Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

Mitchell Williams

Committee Member

G. Lea Lee


In today's economy, students and professionals must acquire skills and continue to hone them throughout their lifetimes (Boothe, 1998). In particular, students must sharpen communication, information technology, and human relations skills and expect to have more than one career in their lifetimes. Because higher education is the key to those skills, community colleges are increasingly multi-generational learning institutions complete with students comprising three or more generations simultaneously. As such, it may be beneficial to recognize and examine the traits of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials so educators may adapt to varying learning styles and value systems (Robey-Graham, 2008).

For this quantitative study, a review of the professional literature and a documents analysis from each institution was performed, followed by interviews with two administrators at each of the three institutions to determine what these administrators believe are the learning objectives of each of the generational groups, and to seek information regarding the methods provided at each institution to enhance the learning environment for each of the generational groups. The above information was used to develop a survey instrument that was administered to students enrolled within classes at a large, medium, and small community college that was selected to ensure that the participants in the study represent the larger population of community college students in Georgia. Finally, an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was performed to determine the degree of differences and what changes students from each of the three generations would like to see in the learning environment at community colleges in Georgia.

Student survey responses reinforced assumption gleaned from the literature. Millennials are often extrinsically motivated, meaning they value the goals that education may afford, including a job, career, financial opportunities, or societal expectations, but not necessarily for the sake of learning (Bye, Pushkar, and Conway's, 2007). Millennials are drawn to higher education because of the promise of a more satisfying career, secure financial future, and are more invested in the end result, financial reward, than acquiring knowledge (Shaul, 2007). Conversely, non-traditional learners are intrinsically motivated, desiring self-improvement, while considering personal growth to promote psychological well-being, and not requiring an immediate return, wanting to attend college for the sake of learning, seeking knowledge to satisfy an inquiring mind (Wolfgang & Dowling, 1981).