This article is the second in a 3 parts series by Cedric Borzee. It is a follow-ip of his talk at LTUK19.
1. Can we engage all generations in the learning process?
2. Generations in the learning process?
3. From Lifelong Learning to Lifelong Employability
Regarding generational differences in the learning process itself, there seems to be even less empirical data available. A study I found interesting for its methodological approach is called ‘A causal-comparative study of generational differences in learning style preferences‘.
The main hypothesis is that if there are empirically significant differences between generations, than it is logical to anticipate that there may be differences in preferred learning style as well (see Felder-Soloman Index for Learning Preferences).
The author also wondered if it would be possible to find commonality within each generation or between generations in terms of how employees experience learning. If so, this should have an impact on L&D strategies and policies for learning design and delivery.
Guess what?.. A variety of learning style preferences appear across all generations, translating into a lack of evidence to support assumptions about generational differences in learning style preferences. The recommendation of the author is therefore not to focus on generational differences when designing and delivering training.
Data kill the Stereotypes
In the story so far, I have not exhausted the academic & scientific studies on generations in the workplace and their learning experience. It may be enough however to confirm some intuitions that ‘generational cohorts’ are often more a question of (pop) marketing than scientific evidence. However, the real danger arises when stereotypes and marketing shortcuts lead to ageism, which should be tackled as hard as any other form of discrimination (gender, racial) in our 21st century organisations.
Mental Complexity and Stages of Development
Back in 1927 the vision on evolution of mental complexity through age looked like this.
Mental complexity being defined as the variety of perspectives, concepts, and vocabulary we have to make sense of the world.
And here is the view today, thanks to neuroscience and recent research like the ones led by Robert Keagan
Great news everyone! Human development does not stop when one turns into an adult…
If generational differences are not proving enough to answer the question on ‘how to engage all generations in the learning process’, then maybe the Keagan & Lahay model of adult stages of development can be more useful in order to create the conditions for a ‘learning culture of all’?