The Characteristics and Learning Style of Generation Z

Teaching English to generation Z students may require a change in teaching style. In this article we take a look at the challenges facing teachers when teaching Generation Z.

Generations come and go. They all have their unique characteristics, some shared and some not. Generation Z or the Millennials, are no different when it comes to the skills they need to understand English. They are different when it comes to teaching style.

Generation Z is a social classification of people born since 2000. They are also referred to as Millennials.  The usual characteristics of Generation Z are social, good at multitasking, speedy and are more inclined to instant gratification. Their learning styles and preferences are different from people in previous social classifications: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (see end for definitions).

Generation Z students generally fall within the following:

  1. They like to experiment and learn. They prefer learning by doing rather than being told what to do or reading static books. Students can intuitively use a wide range of technology. They like to tinker with the latest electronic gadgets. They use the Internet to learn new material, to research what they don’t know, to meet new people and make friends. They are creative on social media. They take the initiative to learn new tools and apps. If they don’t know something, they ask the digital world such as Google, Wikipedia, etc.
  2. The prefer visual learning. Technology has been present all their lives. They are very comfortable with all sorts of digital devices. The list of available technology changes quickly and Generation Z adapts to it as fast as the changes arrive. They are used to interactive experiences at home or in school where teachers should use rich visual effects to motivate, engage and teach these students.
  3. They are good team players. The other generations were told that working in teams and being a good team player was an essential quality at work from an entry to management levels. You don’t need to teach Generation Z the importance of being a team player. They like working on teams using collaborative tools. In general, they like learning in a supportive environment with teamwork. Generation Z likes to learn by working with peers where the slower learners are supported by faster learners. They learn by building knowledge from each other. To them, there is nothing wrong if you do not understand straight away when you are learning something new. Generation Z likes to share their experiences in groups.
  4. They tend to have short attention spans and multi-task well. The media-rich environment that Generation Z has grown up in appears to have shortened their attention span. If you ask them to work on the same thing for hours, it would probably overwhelm or frustrate them. They will probably enjoy the activities more if they can get several things done simultaneously, because they can usually shift attention rapidly from one task to another. They are generally able to multi-task better than their parents and can split their attention between different activities. Thus, an teacher should not be surprised by seeing a student listening to music, surfing the Internet, and talking to friends on the phone while doing homework. These diverse activities are all part of  Generation Z’s daily life.
  5. Edutainment. Derived from education and entertainment. Entertaining education or educational entertainment. According to Wikipedia, Edutainment typically seeks to instruct or socialize its audience by embedding lessons in some familiar form of entertainment: television programs, computer and video games, films, music, websites, multimedia software, etc. Compared to the traditional teaching perspective of the older generations, with Generation Z there is little importance given to the teacher’s authority. Generation Z students value learning if they consider it interactive with games and fun activities incorporated into the EFL/ESL and curriculum.

The Good Teacher for the Generation Z

  1. EFL/ESL teachers need to use more technology in their teaching strategies. Teachers need to update their teaching strategies. They need to adopt more technology-based tasks, include visual content and give students opportunities to give and receive feedback. Start a class blog and think of reasons how your class can use the class blog. How they contribute their ideas on the blog and how you can teach them on the blog.
  2. Bring movies into the class and get your students review the movies by taking notes and discussing their findings in class.
  3. Generation Z are multi-taskers so you can incorporate pictures, sounds, video into all your teaching activities. You can have listening, drawing and speaking activities at the same time.
  4. Let them record and upload their presentations, reports on a social media video channel and establish an online communication by bringing different cultures and countries together.
  5. Get them to access technology based sophisticated EFL and ESL sites to create their own pictures


After all is said and done, after all the talk about tech savvy generations, teachers are advised not to throw away all the traditional methods in favour of the new technology based teaching strategies. The most practical way to look at this is for teachers to innovate, technify, change within reason. As one saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional method of teaching EFL/ESL isn’t broken, it just needs updating and upgrading.

TEFL and TESOL are for non-English speakers to learn English and we hope that the young learners learn it as early as possible.

The players have changed but the EFL/ESL game is still the same.

Definition of terms used

  • Baby Boomers – 1946 – 1964 – This large generation was due to the many soldiers who returned home after World War II and started families. More people were born in this twenty-year period than at any other time in United States history.
  • Generation X – born between 1965 – 80- This generation was much smaller than the Boomer generation. Generation Xers have been generally characterized as hard working, independent and skeptical.
  • Generation Y – born between 1981 – 99 – This generation came into being during the last two decades of the 20th century. Its members are identified as confident, technologically advanced and often have a sense of entitlement.
  • Generation Z – born between 2000 – present – This name refers to those born since 2000. So far, this group has received little attention from a cultural perspective.

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