Gen Z students see themselves differently to their teachers

In October, 2016 Edelman Intelligence and Adobe undertook an international study titled Gen Z in the Classroom, Creating the Future to help explore how creativity plays a role in preparing Generation Z students for their future in the workforce, and how students learn and think about the future in the context of creativity.

This is the first in a series of my journal posts based on this study. Click here to get a summary of all the findings.

research1Who are Gen Z?

Gen Z, also known as the Post Millennials or the iGeneration, refer to young people born between the mid 1990s and the early 2000s. In 2017, they would include students in their mid-teens and early 20s. So broadly speaking, they are today’s high school students and university under-graduates.

The study involved over 2,500 Gen Z students and over 1,000 teachers of Gen Z students from the Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany.


Study objectives

The objectives of the study were to:

  • Understand how students view creativity and its impact/application across all different types of classes and potential careers;
  • Explore what creative tools students and educators see as most helpful in developing their online brands;
  • Uncover the synergies and gaps within the student/educator experience today when it comes to creativity, as well as what each group sees as the future of learning and working; and
  • Identify which regions “shine” in how they are preparing for the future workforce when it comes to creativity, and which fall behind.


Difference in perceptions

One question where there was an interesting differentiation between the teachers and students was Which of the following words describes Gen Z – Smart, Creative, Hard Working, Team Player, Curious, Social, A little lazy, Outgoing, Bored by the past, Follower, Multi-tasker, Nervous about the future, Shy, Ambitious, Lonely, Original, Confident & None of these?

The students and teachers were able to provide multiple answers and the Gen Z’s top responses in all four countries were:

  • Creative (Australia – 46%, US – 47%, UK – 37%, Germany – 44%)
  • Smart (Australia – 43%, US – 63%, UK – 39%, Germany – 40%)
  • Team player (Australia – 44%, US – 42%, UK – 42%, Germany – 40%)

The teachers of Gen Z student’s top responses in all four countries were:

  • A little lazy (Australia – 74%, US – 76%, UK – 65%, Germany – 70%)
  • Social (Australia – 60%, US – 65%, UK – 51%, Germany – 30%)
  • Bored by the past (Australia – 49%, US – 49%, UK – 33%, Germany – 49%)

Only German teachers (26%) used the term Creative in the top 5 descriptors of Gen Z students.

So it appears that Gen Z students see themselves differently from their teachers. Some of the possible reasons for this do come out in other parts of this study which I will write about in future articles.

What is creativity?

When recently chatting to educators about these perceptions the thought arose that students may define creativity differently to their teachers.

Some argue that creativity cannot be formally defined. I tend to think that Sir Ken Robinson provides a good definition when he says in his book Out of Our Minds (and on many other occasions) that creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. The ideas may not be so original that no one has ever heard of them before, they need to be original within the context of the creator in their classroom, home, community etc.

The idea does need to be valued. This is a possible sticking point of distinction between Gen z students and their teachers.Students may well see something as simple as adding a filter on an Instagram image as being creative, where as their teacher may see no value or originality in this process, therefore not recognise that activity as being creative.

I would like to encourage students and teachers to keep the conversation about the importance of creativity going in all curriculum areas.

Sir Ken says that everyone has the ability to be creative bu virtue of being human. He also suggests that creativity is possible in all areas of human life, in science, the arts, mathematics, technology, cooking, teaching, politics, business etc. And finally, Sir Ken points out that creativity can be cultivated and refined. It can be taught and can involve an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge and ideas.

Click here for more on this.

There were a number of findings in the study where both Gen Z students and teachers of Gen Z agreed.

I will expand on them in future posts.


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