A recent study at Keystone College analyzed the study habits and skills of Generation Z science students on campus.
Last Thursday (Oct. 23), Dr. Vicki Stanavitch and Erin Johnson from the college’s Biological/Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department presented the results of their fall 2018 study during a Faculty Colloquia in Evans Hall.
Stanavitch, who serves as department chair, teamed up with Johnson, an adjunct instructor in biology and public health who was a graduate student at the time of the study.
According to Johnson, instructors on campus have noticed a disconnect between subjects and how students receive them, prompting this research into the Generation Z population.
“We wanted to understand more about this population so we could help them prepare better,” Johnson said.
Much of the current Keystone population falls into Generation Z, which includes individuals born between 1995 and 2010.
“Digital natives” raised on technology make up this generation, Johnson explained. Gen Z makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population, but this will increase to 33 percent by 2020, and this age group was also educated under No Child Left Behind.
Before explaining their research, Stanavitch noted that scientific studies have debunked the theory that students perform better based on their respective “learning styles” such as auditory or visual learning. Though they may have a preferred method of absorbing, processing and retaining information, she said teachers catering to this idea holds no benefit to students.
Through their research, the professors hoped to “identify the study habits and skills, learning styles and perceived educational needs of science students.”
They presented an online questionnaire to 216 students in the science department. This group consisted of 152 females and 64 males in the freshman through senior classes.
Of this, 114 students were first-generation, which was a big focus of the study.
“We got a fairly robust sample size for what we wanted to explore,” Stanavitch said.
Students answered 100 questions based on learning styles, belief in their own ability and study tactics.
Stanavitch and Johnson compared the answers between first-generation and non first-generation students, as well as between educational levels based on the number of credits completed.
No statistical difference was found between first generation and non first-generation students on any factor examined, which Stanavitch said was surprising.
This finding also brings up the question of whether colleges and universities, which often focus on helping first-generation students, should shift their focus to a different area, she added.
Additionally, no difference was found in regard to educational levels.
“They approach things the same way, which kind of surprised us,” she said, noting that there may be another factor to study here in the future.
In regard to study tactics, Stanavitch and Johnson found positive habits being practiced at Keystone, as well as areas in need of improvement.
Of the group, 93 percent study for short intervals, taking breaks and returning to the material; 76 percent use flashcards; 85 percent make up exam practice questions; 78 percent make study goals; and 78 percent relate the material to areas previously learned.
As far as areas in need of improvement, 55 percent of students surveyed plan daily study time; 55 percent review in advance for exams; 27 percent divide material into manageable sections; and 45 percent summarize material in their own words.
The survey also asked about study aids, including the library, tutoring center and writing center at Keystone.
While almost all students knew the locations of these areas, not all knew how to make an appointment or utilize services such as the interlibrary loaning system.
The study also had no significant results about self belief in Gen Z students.
Stanavitch said it’s apparent that study skills don’t seem to change as students advance through higher education, so colleges and/or high schools may need to take more action.
“We either have to figure out a new way to bring information to students, or it has to happen before we get them,” she said.
Stanavitch and Johnson took questions from the audience of the Faculty Colloquia and noted that they still have more data from the study to analyze.