Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me

Med Educ. 2009 May;43(5):398-405. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03310.x.


Context: Many faculty members believe that students today differ from those in the past. This paper reviews the empirical evidence for generational changes among students and makes recommendations for classroom teaching based on these changes. Generational changes are rooted in shifts in culture and should be viewed as reflections of changes in society.

Methods: This paper reviews findings from a number of studies, most of which rely on over-time meta-analyses of students' (primarily undergraduates') responses to psychological questionnaires measuring IQ, personality traits, attitudes, reading preferences and expectations. Others are time-lag studies of nationally representative samples of high school students.

Results: Today's students (Generation Me) score higher on assertiveness, self-liking, narcissistic traits, high expectations, and some measures of stress, anxiety and poor mental health, and lower on self-reliance. Most of these changes are linear; thus the year in which someone was born is more relevant than a broad generational label. Moreover, these findings represent average changes and exceptions certainly occur.

Discussion: These characteristics suggest that Generation Me would benefit from a more structured but also more interactive learning experience, and that the overconfidence of this group may need to be tempered. Faculty and staff should give very specific instructions and frequent feedback, and should explain the relevance of the material. Rules should be strictly followed to prevent entitled students from unfairly working the system. Generation Me students have high IQs, but little desire to read long texts. Instruction may need to be delivered in shorter segments and perhaps incorporate more material delivered in media such as videos and an interactive format. Given their heightened desire for leisure, today's students may grow into professionals who demand lighter work schedules, thereby creating conflict within the profession.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • California
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Social Change*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult