Before the advent of pen and paper, knowledge was passed from generation to generation through storytelling. For our ancestors, they were a valuable form of record keeping and yet the art of storytelling has taken a back seat in our current everyday life. Today, we often think of stories as being made up and yet, and we also deliver our messages in less interesting or more direct ways.
We are exposed to stories every day in the papers, on social media, and on TV, with varying degrees of accuracy. Movies will have one or more strong story lines and often capture our attention with their twists and turns. The sign of a good story is that we can relate to it in some way. Often, we connect with the story through empathising with the main character or in our rejection of them. The emotions which stories stir in us, are often the reason why we remember them so well.
When is the last time you related the story line of a movie to a friend or colleague? And now think about the last time you related the full essence of an online training course you had participated in? Given the power of stories and our innate ability to remember and repeat them, it seems a natural step to include story telling into our learning experiences, so as to enhance the retention of the key points by the participants.
Stories can provide the context around the information that we are imparting. They can provide a framework that people can connect with and relate to their own experience, and most importantly, they are memorable. Each story has a beginning, middle and end which provides a structure for sequencing information, just as it is done in a movie. In learning design, we take our learners on a journey from the beginning (concepts are introduced) , through the middle (where they are support to develop ideas), to the end (where they are able to apply their learning in a real situation).
Each piece of information delivered has purpose, is meaningful and engages people through ideas and emotions. It paints a picture which encourages a change in behaviour or attitude. There are many different ways to tell a story and the easiest way to apply this to your situation is look for stories in media, TV shows or movies that apply loosely to your situation and then translate it. For example, if you want to produce light-hearted learning, then model it on comedies. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Practice by taking a story you know well and plugging it in to the structure of your favourite TV show. Have fun with it.