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date: 24 May 2024

Fiction, Fact, and Gen Z in International Relations and Comparative Pedagogylocked

Fiction, Fact, and Gen Z in International Relations and Comparative Pedagogylocked

  • Amy L. AtchisonAmy L. AtchisonMiddle Tennessee State University


Interchangeably called Gen Z, Generation Z, Gen Zers, and Zoomers, the generation born between the mid-1990s and early to mid-2010s now makes up the majority of postsecondary students. In countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Malaysia, and the United States, and across such disparate disciplines as engineering, legal studies, and nursing, faculty are working toward modernizing the learning environment to support Gen Z learners.

The Gen Z pedagogy movement is necessary for two reasons. First, Gen Z learners are experientially different from their instructors, many of whom are baby boomers and Gen Xers. Gen Zers’ childhoods were dominated by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Their early experiences with economic uncertainty have left Gen Zers with a strong need for practical, hands-on education that develops marketable skills. Learning for the sake of learning does not motivate them. Second, Gen Z learners are cognitively different than any previous generation due to the pervasive presence of social media in their lives. Constant exposure to social media has rewired Gen Zers’ brains, making them more responsive to visual images than to text or audio while also shrinking their attention spans. Gen Zers are interested in learning but feel educational practices have fallen behind the experiential and cognitive changes in the student body.

Reaching Gen Z requires an understanding not just of their generational distinctiveness but also of their ability gaps and learning needs. Research indicates that Gen Zers struggle with focus, close reading, and critical thinking. While no single pedagogical tool will address all of their needs, practices that work best with Gen Zers include hands-on and experiential learning, short videos, and low-stakes group work. In addition, they benefit from specific instructions and regular feedback. If international relations and comparative politics faculty are to engage with Gen Z effectively, their pedagogical practices need to meet Gen Zers’ interests and needs.


  • Pedagogy

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