How the Personalization Principle can boost the effectiveness of your teaching

In this video, we'll look at the 5 key rules that all medical teachers should follow (yet don't) and why this one tiny tweak will keep learners hanging onto your every word.

Franz Wiesbauer, MD MPH
Franz Wiesbauer, MD MPH
22nd Jul 2021 • 4m read
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The Personalization Principle states that people learn more deeply when lessons are presented in a conversational style–yet most medical presenters do the exact opposite. In this video, we'll look at the 5 key rules that all medical teachers should follow (yet don't) and why this one tiny tweak will keep learners hanging onto your every word.

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Video transcript

The personalization principle says that people learn more deeply when the words in a multimedia presentation are spoken in a conversational style, rather than a formal style. There are five simple ways in which you can personalize your teaching videos. Number one. Talk to the individual. You're not speaking to a group in a teaching video, it's usually one person, one individual sitting in front of the computer, phone or tablet.

So instead of saying, I would like to welcome you all, say, I would like to welcome you, or just welcome. The learner doesn't feel like they're part of a group when they watch your video. So any language that contains stuff like all of you, just reminds the learner that they don't have a one on one relationship with you. And while that might be true, you're missing out because therefore learning potential will not be mobilized.

So, rule number one of personalization is talk to the individual. Number two. Avoid third person language, instead use the first and second person. So remember, first person is I or we, second person is you, and third person is he, she, it or they. So, as an example, instead of using third person, like clinician should pay attention to X, Y, or Z, use the second person, you should pay attention to X, Y or Z. Instead of saying when one hears hoofbeats, one should think of horses, not zebras, use the second person and say, when you hear hoofbeats think of horses, not zebras.

Instead of saying, in this situation, it's recommended to prescribe aspirin. Say it in the first person. In this kind of situation, I normally prescribe aspirin. I, you and we are part of the relationship. These words trigger certain social reactions. They're personalizing your language. He, she, it and they are over there. They formalize things and put the focus away from the teacher-learner relationship. So rule number two. Use first and second person language and avoid third person language.

Number three. Add self-revealing comments to the learner here and there to show that you're a real human being. What are these self-revealing comments? Well, when you present that case from the emergency room, and you say something like, I was terrified, I had never seen such a case. You reveal to the learner that you're a real human being with emotions. You turn from a faceless voice in a video into someone they can relate to.

What are some other examples of self-revealing comments? Well, things like, when I started out in echocardiography, I had a really hard time imaging patients with obesity. Or, if I could learn it, you can learn it too. Or, let me tell you the rest of this scary case. These are all examples of self-revealing language that gives the learner a peek into your personality and emotions.

So rule number three, use self-revealing comments. Number four. Use language that implies that you and your learners are part of a group, say things like, let's do the math together. Or, shall we do the math together. Using this, we language also signals to them that they're not alone, that they're struggling with the same things everyone else in their group is also struggling with. Say, if you're like me, you're probably struggling with this. Or, it doesn't make intuitive sense when we initially encounter a situation like this.

This kind of language is encouraging, because it shows to the learner that it's quite normal that people like them don't necessarily understand the topic immediately. So rule number four, use we language to signal to the learner that you are part of the same group. And lastly, rule number five, and this might seem like a no brainer. Be polite. And, especially don't order your learners around, using motivational language that implies that you and they are part of the same group, see rule number four, can really help.

Let's look at some examples. Instead of saying, use the formula on the following example, say, let's use the formula on the following example. Instead of saying, calculate the results now. Say, shall we calculate the results now? Instead of saying, look at this example. Say, let's take a look at an example together. So rule number five of personalization, use polite language and don't order your learners around.