Faculty member co-edits book about teaching millennials

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A Penn State faculty member has co-edited a book about how college educators can best reach millennials, a group considered tough to engage by some higher education professionals.

Kevin Hagopian, a senior lecturer in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, co-edited “Entitlement to Engagement: Affirming Millennial Students’ Egos in the Higher Education Classroom” with Dave Knowlton of Southern Illinois University. Hagopian said the book grew out of conversations with Knowlton, and the duo then recruited contributing authors who offered specialized knowledge on topics such as educational psychology and pedagogy.

The 112-page book is the 135th volume of this Jossey-Bass higher education series, "New Directions for Teaching and Learning," which offers a comprehensive range of ideas and techniques for improving college teaching based on the experience of seasoned instructors and the latest findings of educational and psychological researchers.

Millennials are generally defined as people younger than 30, all of whom are coming of age in a richer technological environment than those of previous generations.

Through more than two decades of teaching an array of subjects, Hagopian believes those students often disconnect their lives from their learning. “They are quick to take ownership of their grades but not of the actual course content and ideas,” he said.

While disengagement during classes has always existed, millennials have more potential distractions and technology available at their fingertips -- in the form of laptops, smartphones and more -- than ever before. As a result, expressions of boredom, usually through Internet browsing or texting, are more blatant than ever before, Hagopian said.

Still, those actions are merely a new variation to an old attitude. Hagopian believes any appropriate response must utilize an updated approach.

He believes instructors have the power to make their classes organically meaningful to students, and the book offers strategies on how to transform a classroom into a “site for ego-involved learning, the personal ownership of a field, and its concerns for the individual student,” Hagopian said.

He said faculty members should challenge, engage and empower students to spur the growth of their sense of self. “The answer is not to demand attention,” he said. “Nobody wins through regulatory behavior of students’ entitled attitudes.”

At the same time, Hagopian encourages students to let their subject of study become who they are.

At Penn State, Hagopian said students find identity in clubs and organizations, the Penn State Dance Marathon and intercollegiate athletics. Authors of the book seek to identify how this same emotional connection can be achieved in regard the students’ classroom experiences.

Last Updated January 09, 2015