Once upon a time, stories were used to teach. They were used to deliver powerful meaning and messages. They were fables, bedtime stories and fairy tales. Stories were told around a campfire or more recently, read in a gripping novels or watched in an engaging animation or film. In today’s learning environment, programs can be “massive data dumps” ignoring the value and impact of a good story. Learners are exposed to massive amounts of disengaging content that they can’t connect to. They end up unable to see why and how the content applies to them or their jobs.
“Stories have the ability to encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context and emotion”. (Norman, 1993)
That is why you will remember your favourite bedtime story as a child yet struggle to remember what you did at work on Monday. So how do stories improve the outcomes and returns of your training material?
When you use stories as part of your training:
- It grabs and retains learner attention
- The learning becomes fun as opposed to meeting a list of objectives
- It establishes the content flow and engages learners at every point
- Learners will remember the concepts covered in the course as they always remember a good story
Because stories communicate best practices and behaviours in a specific context, learners will have a better chance of understanding what you are trying to teach and how they can use that knowledge appropriately. In short, a story contains elements that appeal both to your head and heart — that’s why they work!
What can you do to improve the quality of stories in your training?
- Provide plenty of opportunities for your learners to tell their story during your training. Telling their story allows them to consider how what you are teaching applies to them.
- Use scenarios and allow opportunities for your learners to practise what you are teaching. Give them options to choose from allowing them to see the consequences of their choices
- Use examples of other people that have applied your teachings and succeeded
- Ensure the technology you are using effectively highlights and priorities storytelling
- Practise your stories and make sure they are relevant, entertaining and appealing. Just because you are using stories doesn’t guarantee you are using them to their full potential.