The Most Preferred Methods In Higher Education


Holding young students’ attention during the lessons in higher education, to motivate them for collaboration is a serious challenge. Researchers aim to find a solution - based on students’ opinion - which is the most suitable to hold young generations’ (Z) attention during lessons and test it, how it works in practice. The research method was a quantitative method by web-based questionnaires based on snow-ball method. Students and university teachers, professors were involved. The questionnaires were evaluated by simple and complex statistical methods with SPSS program. The study shows the students’ opinion. The results have verified that the educational methods do not influence the students’ openness, their willingness to collaborate, their attitudes to teamwork. Generally, when teachers try to use different educational methods to activate students, these will not influence the students’ attitude (individualism/collectivism). Students prefer teamwork most of all and they suggest using it in higher education. New educational methods have to be launched in higher education which teach, keep employed, agitate, and stimulate students’ creativity at the same time. Smart tools, team-work make students interested in solutions of tasks. The challenges are serious for teachers, especially in an individualistic society, where the problems of Z generations’ behaviour must be solved as well..

Keywords: Educational methodsteam-workcollaborationcohesionperformance-indexGen Z


There are several debates what is the right method of education that can attract and maintain the attention of university students at lectures and seminary classes. What are those competencies students should acquire to ensure their workplace integration and prepare them to behave and work according to company expectations (Egan, 2008; Price, 2011; Jarmai 2016; Dolobac et al, 2016; IEAB, 2017)? It is particularly difficult for HR specialists and older generations at workplaces to follow the expectations of Generation Z, fulfil their needs, co-operate with them and contribute creatively to corporate success (Kraus and Sears, 2008; Eckleberry-Hunt, Tucciarone 2011; Murphy, 2015; Hawkins, 2015; Nasir, 2016; Bart, 2012; McWilliam, 2017). Most of the representatives of this generation are studying in tertiary education, but a few per cent of them are familiar with the challenges of practical life. In our study we are seeking an answer to the question, what kind of teaching methods are applied in most of the institutions of higher education and which serve the requirements of the students and employers. The question is how to attract the attention of students, motivate co-operation and raise their knowledge to achieve an appropriate level in a given field of expertise. The main objective of this research is therefore to find the most appropriate teaching method to fulfil the needs of the students, which is expected to serve simultaneously the modern knowledge transfer and the acquisition of knowledge and competences required by prospective employers. During our research we were interested in the opinion of university lecturers, students and corporate professionals. This paper focuses on presenting the opinion of students.

Problem Statement

Literature Review

The university education around the world has been struggling for several years to focus the attention of Generation Z on learning, focus their attention on teaching material, raise their interest in learning and attract them to classrooms. The technical development of recent years, the increasing use of smart devices, the open borders and access to information brought a completely different behaviour, focus of attention and different interest of young people today, than it was characteristic for generations born earlier (Prensky, 2001; Bessenyei, 2010; Levit, 2015; Rothman, 2017; By Teachers With Apps, 2017). The workplaces expect graduates with appropriate skills in internet knowledge management, graduates capable for learning and innovation, those who have already acquired the integrated virtual education systems and have an ability to create a network of information exchange, have professional communication skills and quick in searching for and processing information and can handle user programs effectively (Brown, 2006; Reilly, 2012; Hendy, 2014; Cohen, 206; Slaughter, 2017; Teaching Generation Z, 2015). However the experience shows, that instead of applying the experience oriented and problem solving methodology, most of the students attend lectures and their knowledge is based on scientific literature written 5-10 years ago and feel the academic education old-fashioned, rather than an education system preparing them for their professional life (Bessenyei, 2010). These traditional methods of teaching in higher education will not attract the attention of the young generation and prepare them for the expectations of employers.

The representatives of Generation Z, born after 1996 spend considerably longer time in higher education than generations before them. Socialization is much harder for them when they enter the labour market. They find it difficult to get used to the world of work and requirements, as well as the work environment of older colleagues. These young people do not like bonds or formalities at all. Generation Z, also known as Post-Millenials, Digital Natives etc. (Prensky, 2001) have developed a skill of shared attention, innovativity and creative thinking as a result of the stimulus rich environment. It requires an appropriate teaching methodology (Price, 2009; Jarmai – Szekeres, 2013; Jarmai, 2016; Fokozatváltás a felsőoktatásban, 2014; Fokozatváltás a felsőoktatásban, 2016). It also means that innovation in education is vital and requires the introduction of new solutions that can adapt to the users and their changing characteristics, as well as to knowledge and its change in education. Numerous publications deal with the challenges teachers face in higher education when teaching the students of Generation Z. As a reaction to new challenges the following methods are mentioned:

  • Prefer to work in teams/small groups. Creativity and co-operation are natural to them and it does not matter if is a spontaneous or structured activity.

