The demographics of the real estate classroom are changing. Historically, people often came to the real estate profession after trying another career for a while and looking for a change in direction. And that’s predominately still the largest group in most classrooms. But now, most regions of the country are also seeing a growing number of young people choosing real estate sales as their first career after graduating from college, or even high school. This is leading to both prelicensing and CE classrooms full of students that span a larger age range than ever before.
Effectively teaching a classroom full of students with a wide range of ages, education, and life experiences can pose a challenge for even the most versatile instructors, but your success in real estate education going forward will likely depend on it.
We talked with real estate educator Bruce Moyer about the challenges of teaching a multi-generational audience, and strategies he uses to effectively identify and cater to the different learning styles of the students.
Learn the Differences in the Generations and Their Learning Preferences
According to Bruce, the first thing you can do to prepare yourself to effectively teach students of all ages is to accept that they don’t all learn the same way. Our learning preferences are grounded in the way we learned as children. They evolve somewhat with time, but we typically slip comfortably into our past learning experience even as adults. So it’s important to consider the differences in how each generation was taught growing up, because it influences how they will feel most comfortable learning as an adult. Look at the tendencies of each generation and begin to develop a strategy for effectively reaching them.
Of course, it would be great if all of your students neatly fit into a learning style based on what year they were born, but that’s just not realistic. Due to life experiences, upbringing, influence of their surroundings, and a myriad of other factors, you will find that some students defy their generation’s tendency to learn most effectively with one style of instruction. Most of the time however, you’ll find these guideposts to be useful predictors of the type of education that is most effective for a particular student or set of students.
Get Students Engaged Before Learning Even Begins
Bruce suggests a simple and useful exercise that you can employ immediately upon beginning class that can give you immeasurable insight and shape the way you instruct. Go around the room and get to know the people sitting in your classroom. Ask them to introduce themselves, and then ask some questions that can help you better understand them: Have you ever owned a home? What did you do prior to starting a real estate career? Why are you passionate about real estate?
Understanding who your students are helps you determine what prior knowledge and experience they already have. It helps you take inventory of the generations and personality types you are preparing to teach. But it also does something much more powerful—it gets your students involved early. Student involvement is incredibly important in adult education, and this activity creates an environment of participation and collaboration that you can build on.
Learn When to Incorporate Active Learning vs. Passive Learning
Once you’ve allowed your students to self-identify, you’re set up well to take advantage of the combined knowledge and experience of the classroom. Simply put, it arms you to let the students take an active role in their own education and the education of their peers. This is the point where a lot of real estate educators get nervous at the prospect of giving up control of the classroom. But according to Bruce, when you allow students to learn from each other, you’re opening them up to new opportunities and perspectives. You don’t need to be the expert on every topic. But you do need to be able to identify and take advantage of the resources available to you, including students whose past experience could be valuable. Bruce said:
“If I have an appraiser in the class, I am delighted. They can help me teach when we talk about comparable sales or other topics they have experience with. It’s not a threat to let students participate in the teaching/learning process. It’s an opportunity.”
When instructors tell Bruce they’re exhausted after teaching all day, he asks them a question: “If you’re working that hard as an instructor, what are your students doing?” If they aren’t actively incorporated into the learning process, chances are you’ve lost them.
Incorporate the One Thing all Generations Have in Common
Everyone, no matter their age, is familiar with games. They’re a great equalizer. Whether the student grew up with the latest video gaming console or playing board games with their family, gaming is a concept we all understand and enjoy.
Bruce suggests taking advantage of this by gamifying your instruction. Define your learning outcomes…these are basically the rules of the game. The goal, the heroic task, is for the students to reach the established learning outcomes. If the content, however you deliver it, gets each student to where you need them to be, you’ve succeeded as an instructor.
The Hot Seat game, described here, can be particularly effective for evaluating and solidifying vocabulary and complex concepts. Games themed after popular game shows, like Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, can also work well because students are familiar with the structure, and everybody comes in with a shared understanding of the rules. A simple Google search for “adult education games” will deliver a plethora of ideas to help develop the right game for your content and classroom.
The ultimate goal as an educator is to have your students leave the classroom in awe of your skillset. Being aware of the different multi-generational student learning styles, and developing active learning exercises to address them, will set you on the path to ultimately reaching that goal.