For Gen Z teens, personalization is key in everything they do – from custom playlists and dynamic content to store suggestions based on prior purchases. And it’s not just a trend, it’s fundamental to reaching this generation. Marketers understand and have pivoted to align with Gen Z’s values by incorporating values like authenticity, integrity, transparency and personalization. Above all, young people want to be treated as individuals.

But most high schools are still teaching in the old-school models of the boomer generation. Large classrooms, a teacher lecturing and a one-size-fits-all curriculum isn’t working – the dropout rate is as high as 22 percent in some states as students continue to struggle.

Learn4Life, a network of 80+ public high schools that focuses on personalized learning, understands that teens learn best by doing, having access to on-demand content and collaboration.

“Our team of teachers, tutors and counselors identify the unique needs of each student, their interests and abilities, and create a customized learning path for them,” said Shellie Hanes, superintendent of Learn4Life. “And our students respond positively to a personalized and flexible experience.”

In a 2022 study of Gen Z youth (those born after 1996), researchers found that 73 percent expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 56 percent expect offers to always be personalized.[1]

Hanes says that educators need to take some strategies out of the marketers’ playbook and change the school experience to meet the needs of their Gen Z teens. For example:

  • Personalize their learning experience based on their strengths and style of learning.
  • Give them a flexible schedule so they can decide when they learn best, or so they don’t have to miss classes to work or care for young children.
  • Competency-based progression should be incorporated into all schools. This allows students to quickly move ahead with subjects they have mastered and spend a bit more time on subjects with which they struggle.
  • Build their confidence as they successfully master coursework.
  • Competencies should go beyond core subjects to include electives that hold students’ interest, job skills and mindsets like developing resilience.
  • Focus on students’ strengths, interests and goals, rather than their deficits.
  • Instead of an emphasis on test-taking, concentrate on continuous learning and opportunities to demonstrate knowledge.

When students have a say in how they learn, they are more engaged in their coursework and motivated to graduate from high school. Every student deserves an education that meets them where they are.

August is Personalized Learning Month to highlight the importance of the student voice and how tailored education empowers and drives success inside and outside of the classroom.


Written By:
Ann Abajian
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