School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Justin Necessary


Learning styles, communication styles, generational study, post-secondary education




The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the unique learning styles of American college students from five of the six living generations (for the purpose of this study, it was assumed that members of the GI Generation, born 1901-1926, are not attending college nor are they an active part of the full-time workforce). The theories guiding this study are behaviorism and generational learning theory as it applies to adult learners. The theorists considered are B. F. Skinner and Karl Mannheim. As this study was designed to understand patterns of learning, communication styles, and pedagogical data as it pertains to the postsecondary multi-generational classroom, the following research questions provide the structure for this study: What are the experiences of students who are learning and communicating in a heterogeneous post-secondary classroom? How do students learn to communicate with teachers from a different generation? What are students’ experiences concerning educator’s ability to address the specific learning needs of each unique generation? The data for this analysis consists of interviews, documents, and focus groups and was analyzed by horizonalization, reduction and elimination, clustering and thematizing, and validation. The identified goal was to understand learning and communication variations between the generations and establish patterns in order to identify best practices for teachers and learners from different generations. The experiences uncovered themes and new patterns which deviated from the review of the literature. Ageism and feelings, communication, and learning and teaching were recurring topics of the participants, but within these themes, there was a cohesive view of post-secondary education from all generations.

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