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Home Classroom Activities Knowing Your StudentsTeaching Millennial Students
 Teaching Millennial Students

Millennial students are students entering college after the year 2000. Neil Howe and William Strauss in their work, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000), describe millennial students using the following core personality traits:

  • Special
  • Sheltered
  • Confident
  • Team-Oriented
  • Conventional
  • Pressured
  • Achieving

In her article "Teaching, Learning and Millennial Students" (2004), Maureen E. Wilson makes recommendations for enhancing teaching effectiveness for Millennial students. These include:

  1. Student-Faculty Contact: Millennials who have had sheltered lives and have involved parents need to learn how to take responsibility for their own learning, how to relate to authority figures and how to advocate for themselves. Quality student-faculty contact can enhance students' motivation and enthusiasm for their own educational experience.
  2. Reciprocity and Cooperation: Millennial students have grown up working in groups and playing on teams. Since working with others can strengthen the learning environment for all students, Millennials are more likely to collaboratively work with their peers to enhance their own learning.
  3. Active Learning: Active and engaged learning is another aspect of optimal student learning. Using active learning strategies such as discussions, reflection activities, group projects and cooperative problem-solving can deepen students' understanding of course material and ability to apply new ideas. Since Millennials have a team-orientation, they ought to greatly benefit from active learning opportunities.
  4. Feedback: Most research on improving student learning emphasizes the need for prompt, frequent and constructive feedback from faculty to students. This type of feedback can help Millennial students to more effectively understand their strengths and weaknesses and lessen the pressure to achieve.
  5. Time on Task: Students must devote adequate time and effort to their academic endeavors in order to enhance the quality of their learning. Although Millennial students are confident and achieving, they may underestimate the time that is necessary for academic success. Faculty can help their Millennial students to learn how to better manage their time and efforts in order for them to achieve their academic goals.
  6. High Expectations: When faculty set high expectations for their students' learning, students will strive to meet these expectations that lead to enhanced learning. Faculty can help Millennial students by teaching them to think more critically and with more complexity, instead of just "teaching for the test."
  7. Diverse Talents and Ways of Knowing: Students' learning styles differ, which requires effective faculty to use a variety of teaching strategies. Millennials' achievement orientation will be challenged by any type of failure. By helping Millennial students to use different types of learning strategies in different situations, faculty are helping these students to be critical thinkers and adaptive learners.

It is critical to note that general group characteristics of Millennial students cannot accurately describe individual students. It is the broad understanding of the issues faced by Millennial students that can help faculty to create active, effective and engaging learning environments for his/her students.

Additional readings:

Carlson, S. (2005, October 7). The Net Generation Goes to College. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Crone, I., & McKay, K. (2007). Motivating Today's College Students Peer Review 9 (1), 19-22.

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York, NY: Vintage. 

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2007). Millenials Go to College (2nd ed.). Great Falls, VA: LifeCourse Associates.

Student Services California State University Long Beach. (2008). Meeting the Needs of Millennial Students. In Touch Newsletter 16, (1). Retrieved from

Stanford, D. (2009, February 2). Just Because They’re Young Doesn’t Mean They’re Tech Savvy. Message posted to

Wilson, M.E. (2004). "Teaching, Learning, and Millennial Students." In M.D. Coomes and R. DeBard (Eds.) Serving the Millennial Generation. New Directions for Student Services, no. 106. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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