Activate the Braincells Through the Art of Storytelling

Prateeksha Dutt November 14, 2019
What comes to your mind when you hear words “movie”, “novel”, “theater” or an “advertisement”? Story, emotions, and enjoyment!! Isn’t it? On the contrary what comes to the mind when you hear “chapter”, “lesson”,” module” or a “topic”? A highly academic- drab presentation or a lecture ….Right? All of us enjoy a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie, a drama, an advertisement or   something our friends/teachers/family members narrate to us. Why are we engaged while listening to a story, a narrative about the events, and somewhat bored while listening to the presentation, a list of bullet points? There is a scientific reason behind this …..when we hear the bullet-point information only the language processing part of the brain gets activated but when a story is told to us, we start experiencing the events of the story leading to immersion in the content. As a result, not only the language processing parts but the visual cortex and the emotional reaction area of the brain too get activated. In fact, a story puts the whole brain to work.   Evolution has wired our brain to think in the form of narratives. We make up stories in our heads for every action and conversation that we undertake. Storytelling has been our fundamental method of communication since time immemorial. People have used stories to pass on the knowledge from one generation to another generation.Our values, desires, dreams, prejudices and behavior are influenced by the kind of stories we have been hearing.Nobody knows exactly when the first story was told. Perhaps before the art of writing was invented, the important events including heroic acts were told to others laying the foundation of storytelling.  
How Storytelling Enhances Learning
We all agree that stories are far more appealing than recitation of data points or a discussion of abstract ideas. Different elements of the stories caters to all three types of learners, namely, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. They connect the learner to the central message and are easy to remember. Infact learning derived through stories is remembered for a longer time in comparison to learning through facts. Here are some key pointers listing how stories enhances learning:
  • Allows learners to experience different worlds, countries, and traditions thereby developing the understanding of cultures.
  • Help in stimulating curiosity, sparking imagination and building social skills in young learners.
  • Depict various emotions and help learners develop their emotional intelligence.
  • Help in processing and remembering information. Through its reflective, creative and formalized technique, storytelling facilitates learning within the domains of science, medical training, in business schools and executive education as well as in the more evident domains of Languages, Arts and Drama.
  • Hold the power to motivate the learner towards a learning goal. Encouraging stories inspire learners to act.
  • Good stories not only create a sense of connection but also build familiarity and trust.
  • Good stories are also extremely useful in conveying complex ideas in easy to grasp ways
  • Reading stories to young children can increase their willingness to express their thoughts and feelings.
  • For early learners, stories help organize thinking and making connections between sounds, words and pictures, thereby developing their early literacy
Designing a Learning Piece through Stories
Keeping these benefits in mind, story-based learning strategies are used to create effective learning experiences.  Story based tutorials or storytorials combine power of storytelling with scientifically proven principles of instructional design. One can directly use a story or adapt the content in the form of story. A story has 5 elements namely character, settings, conflict, plot and theme. Character refers to people in the story. While adapting the story, we must make characters realistic. Setting is the place where the story took place, the time and place. Conflict is the challenge or the problem faced by the character. Plot describes how the problem is introduced and how the character resolves it. And finally theme is the message of the story.   The diagram given below explains this: Any content piece, be it from the k-12 or higher education or professional trainings can be organized in the form of a story where, 
  • Beginning can be set as a stage
  • Middle portion as a challenge and
  • Ending in the form of a new reality.
There are various learning approaches which are story based some of them are: 
  1. Narrative pedagogy:  It is an approach about teaching and learning that evolves from the experiences of teachers and students. It encourages teachers and students to share stories and interpret experiences.
  2. Narrative-centered learning environments: These are virtual or augmented reality environments or story worlds where learners participate in an unfolding story.
  3. Practomime: This is another approach of storytelling which includes a blend of role play.
So, go ahead and redesign your lectures and tutorials as storytorials and spread the knowledge around as stories are more likely to be shared.  Stories are the best  when it comes to putting  the idea into other people’s head. For any query, schedule a meeting with our team.

Prateeksha Dutt

As a Lead Instructional Designer with Magic Edtech, Prateeksha is actively engaged in conceptualizing and designing various digital learning objects and immersive offerings.