerational Communication--Nurse Faculty--Nursing Students--Teacher-Student Relationship

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FOUR GENERATIONAL GROUPS ARE INTERACTING IN SCHOOLS, WORKPLACES, HOMES, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY. These are groups of people who share birth years, history, and political and social events typically spanning 15 to 20 years (Zemke, Filipczak, & Raines, 2000). This article offers a number of strategies that can be used successfully to foster communication among members of the four generations and enhance learning in schools of nursing.

How the Generations Differ Traditionalists/Veterans (1922-1943) knew the Great Depression and World War II and place a high value on formality, respect for authority, and the security of past successes (Kersten, 2002). Traditionalists are often described as loyal, hardworking, conservative, and faithful to their employers. Many have worked faithfully for 30 years and have a very strong work ethic. They were raised in an era when the nuclear family was the ideal, education was considered a dream to be pursued, and computers had not yet become commonplace (Lancaster & Stillman, 2003).

Baby Boomers (post-World War II) grew up respecting the values of their traditionalist parents. However, by the 1970s, they began to experience the disintegration of the nuclear family. It has been noted that Baby Boomers all but invented the 60-hour work-week (Kaplan & Taoka, 2005). Boomers, described as people who work to live, were raised with more than 80 million peers in a very competitive environment and are known for their willingness to sacrifice for success.

As a group, Baby Boomers are known to crave recognition, value respect, see education as a birthright, and favor personable communication to build rapport with peers and co-workers. (See Table 1.) Many Boomers have challenged the status quo. Their continual optimism led them to fight for people's rights and for change in areas such as women's liberation, civil rights, and the Vietnam War (Kersten, 2002; Lancaster & Stillman, 2003; Zemke et al., 2000).

Generation Xers (1960-1980), the offspring of Baby Boomers, were raised in the midst of high divorce rates, single parenthood, the first Gulf War, and the Challenger disaster. Many were latchkey kids and spent their formative years playing with and learning from rapidly evolving technological innovations. These children grew up with video games and began to do their schoolwork on personal computers. They also saw how much their parents gave up for their careers, and many experienced their parents being laid off from work in the 1980s after years of dedicated service (Cran, 2005).

Kersten (2002) explains that as a result of these life experiences, Xers tend to be skeptical, independent workers who highly value a balance between their work and their social life. They desire their time off more than extra pay or promotions and have little fear of changing jobs. In turn, they do not expect employer loyalty. This generation is shaped by a culture of instant results. They are comfortable with multitasking, are motivated to get the job done, value efficiency and directness, expect immediate responses, and look at education as a means to an end (Zemke et al., 2000).

Millennials (1981-2002) were raised by older Baby Boomers and younger Xers. Many are from merged families. …