the use of a “conversational style”, which includes the use of :
Theoretically, the personalization effect could create a greater sense of presence and thus lead learners to set goals and choose behaviors that promote performance.
Actually, the effect could be even stronger when the communication is also tailored, i.e., “customized for a target individual in order to capture that individual’s attention, provide useful information that the individual is believed to need, and positively impact the individual’s cognitive-behavioral responses.”
Finally, positive language could also be preferable as positive messages “require less cognitive effort to process and elaborate upon than negative messages.”
To test these hypotheses, the authors conducted a blind study on 122 first- and second-year Psychology students at a community college in the U.S.
After the first exam, students were split into three categories (skippers, struggling, and succeeding), half of which received personalized feedback, while others only received a neutral letter.
The feedback was one page in length and followed the principles outlined above, with such elements as:
“Your success matters to me”
“I believe that you have what it takes to do well on this class”
“Review all of your class notes”
“Obtain any missed notes from a colleague”
“It’s important that you take time to study for the upcoming exam this week. Please don’t wait until next Saturday or Sunday.”
Results showed that struggling students who received personalized and positive feedback subsequently had higher exam scores that their counterparts. The effect was about 10% and amounted to half a letter grade.
Likewise, the intervention was also successful in reducing skipping (with a difference of almost 50%).
Interestingly, however, there was no observable effect on succeeding students, and the effect diminished after the second, third, and fourth exams--maybe because of habituation.
Source: Thomas and Thomas (2018), “Helping Struggling Students: The Impact of Three Instructional Interventions on College Students’ Exam Scores and Exam-Skipping Behavior”, Psychology Learning & Teaching, 17:1, pp. 6–26.