  • Flexibility to learn that way which fits the best. They need options to choose from, so learning can be personalized. This makes them more reflective and independent learners than other generations (Rothman, 2017).

  • Online Learning

  • Vocational Training (Levit, 2015)

  • Incorporate Technology

  • Shake up the Classroom Layout

  • Teach Valuable Skills (By Teachers With Apps, 2017)

  • As the challenges have emerged recently, a serious reference to tested methods is not yet available. Some experimental methods we can read about, but a truly successful methodology has not been discovered yet.


An explosive development has taken place in the field of Methodology and Educational technology over the past two decades, especially in the last 5 years. The Hungarian higher education system has to keep pace with it. Online courses are becoming widespread, which enable to acquire knowledge blocks, special knowledge and skills. Virtual collaboration platforms are created, where online practice and research can be conducted by sharing the virtual space and the real-life infrastructure (Fokozatvaltas a felsooktatasban, 2014; 2016).

A major challenge for educators and students beside the mass culture is the free downloadable scientific content guaranteed by authors and publishers. If we want it or not, the students will measure the level, quality and effectiveness of university knowledge transfer compared to texts, presentations, lectures, simulations and multimedia materials downloadable from online platforms. The competition is intense in this field, where the teachers have to keep up with motivation power of the Internet and information management skill of their students (Bessenyei, 2010). This is in contrast with the current practice, where the educational model and structure applied at national level is based on lecture-type classes, oriented at large groups. The present situation of higher education does not favour the work in small groups, or individual, personalized solution of tasks, only in form of seminar lessons.

The knowledge transfer from educators to students in higher education is ensured through pedagogical process. This is influenced by what roles the educators have in these processes.

Numerous researches deal with the categorization of tutor roles. We will focus on the categorization of Óhidi (2005) and Green (2005), who systematized the role of teachers based on co-operative learning forms.

  • In the role of organiser the tasks are: determining tasks, developing individual responsibility, presentation of expectations and developing co-operative skills.

  • In decision-making role the teacher’s tasks are: setting objectives, forming groups, developing the learning environment, determining the possible educational tools, determining tasks.

  • In the role of observer and intervener, the tutor monitors the behaviour of the student and intervenes if necessary.

  • In the role of evaluator the teacher develops the self-assessment of the student by analytical evaluation.

Based on our experience in (mass) education, encouraging students to be active is partially depends on the teacher, it also depends on the attitude of the student towards the teaching process and learning.

In our research we evaluate different teaching methods, which also refer to student roles, as they can be considered as a part of the educational process or consumers of courses and other services in education. Motivation is important factor of knowledge acquisition, influences the openness to professional knowledge, acquisition of knowledge, completion of studies and achieving success as an employee (Tóth-Bordasne & Bencsik).

Changes are urgent, which are challenging both for the government agencies and university decision-makers. It is also challenging to change the behaviour, thinking and teaching methods of the tutors with particular attention to lack of motivation and finances. Many questions can be raised, which cannot be answered or there is no complete answer within the scope of this study.

Research Questions

The questions to be answered are: What kind of impact the new environment has on higher education that technically enables to record and publish the individual experience and provide intensive information exchange? Is it possible to provide an education, where the content and the methods are tailored to the prior informal knowledge of the student and ensure individual learning paths? Should we take up the gauntlet and make the content more admissible trough multimedia tools?

Should we reconsider the concept of information, knowledge, ability, competency, theory and practice and the algorithms of traditional education based on hierarchical and fixed organizations of themes? Is such a change viable in mass education? What organizational and regulatory frameworks should be renewed to function differently? Who will train the teachers to acquire new roles e.g. information search, classification, comparison, evaluation, reasoning, the art of asking questions, knowledge exchange in network and support of knowledge management? What should we do with the older generation of teachers to keep pace with the online environment used by students, to be able to assess informal knowledge seeking and information searching network-building culture of the net generation? Are retraining, motivation and salary guaranteed? Can a peer motivating, horizontal knowledge network structure, which can cooperate with partner institutions fit into a hierarchical organization forms? Is it possible to create a learning framework that integrates the benefits of the book-based literary tradition with direct experience exchange, narrative knowledge management (using stories to share knowledge) combining virtual communities and the endless spatial and temporal opportunities of virtual contacts with the motivation power of personal contacts? Are there technical and personal tools available to develop such a learning environment?

