E-teaching personality is good for e-learning

Filed Under (e-learning) by Mark A.-W. on 05-01-2010 and tagged , , , ,

Humor. Style. Attitude. Personality. Expressiveness. Cleverness. Charisma.

Are these characteristics in “e-teaching” friend or foe to e-learning?

A theme in both educational theory and communication theory calls for educators and communicators to know their learners/audiences and target their learning styles.

This post is a reminder that teaching style is just as important as learning styles. And e-teaching style is just as important as e-learning styles.chalkboard

The e-learning world can learn a lesson from popular media—when given a choice of similar topic material, people will establish preference and loyalty to certain voices and personalities in large part because of their personal style, charisma, cleverness, creativity, … personality.

Interestingly, the personal style of the educator is often devalued as the culture of learner focus has grown. As teachers are expected change shape to fit the learners’ needs, the nexus of education tends to shift away from the teacher’s personal experience and personality to the learners’ needs and experiences.

Though a recent study has challenged the strongly advocated learner-style focus in education, attention to learning styles is not likely—nor should it—go away anytime soon.

However, the personal style of the educator is an asset that should be encouraged and leveraged—in the classroom and in e-learning.

This does not need to be an either/or world. Just because an educator asserts his or her style does not mean that the learners’ styles are disrespected. And just because the educator’s materials carry the educator’s personal style does not mean that the objectivity of the content itself is compromised.

The theory of social learning that we often discuss in this blog supports not just the preferences of the learners but also the instructors as they interact in a learning environment.

It is interesting to see how teacher personality has been viewed over the decades:

More and more teachers and administrators are realizing the importance of the teacher’s personality in the learning-teaching situation.”

That was how the editor of the Journal of Educational Research introduced “A Study in Teacher Personality” by M.A. Tschechtelin in 1951.

By 1977, the importance of teacher personality had been extended to instructional materials themselves:

“Personality aids teaching, for communication takes place between the teacher and the learner—even in the absence of the spoken word (nonverbal communication)” (W.J.F. Lew, “Teaching and the Teacher’s Personality,” Education Journal).

Today, some sources of e-learning materials (for example, this from Penn State) embrace the importance of teacher personality in online course material design.

Yet, overall, educator personality seems to be even less supported in e-learning contexts than in face-to-face classrooms. The personal style of the educator is often minimized or avoided when educational materials are developed for e-delivery.

There are many reasons for this. For example, it is often thought that it is too difficult or dangerous to try to employ humor in instructional media.

But blogger Geetha Krishnan defends the engagement value of humor in e-learning.

And Cathy Moore offers some interesting tips on using humor in e-learning.

But because humor is a contextual art, not a definitive science, clear do’s and don’ts can’t be universally defined. That’s where instructor judgment and … personality come into play.

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12 Comments Already, Leave Yours Too

Ellen Wanerg on 5 January, 2010 at 11:55 am #

Hi everyone,

No need to post this note – I was just writing to wish you a happy new year. AND I want to thank you for including eLearning Roadtrip on your blogroll.

I really enjoy what you are doing with Electronic Papyrus. I get a lot of good info from you, thanks for your well-written and well-considered posts.

hope you have a great 2010, ellen

Susan Cloud on 29 January, 2010 at 10:03 am #

I think this is also an important consideration in asynchronous eLearning, where there is no live facilitator. There, the script and design decisions are that much more important in creating a personality, because you won’t get the chance to make adjustments for a particular audience during delivery.

Mark Anderson-Wilk on 29 January, 2010 at 11:42 am #

Good point, Susan. The human connection continues to be a major driver in the learner’s experience with the material. It gives new meaning to the idea of putting ourselves in our work.

Karen Watte on 9 February, 2010 at 11:03 am #

Tom Kuhlmann who writes the Rapid E-Learning blog is also a great example of someone injecting personality into their work — including advocating the wise use of humor in e-learning. (http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/)

Adam @ College on 30 April, 2010 at 9:14 am #

“the personal style of the educator is an asset that should be encouraged and leveraged—in the classroom and in e-learning.” I agree, a charismatic teach that is comfortable in front of a crowd will always have more influence on their students.

Laura Brisbane on 31 May, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

The most important thing in e-learning is clarity and answering questions without sarcasm. In the world of textual inference, a student can feel very brought down by comments or remarks that aren’t intended in the way the are taken so much more easily than in the real world of context. I guess this would fall under where you’ve mentioned \personal charm\. Interesting blog, thanks!

Scotty Mack on 19 June, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

Throughout my grade school education, there is no subject I dreaded more than history. It could not have been presented in a drier, more boring manner.

That is, until I went to college and was forced to take yet another history class. The professor was engaging, lively and always upbeat. I actually looked forward to going to the class and learned more that semester than I did in all of my pre-college history experiences combined.

The same sort of approach would naturally be better for e-learning – especially since many people are trying to educate themselves in home environments that can be quite distracting at times.

Give me a reason for wanting to “stay tuned” and I’ll learn more and look forward to doing it!

Laura M on 21 June, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

Hey there! Thanks for the interesting article. I’m at teacher, so I’ll be bookmarking this page and passing it onto my friends too. Keep writing, cheers!

iPhone 3G 3GS case on 12 July, 2010 at 11:24 am #

Good posts on this blog make me read this blog again and again i liked this blog very much This blog has got all the useful stuff that i wanted to know about.

Martin Palmiano on 13 August, 2010 at 9:36 am #

that’s right..sensible topic here..i think this include also patience.we must have patience for us to have focus on what topic we are teaching or listening..thanks a lot..

Cheap Blinds Qld on 17 August, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

Title can clear the meaning of whole article. Its really informative.

Mandy Winkler on 28 August, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

Never a truer title! I couldn’t understand maths until a dour Mr French who put up with no s#@t came on board -for heavensake choose teaching only if you WANT to give 🙂

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