Thursday, July 12, 2018

LWI Plenary Session: Understanding Generation Z Students

Corey SeemillerThe opening plenary session speaker of the 18th Biennial Legal Writing Institute Conference is Dr. Corey Seemiller of Wright State University, an expert on the learning styles and needs of Generation Z. The generation includes persons born between 1995-2002 (Big Z's), followed by persons born 2003-2010 (Little z's). 

Dr. Corey Seemiller received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Arizona State University, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University, and Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Arizona. She has worked as a leadership educator in higher education, K-12, non-profits, military, and in the community for more than 20 years.

20180712_091601Before becoming an Assistant Professor in Organizational Leadership at Wright State University, Dr. Seemiller served as the Director of Leadership, Learning, and Assessment at OrgSync, Inc., a campus management technology platform for more than 450 colleges internationally. She oversaw all thought leadership initiatives and leadership research. She also served as the Director of Leadership Programs at the University of Arizona from 2006-2014 overseeing more than 3,000 participants in 10 leadership programs.

Legal writing professors must know about their students and their learning styles. Dr. Seemiller's research on college students in General Z disclosed that many things that are common knowledge for legal writing professors will be unknown to our students, such as an atlas (yes, the book of maps). She noted that 50 percent of teens believe that they are addicted to their smartphones, with instant and continuous access to information and distractions. The face an uncertain job market directly affected by the great recession, something that affected nearly three-quarters of Americans. And they live in an economy where more than 57 million people in the United States create career opportunities by freelancing: they make and sell things online, they start businesses on their own, and they are intensely creative. Her research also disclosed that Generation Z is severely affected by gun violence, including violence in schools. Generation Z students care about the environment and human rights.

Generation Z is also connected to social causes, including religious freedom and LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, reproductive rights, kneeling during the national anthem, DACA, the transgender military ban, the Trump Travel Ban, and separating children from their parents who come to the United States to seek asylum. They are the most ethnically-diverse generation to date, and more comfortable with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.. They distrust news media and only 25 percent of them trust information they receive from news organizations. Parents are the primary role models for 69 percent of Generation Z students (compared to 54% of Millennials and 29% of Gen Zers). And parents today are not helicopter pilots, but rather co-pilots who play a strong role in decisions that their children make.

Dr. Seemiller also discussed learning environments, information overload in a "fast-paced and flattened world," and that students are going for a quick answer rather than a correct answer. Research for Generation Z students is less about acquiring new knowledge and more about getting a quick answer to a particular question. They may rely on social media posts as fact, and frequently go to YouTube to learn how to do things. Dr. Seemiller reminded the conference attendees that legal writing professors do not only have a duty to teach, but now must help students unlearn misinformation that they may bring into the classroom. 

Dr. Seemiller's opening presentation helped the LWI conference attendees better understand the various influences facing their Generation Z students.


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