Millennial Students’ Perspectives on the Medical School Learning Environment: A Pilot Study from Two Institutions

Carol L. Elam, Nicole J. Borges, R. Stephen Manuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


As medical educators strive to teach members of the Millennial generation, it is important to understand their characteristics. Population theorists contend that Millennial generation students have a defining set of characteristics influencing their learning. The study’s purpose was to explore medical students’ perceptions of characteristic Millennial attitudes and behaviors. The following three overarching questions were used to guide this qualitative inquiry: 1) What are the Millennial students’ expressed needs in the learning environment?; 2) How do Millennial students perceive issues related to cultural sensitivity, service learning, and work-life balance?; 3) What expectations do Millennial students have that could influence the provision of institutional support services? Fourteen first-year students and nine third-year students from two medical schools in the United States participated in focus groups to explore the areas of: Learning Preferences, Technology, Feedback, Diversity, Community Service, Maintaining Balance, and Institutional Accountability. Results of our study suggest that Millennial medical students prefer hands-on learning experiences in a non-competitive environment, individualized feedback, and use of technology to manage information. Students want exposure to different cultures in the clinical setting. Some, but not all, students value community service experience and exposure. They recognize difficulties in maintaining a healthy balance in their lives. Students desire help with transitions, improved advising and mentoring, and assurance of a medical education on the cutting edge. We believe our work is a good initial step in exploring Millennial behaviors in medical students and devising appropriate responses. Having an awareness of the unique qualities of Millennial students can increase the probability of implementing effective medical school curricular and academic support initiatives that are attuned to their learning preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-157
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


  • learning environment
  • Millennial generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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