The questions can be listed, but a clear answer cannot be given as we live in an uncertain age of transition between traditional values and the information society (Fokozatváltás a felsőoktatásban, 2016).

Purpose of the Study

In our research, we have tried to look after a few questions (simplified approach, within the limits of measurability). Which are the most preferred teaching methods today, how much the students favour them and what are their expectations. It would be an illusion to think that the decade-old methodology could be changed at a glance. However, the initial steps and decisions towards the change should be taken. While evaluating the responses of participants we consider the organizational and technical barriers, the economic and legal background and the immature but definite expectations of Generation Z in education and reality as well.

Research Methods

Sampling and methodology

Our quantitative research was based on a questionnaire survey. The paper-based questionnaire survey was conducted from June 2015 to November 2016 applying a random sampling method. We applied deductive reasoning in our research to find relevant correlations and make conclusion based on the evaluation of the questionnaire. The questionnaires for teachers and students are aligned and the questions are grouped into larger thematic issues (Table 01 ).

Table 1 -
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As full disclosure of the research is limited in content, we will focus on the evaluation of student questionnaire. (Evaluation of full research includes the evaluation and comparison of responses given by teachers, business professionals.)

The questionnaire is dominated by closed questions, mostly using 7 point Likert Scale. Those questionnaires, where only the first few questions were completed on the first page and other pages were ignored could not be evaluated in our research. 420 fully completed questionnaires were submitted.

The questionnaires were completed by students from 15 institutions. We should admit that the number of questionnaires collected cannot be considered representative, but the amount of collected data is enough to confirm or reject our hypotheses.

We used descriptive statistics to analyse the data obtained, since they are essential to understand the data (e.g. frequency, amount, arithmetic mean, standard deviation etc.) and serve as the basis for further analysis. Multivariate analysis methods were used to confirm our hypotheses (contingency table and correlation analysis).

Introduction of the research sample

The majority of students (85%) attend full time and the rest (15%) attend correspondence courses. Table 02 demonstrates the specification sample of the students.

Table 2 -
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The most Commonly Used Teaching Method

Students ranked the most popular methods on a 6-point Likert Scale (1= least, 6= most preferred method). The consensus is small (Kendall W=0,032), but statistically proved among the respondents (p<0,01). Teaching methods preferred by teachers are demonstrated in table 03 below:

Table 3 -
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The most commonly used teaching method is the oral communication form (lecture, narration, description, explaining), project tasks, introduction and presentation as those teaching techniques emphasizing the dominance of the teacher. Teamwork, creative problem solution, discovery learning and conversation techniques, which require the activity of the students are used less.

Similarly small (Kendall W=0,015), but statistically (p<0,01) there is proved evidence of consensus among the respondents, so ranking of the most popular teaching methods among students are presented in table 04 .

Table 4 -
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There is a significant difference in the ranking of the most commonly used teaching methods and the methods mostly favoured by students. Students involved in the survey seem to prefer teamwork, creative problem solution, presentation (visualisation) and conversation. At the same time they prefer less the following teaching methods: oral communication, project tasks and discovery learning.

The Roles of Teachers in Higher Education

To show further correlations, we examined the role of teachers in higher education (Table 05 ). Students were required to evaluate the role of a teacher as an organizer, decision-maker, observer, intervener and evaluator to understand how teachers fulfil these roles. The answers were marked on a 7 point scale.

Table 5 -
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Originally Óhidy (2005) determined the role of a teacher based on cooperative learning, but we extended this explanation with methods regarding the teacher communication and further methods were compared to the roles of teachers in order to find out, in which teaching methods can students perceive the roles (Table 06 ). We studied the statistical relationship between the mainly applied teaching methods of educators and the roles of educators related to cooperative learning methods. We applied a contingency table analysis, where the Pearson Chi-square indicates the significance level. The table shows the values where statistical relationship was found.

We have seen in Table 05 that students perceived the following roles of teachers the most: decision-maker (average 4,22) and the role of organizer (average 4,55). The decision-making role is in significant relation with the communication method of the educator (p<0,01), which is the mostly applied method by them. Correlation is also evident in case of teamwork, as a form of cooperative learning (p=0,015), but this teaching method is only the fourth in the rank.

