This sentence along with the following sentence, “Students must be forced to work in teams and think about possible scenarios with the associated challenges and solutions,” somewhat describes what today’s college students have grown up watching on reality TV shows like The Apprentice. In shows where there is a new challenge every week (often with possible elimination/immunity), this concept is not unfamiliar to the current traditional-aged college student and can serve as a great learning tool when adapted to the classroom.

Let’s face it. Most of these students will never find themselves on such a reality TV show, but they will find themselves with similar scenarios in the real world. They’ve seen just how creative contestants on the shows can be, how they work together (both good and bad), and what the consequences are when they turn in shoddy work vs. stellar work.

Despite seeing on TV examples where work and results are judged and rewarded appropriately, most millennials have been “protected” from constructive criticism and healthy competition by being raised with participation trophies. The burden to expect more from them and to properly teach them and prepare them for the real world falls increasingly more on the shoulders of colleges and universities. And colleges and universities need to keep up with the technology needed to keep students engaged and interested.

Perhaps one way is to create challenges and projects that resemble what students have grown up watching on TV and set similar (not less than) expectations of them as the judge on a reality show would set.

The reward for high-quality work: a good grade and a resume-builder that would help them land an internship or job of their choosing. The reward for low-quality work: the lesson on how to properly handle constructive criticism and how to reach deeper into their potential and give more in a future scenario (instead of a participation trophy that sends the message “average is good enough”).

These thoughts come from my own background in working and teaching in various colleges and universities (I’m a former college career adviser and college instructor). They also come from some recent discussions with colleagues who are running into difficult situations with their millennial employees who haven’t learned how to deal with constructive criticism in a mature and healthy manner or how to take that constructive criticism to improve their quality of work.

I agree. Higher education needs to change its approach to teaching, and not by watering things down, but instead by interactively engaging AND challenging the student. When I began working in higher education, the goal was to balance challenge and support for the student. One reason I left higher education was because it was becoming too focused on support and not focused enough on challenge.

There needs to be a return to balance among the two, but with fresh, innovative approaches that are even more innovative than my measly suggestions above. And there has to be student buy-in and student ownership for it to work. Perhaps instead of being called professors/teachers/instructors and students, they should all be called co-collaborators.

Thank you Erik for sharing your article!

    Lori Bumgarner, Passion & Career Coach

    Written by

    Helping you who feel stuck in your career get unstuck & put your purpose & passion into action. | paNASH | SUP enthusiast | basketball fan