Rethinking Higher Education Using Generational Theory

 A faculty member and a young alumna recently collaborated on research to help educators reach a different generation of college students.

Courtesy: Maggie Levicoff ’13. Maggie Levicoff ’13.

Courtesy: Maggie Levicoff ’13. Maggie Levicoff ’13.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa., — (12/3/15)-Maggie Levicoff ’13, a DelVal counseling psychology alumna has been exploring how educators can apply generational theory to better reach students. Levicoff worked with her former mentor DelVal Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen and Dr. Tisha Duncan of Meredith College in North Carolina to examine how today’s college students differ from students of the past and how educators can better respond to their needs. The team published an article on the subject, “Using Generational Theory to Rethink Teaching In Higher Education,” in the Journal of Teaching in Higher Education in November.

“In order to effectively teach today’s college students, educators need to understand what is and is not working for this specific generation of learners,” said Dr. Buskirk-Cohen, the incoming chair of the University’s undergraduate Department of Counseling Psychology.

The article looks at the “emerging adult, ” which refers to a student between the ages of 18 and 25. This paper reviews the literature on emerging adulthood with a focus on how generational theory can be applied in higher education to improve teaching and learning. During the past 15 years, researchers have described personality traits, attitudes, and behaviors of emerging adults. Two very different views have emerged: one that is prosocial, citing qualities like optimism and confidence, while the other is quite negative, using narcissism and anxiety as descriptors. The authors of the article argue that both views may be correct, and suggest that contextual or environmental factors play a role in eliciting certain characteristics. They argue that learner-centered education may offer the best opportunities for today's emerging adults to thrive in higher education.

Levicoff, who is from Sicklerville, New Jersey, works as a clinician at Community Treatment Solutions. At DelVal, she was active in research, co-presenting at national and international conferences. After graduating, she earned her master's in clinical mental health counseling at Rowan University.

When Dr. Buskirk-Cohen and Dr. Duncan were looking for a collaborator, Levicoff was a natural choice.

“One of the reasons I love DelVal is having the opportunity to work with students like Maggie, and to know that the relationships professors and students share last beyond the college years,” said Dr. Buskirk-Cohen.

Levicoff feels that the student faculty relationships formed at DelVal make a difference professionally.

“Because of DelVal’s teacher-student dynamic, I was able to thrive in the learning atmosphere and learn how to properly conduct research and understand professional literature,” said Levicoff. “Now, I’m a published researcher alongside my DelVal professor! It feels amazing and I am so honored. I can’t thank DelVal enough for aiding me in this accomplishment.”