Table 6 -
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The method of visualisation and presentation showed a correlation with the educator’s role as an organizer (p=0,030). Perhaps the presentation and functioning of these special machines, processes, technologies etc. requires the role of organization from students as well. The „observer and intervener” and „evaluator” roles of educators showed correlation with communication based learning (p=0,001) and discovery learning (p=0,008), but the mentioned teaching methods are the least commonly used by educators .

Sources of Knowledge

We also analysed how much traditional printed sources of knowledge are related to training and learning. According to 40% of the students most of the curriculum content can be found in printed form (books, course books), 52% of the students say, that it is only partially included in course books. According to 3% of the students the curriculum cannot be found in the course books, 3% do not know about the existence of printed sources and 3% said that there are no books at all they can use on courses. More than half of the students (58,5%) buy the course books, whether they use it or not. 35% of students borrow their books from library, 20% of the respondents use internet sources and 19% copy the books/course books or copy the notes of their peers. Taking notes was marked by 15% and only 11% ask for different form of help. It would be good to use a larger sample to examine how the opinion of students in different fields of study differs. Presumably, different is the opinion and attitude of a student studying engineering, economics or law.

The learning habits of students prove that our courses are theory-oriented . Students use written sources to gain knowledge and hardly can be found someone who would turn to others (teacher, peers, acquaintance, practitioner, etc.) for acquiring or improving knowledge. This result can also be an intention, as it seems to be obvious that keeping in touch virtually is an essential part of young people’s life, but they are forced to behave different way when we speak about learning.

If the educator is familiar with the skills and willingness of students to co-operate and interdependence can be built beside the individual responsibility, the educator can be assigned to students and can plan a method to be applied. However, the previous research results have confirmed that teaching methods used in higher education do not affect the students’ attitude towards teamwork. The behaviour based on common-knowledge and an ability to co-operate with others develops much earlier, in accordance with the characteristics of national and family culture. In societies of the Central Eastern European region the dominant presence of individualism is an obstacle to teamwork. The popularity of teamwork is in correlation with the willingness to co-operate (two-sided significance 0,01 level p<0,01, Pearson’s correlation 0,314).

Bearing in mind that students prefer teamwork and creative problem solution, we will look at whether the teaching methods applied affect the attitude of students towards teamwork. The question is whether the attitude of students (introvert, individualist) can be changed by the appropriate choice of a teaching method, or this attitude has developed earlier and the ability to co-operate is not influenced by any teaching method.

The question expressed in form of a hypothesis:

The teaching methods applied in tertiary education do not affect the attitude of students towards teamwork.

Examination of the Hypothesis


To examine the hypothesis we formed indexes, a data reduction process where several baseline indicators of different measurement levels were added to a single variable by adding the scores of each statement (indicator). To examine the teamwork-related attitude, complex indexes were formed based on data series related to teamwork. The related items were examined, selected and organized into indexes from the following: cooperation index, performance index and cohesion index. The values received are much more informative than average values and simplify the further analysis.

The hypotheses had to comply with to basic requirements to create the indexes:

•Scales with the same grades had to be included

•The direction of response is the same, the scale has to be positive

If any of the hypotheses did not meet the requirement, the direction of responses was rotated. The value of index is calculated as the following:

I i = P i - P min P max - P min 100 %


P i = total score of „i” questioned;

P min = theoretically possible minimum total score;

P max = theoretically possible maximum total score.

The 100% above corresponds to „ideal” situation (e.g. the highest co-operative predictability), where each item tested received the highest rating, while 0% refers to the most unfavourable situation. There is a possibility that values of 0% and 100% do not figure in the results we received.

The indexes summarize the answers received as a response on the hypotheses in a single indicator:

The individualism/collectivism index shows how people generally relate to teamwork, how much they like to work in teams, whether the team as a whole is more important than the members of the team and the relation between them.

The performance index shows that according to the respondent the team has performance-oriented features, the student relates to teamwork through the importance of objectives and knowledge.

The cohesion index shows that the respondent places emphasis on teacher-student co-operation in teamwork.

Relationships among Popular Teaching Methods and Teamwork

The next step examines how popular teaching methods used by educators correlate with the attitude towards teamwork.

