In our every day lives, we are surrounded by stories. Stories shape our lives; historical myths, legends, movies, soaps, operas and even football matches. In fact we cannot escape the influence stories have or underestimate their involvement and the natural effect they have on our lives.
So what is it in ‘stories’ that engages us? Is it that they resonate and engage with our interior personal conversations, hopes and aspirations and with the same or similar aspirations of others which aids in forming communities, identity and friendships with likewise thinking individuals?
For instance, let’s consider a football match. A 90 minute arena in which the highs and lows and drama of life can be experienced with the toss of a coin and a bouncing ball coupled with an explosion of brilliance or human error, a story is played out every Sat. afternoon. Each story has infinite and undetermined possible outcomes which are poised on the aspirations and expectations of the supporters. It is the fact that the supporters have given their interior selves to the outcome which makes this story, football, such a powerful entertainment media; living out their lives, to some degree, in the abilities and success, or not (sack the manager) of others? Perhaps the gate receipts across the UK give indication for the need of story in our lives?
For the purpose of this article on Narrative Learning, it is the connection of learners to the possibilities of story as a natural learning tool that I am most interested in.
Traditional learning is prescriptive. The learner is presented with the information and instructed to take that information on board. This is successful if the learner is keen and committed to the subject matter by interest. We do best at what we enjoy and learn best that which motivates and interests us, however much of our required learning does not sit in our top ten of most interested things to know!
So how as teachers can we best engage our learners with their learning outcomes? It is my experience that a way this can be achieved is by cognitive recognition, providing an arena (story) in which the learner locates their experience and then motivate them further through story, having first engaged them fully.
Through ‘story’, I am able to provide relevant context which enables non academic professionals to efficiently progress in their studies. When lecturing I attempt to weave into my stories, surprise, humour and suspense and use the same tools when creating e-learning courses. I have found this strategy to be key when working with construction learners, whether level 1 apprentices or level 7 managers, the use of story has been one of my greatest tools.
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