3. Leaders Missed an Experiential Learning Opportunity
Educators could have taken the high ground when standardization hit—a high ground characterized by a more demanding pedagogy. Though a standardized curriculum and testing often robs teachers of freedom and the time to apply more challenging assessments, as well as covers subjects too thinly, educators could have tried to apply some standards for learning and/or accreditation for experiential learning.
And though another argument is that experiential learning is harder to prepare, due to tough decisions about how to bridge content that must be sacrificed, as well as the difficulty in assessing student work outside of class, perhaps more educators in academia could have taken a risk in trying to use standardization for closing the generational skills gap.
4. Students Don’t Understand Why They’re Learning
Higher education has one more hurdle to achieve–to inculcate habitual constructivism among today’s students. This is a rigorous mindset for making meaning of the complex experiences that are fundamental to authentic work and its assessment. Learners have to be able to accurately reconstruct what has happened to them, be able to identify hidden issues, challenge themselves to consider if, given new insights, they would do things differently and if so, take action based on a sound plan.
This is the stuff of emerging leaders and independent learners. However, without the context of authenticity, reflection has no grain to grind. This is what Generation Z will require to become effective communicators and group collaborators, as well as ethical decision-makers capable of employing higher-level critical thinking that can be easily adapted to the real world.
5. Employers are Validating Higher Education’s Inertia
Often employers accept low-value evidence of learning and skill as “good enough” and roll the dice every time they hire, knowing that you can’t divine a candidate’s true competences in real world circumstances from a two-page resume.
Also, you can’t rely on the school the candidate attended, as graduating from a flagship institution says nothing about what a student can do under the pressure of real world circumstances. In fact, Shark Tank TV personality Barbara Corcoran, founder of Corcoran Group ( the real estate giant in New York City), who sold her business for $66 million stated, “Most of the times I ever lost a lot of money with somebody, they graduated from Harvard…”
Gen Z Wants to Help Close the Generational Skills Gap
As it turns out, everyone is sitting on a gold mine: Generation Z. This generation is accustomed to finding answers to questions across multiple digital media on their own or with friends. They are high-stimulus junkies who want meaningful work to do and relish the opportunity to make an impact on their world. Gen Zers crave feedback from experts and want to work on high-stakes problems in group environments, as they have been accustomed to doing with people they respect and like.
In other words, hard work is fine if it’s important work, and the real world is where they spend most of their 24/7-connected day with inputs coming in constantly.
This is a generation we can work with on the skills gap. The skills gap is treatable. There are frameworks for action. The question is, will higher education and employers waste an opportunity with yet another generation?