The relationship between teaching methods in higher education and teamwork was analysed with the help of the Pearson correlation coefficient. The table 07 below summarizes the statistical relationship of indexes related to teaching techniques and teamwork. In most cases there is no significant correlation between the variables (p>0,05), so most of the teaching methods used in higher education do not affect the attitude of students towards teamwork. No matter the instructor is trying to apply methods requiring active participation of the student, it will not affect the student attitude towards co-operation . Not too strong cohesion can be detected between the methods of presentation/visualisation and the performance of the team. Cohesion can be detected between the methods of communication, presentation and lecture, although the statistical correlation is rather weak.

Table 7 -
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It can be reaffirmed that emotions and attitude towards teamwork can be detected much earlier. We considered the fact that demand of students for social relationships and activity is reflected in how much they like the different methods of teaching. Therefore, we compared the teaching methods favoured by students with the attitude towards teamwork, see the table 08 .

Table 8 -
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According to students, project work and teamwork are in correlation with willingness to co-operate. Teamwork as a teaching technique shows a significant statistical relationship with the cohesion index.

Based on our results, the hypothesis according to which the teaching methods applied in higher education do not affect the attitude of students toward teamwork is confirmed.


Our findings support the results of earlier research, according to which it is a challenge of higher education to be professionally prepared for the youngest generation. While this generation shows completely different attitude compared to generations before them, they still have immature expectations, requirements and behaviour.

The technical development is an existing problem for teachers, even a few years older generation finds it difficult to keep up with the development of technical skills (usage of smart devices) of those in their twenties. The research conducted by Sue Kraus and Sharon Sears (2008) shows similar results about the teaching techniques popular among students. Students valued those teaching techniques that were interesting and involved them personally through projects, papers and lab work. The least liked by students were techniques that tend to isolate learners: quizzes, tests, texts, lectures, paper writing, and presentation of students.

While young people spend most of their time online, they are still uncertain in skills of finding relevant sources of information. We might think that smart devices can be an integral part of the teaching process and looking for information, discovering knowledge can attract students. However, the results obtained are similar to my own experience, since in previous term I made an attempt to use a methodology based on the use of smart devices. Students had to use their smart devices to find and process definitions, models and the most important theoretical information of a chosen topic. Because of the inexperience in information search, the method did not turn out to be successful among the students. Only a small team of students, who were interested in the task managed to succeed.

Challenges and Solutions

Students and teachers face some of the problems presented in the table 09 below based on the results of our previous research. In most of the cases the challenges are controversial, but the solution is based on the group-oriented behaviour of students and the synergy of different kinds of thinking. The biggest challenge is decreasing the gap between teachers and students regarding their skills in using smart devices.

Table 9 -
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The figure clearly shows that there are similar and different areas where challenges are faced, but clearly demonstrates that collaborative work and creative thinking might be a stimulating and attention grabbing solution for the young. It is worth thinking about further solutions regarding the development of methodology used in higher education, which focuses on creativity, knowledge sharing and pragmatic problem-solution. The most urgent task is to narrow the gap in technical skills between students and educators and to establish a relationship of trust, in which students will accept the experience and knowledge of teachers, which can help their workplace integration. It is worth keeping in mind the results of the Deloitte survey (2017), which summarizes the workplace expectations of Generation Z. The reality of these expectations should be studied in education and informal relationships in order to bring reality closer to dreams.

Top 10 things Post-Millennials (Gen Z) expect from work:

  • Good work/life balance

  • Opportunity to progress/be leaders

  • Flexible hours and work location

  • Sense of meaning from work

  • Professional development

  • Have an impact on society

  • Quality of products/services

  • Strong sense of purpose

  • Opportunities for travel

  • Fast growing/dynamic

The authors can sum up that flexibility and adaptability are required to work successfully with Generation Y. Although the faculty may feel it is unfortunate that post-millennials think and behave the way they do, it is what it is and education needs to find a way to work within that framework. Having a better understanding of Generation Y’s life experience will assist educators who confront the obvious challenges and frustrations illustrated in the research results (Eckleberry-Hunt, & Tucciarone, 2011).


The research was supported by the EFOP-3.4.3-16-2016-00016 titled ‘Higher education institutional development, a common improvement of the quality and accessibility of the programmes at Szechenyi University’ EU project.


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Education, educational psychology, counselling psychology

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Bencsik, H. A. (2017). The Most Preferred Methods In Higher Education. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), ICEEPSY 2017: Education and Educational Psychology, vol 31. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 305-319). Future Academy.