Storytelling and Instructional Design

I believe that storytelling is a big part of learning. Just think back to the best teachers and professors you’ve had and chances are they made the content you were learning come alive for you. There’s also a very good chance that it’s because they used some sort of story to ties the pieces together or make your care about what you were learning. Even your earliest teachers – your parents, grandparents and other family members – used stories to help you learn the culture, morals and behaviors of your family and your community. Storytelling was used as an instructional tool long before the written word.

So why is it that so many instructional designers seem to focus on the pushing content out to learners and spend so little time focusing on telling a story that will help the learner become involved and remember the content? I’ve actually had people tell me that it was bad idea to try to tell a story with serious content intended for an adult learner.

I was thrilled to read Connie Malamed’s post on The e-Learning Coach talking about a conference she attended that included a session on storytelling. She used some of the ideas from the session to create 10 reasons why storytelling needs to be part of learning. It’s a great list and Connie makes some great points. I urge you to read the post whether you work in learning or not. The points she makes can be applied to marketing, branding and many of the other categories people put communication into.

It boils down to this. If you want people understand, relate to, and walk away with the message you’re sharing with them, you need to share it with them in a way that is interesting. A way that is memorable. A way that makes them care about the message and want to remember it. Help them connect the dots and give them a reason to want to take that message to heart. It worked when you were in school, why wouldn’t it work for the people you’re communicating with today?

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