Book by Julie Coates
Review by Dr. Craig T. Layman
Graduate and Professional Studies
Tusculum College

“…generational/age diversity is here to stay and developing communication, management, and teaching tools to address this demographic reality are something that must happen now.” (p. 7)  
The importance of this quote from Coates’s 2007 work, Generational Learning Styles, lies in the author’s understanding of societal value shifts and, also, to emphasize the direction of the work.  This direction is addressed through an in-depth discussion of generational values, behaviors associated with these values, and the subsequent societal windfall.  Identifying the generational subgroups, Coates explains, is only part of the learning style process and a small part. Therefore, understanding the generational shift and how it relates to value based behaviors defines the thesis of the text.

While association with larger social/psychological treatises is evident, Coates does well to deliver her discussion with more pragmatic views.  She introduces and summarizes foundational works in learning styles, such as Felder–Silverman Learning Model, Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, and Kolb’s Learning Styles Model, in a very understandable vernacular, choosing to eliminate complex language and jargon.  She then transitions concepts of these learning styles to the generational shift, explaining ways to effectively use these concepts based on generational behaviors.  

Although this book does not specifically address academic advisors, those who subscribe to Kramer’s (2003) “advising as teaching” philosophy will be happily encouraged with this read.   Coates adapts her comparison of learning styles to the generational shift through the use of discrete chapters for each identified generation.  This allows her to expand on practical ways to introduce learning styles into the multigenerational classroom.  Importantly, advisors who wish to understand the multigenerational campus need to look no further than Generational Learning Styles, as it provides ideas to match teaching styles with learning styles for the campus of the 21st Century. 

While the author cautions the practice of categorizing each person to one specific generation and even notates the lack of punctuation for such a categorization, she emphasizes the importance of understanding value based behaviors.  Advisors can take note by understanding generational values that define irreconcilable and preferred learning environments.  Specifically, advisors must understand their advisees.  As Crookston (1972) advanced in his now seminal work, A Developmental View of Academic Advising as Teaching, building a mutually beneficial relationship, one in which ownership of the advising process is shared between advisor and advisee, is fundamental to learning development; an ongoing process, now, further defined by Coates (2007) in her must read book Generational Learning Styles. 

Generational Learning Styles provides advisors with an invaluable resource for student development.  Advisors, regardless of experience level, will find the language of Generational Learning Styles refreshing and easy to understand.  From the smooth flowing vernacular of the body of the text, to the pragmatic summary of generational characteristics, Generational Learning Styles is a must read for advising professionals.


Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel,13, 12-17.

Kramer, G. L. (2003). Advising as teaching. In G. Kramer (Ed.), Faculty advising examined (pp. 1-22). Bolton, MA: Anker.

Generational Learning Styles. (2007). Book by Julie Coates. Review by Dr. Craig T. Layman. River Falls, WI: Learning Resource Network. pp.147. $20.00. ISBN # 978-1-57722-032-9
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