Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Hal Knight

Committee Members

Nancy Dishner, Ed Stead, Russel West


The purpose of this study was to identify teaching techniques that could be used in college classrooms for effectively teaching two different age cohorts: Baby Boomers and Generation X students. Baby Boomers are those people born between 1946 and 1964. The subsequent generation, known as Generation X, was born between 1965 and 1981. A multi-case qualitative study was designed to include interviews with faculty, focus groups with students, and classroom observations at three different community colleges in east Tennessee. Thirty-one faculty, ranging in age from 29 to 65, comprised the faculty panel. There were 48 student participants. Half of the 24 female students were Generation Xers. Of 22 male participants, 16 were Generation Xers. Classroom observations of nine different sections were conducted. These observations included traditional lecture classes, lab classes, and a couple of multimedia classrooms. Interviews with the faculty panel revealed almost diametrically opposite classroom behaviors between Baby Boomers and Generation X students. While older students are generally more motivated, focused, and come to class prepared to learn; younger students were reported to exhibit behaviors that are antithetical to these. Some younger students indicated that they preferred to work on teams with older students for these reasons. Additionally, effective teaching techniques for the two age cohorts were also discovered to be different. While both Boomers and Xers preferred real world examples to illustrate classroom theories, what was a relevant example for one generation was not always relevant for the other. Therefore, many instructors need to ascertain what is relevant in the Xers' world as constituted by the media, the Internet, and popular culture. The modern classroom needs a variety of teaching techniques to cater to different types of learners. Perhaps a model whereby older students mentor professional behavior for the younger, and the younger teach older students how to use computer technologies would be a better learning environment. Additionally, a third of the instructors interviewed have found that they need to be entertaining to hold the shorter attention spans of the younger student. Some type of visual component is becoming the norm in most classrooms, but there was not always agreement on which visuals were most effective for the two age groups. Baby Boomers generally preferred the board for transparency viewing or note taking in outline form Conversely, while some young students liked these methods, a greater number preferred watching videos. However, the videos had to be engaging and usually no longer than 20 minutes to be effective. Furthermore, 43% of the younger students value individual attention from their instructors, indicating that it can often make the difference between passing and failing a course. A third of the faculty also noted the younger students' hunger for attention. For instance, the eldest faculty member indicated, “So many Generation Xers are needy in terms of needing lots and lots of attention [because] a lot of my Generation X students are separated from their families.” Whatever the reasons, today's college instructors have a difficult task in assimilating the many learning styles and generational differences of age cohorts present in their classrooms. Not only do they have to stay informed in their academic domains and adapt their courses to multimedia and distance learning technologies, but they have to be entertaining for younger students to make the class interesting.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.