As I was watching an interview with Mike Marzio of Real English and Sarah Lilburn of The Daily English Show, I was prompted to give thought to the role a teacher’s likability plays in the learning process. The host of the interview, Jeff Lebow of EFL Bridges, asked his guests to give advice to others who are considering making their own instructional videos. Sarah, one of the first to go online with original ESL/ EFL videos, encouraged educators to make what they want and what they believe in. Someone is bound to like it and find it useful. Those are courageous words, because when a teacher like Sarah infuses her personality into an educational video, its success as an instructional tool largely depends on likability. Viewers want to learn from what they watch. They watch what they like. Fact: No one person can be liked by everyone. Luckily, Sarah has achieved a successful mix of personality and instructional content. Her solid following proves this.
In the online world of ESL/ EFL instruction, students today have such a wide choice of sources. Naturally, they gravitate toward the providers they like, but both Mike and Sarah confirmed that it’s not possible to win over all visitors to their channels. I myself have told viewers who are not overly supportive of (much less enthusiastic about) my work on YouTube that one advantage of the medium is that they can stop a video halfway through and look for another channel that is more to their liking. There is no offense in doing this (unless they post harsh criticism before leaving the web page). This contrasts with the classroom experience, where student behavior is regulated by etiquette, and one cannot simply stand up and walk out without causing disruption. Even so, no instructor either in a classroom or online is made happy by the fact that a student doesn’t like him or her.
So how much should we be concerned about our students liking us? Is it petty to think about this, or is the question relevant to the learning outcome?
I’ll continue this discussion in my next posting.