Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teaching "Persona"

At our Education Group meeting this week the topic of "Teaching Persona" came up as a topic for discussion. Teaching persona was defined by one source as "beyond technique or curriculum.. the teacher's own way of being with students"*. Another source suggested that a teacher's persona was "an image that the teacher presents to the class**" that could be actively chosen. Of all that I read, it seemed that authenticity was considered important. However, one school of thought was that one could be authentic and still provide different "images" to different groups or contexts. The most common example was the differing contexts of giving a grand rounds versus teaching on the inpatient service. In this example, the attending could exhibit a formal "expert" persona during grand rounds and a more relaxed informal teaching persona during teaching rounds. Our group was split on this topic with some feeling that persona changes could lead to confusion and uncertainty on the part of learners who may withold sharing their "true self" because they don't feel they have a handle on the "true self" of the teacher. Others shared their own experience of "getting up" for a teaching encounter minimizing their own more introverted side and maximizing their ability to engage and interact with their students. Do you have any thoughts on this topic?

8 comments:

John R. Nocero said...

Good Afternoon Dr. Taylor,

This is a great topic. As I read through your writing, I was reminded of one lesson that you taught us in one of your classes: over the course of time, the class will adopt the persona of the teacher. I agree and have seen this in my own teachings. I think this works when the teacher is authentic and presents their true selves in front of the class, after both he or she and the class have accepted each other's true selves as the norm rather than the exception.

Persona changes from class to class may confuse the learners a touch, but sometimes it may be needed depending upon the situation. I may act very differently to a group of research coordinators when I teach them an SOP versus a formal presentation to 300 Staff in Bunts Auditorium. For me, the setting, enviroment, topic and audience all play a part in how I present. But in each setting, I feel I am always "authentic."

Thank you for such an interesting topic.

-JRN

Anonymous said...

What you see is what you get with me. I've never even thought about my image

Steve Kimatian said...

A great discussion which speaks to the "hidden curriculum" inherent in GME. It is not the persona we chose to show when we are teaching, but the persona we show when we are working (and perhaps have our "guard down") that the residents key into and "learn " from. The idea of changing your persona as a "teacher" in a clinical environment can be viewed by the learner as "do what I say, not as I do." When the classroom and the real world are two distinct areas, then changing persona to fit a situation is no different than an actor changing roles - I know I'm acting and the audience knows I'm acting, but there is a mutual pact to suspend disbelief because we know there is a purpose (entertainment, learning.....). When the classroom and the real world are one and the same, as is often the case in Graduate Medical Education, then "persona" becomes role modeling - and shifting gears will not only create confusion, it will send a mixed message. For the physician educator there is no more important message than the simple fact that we are teaching our residents, staff, patients... with every interaction we participate in (whether we are aware that we are being watched or not). To quote Bishop, "...it is habits of mind and standards of performance that we should aspire to teach, and not the illusion of enduring facts"; and the most important way we teach these values is in the role modeling that we provide every minute of every day - whether we intend to teach it or not. Gandhi tells us to "Be the change you want to see in the world." If we wish to change the face of medicine, it is not enough to "teach it" we must aspire to "be it".

Neil said...

Isn't it part of one's persona that one is adaptable and modifies one's style to the situation and the learners? Thus being able to "behave" differently in different settings and with different learners is one's true persona.

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