How personal stories help learners and organisations grow and change together
Having been raised in a household of oral storytelling, stories have been in my life blood since the day I could understand language and narrative. Being able to explore human behaviour and cultural differences through stories has always fascinated me. So when I listened to a webinar involving Pat Kenny, a national e-learning manager from the Health Service Executive, that discussed using storytelling in e-learning it, it made me think.
According to Clarke & Rossiter, in adults there are three ways to learn through stories: stories heard, stories told and stories recognised. Here is how I interpret each one:
Stories heard – Should more content include personal stories and experiences?
The connection I make to stories is through a character, a word, a situation or picture that evokes an immediate attachment through familiarity. It is not my story, but there is something familiar – something I know or have experienced that forms an instant connection.
When designing e-learning solutions we should not only use scenarios but extend this to personal stories. The webinar discussed how patients’ complaints and stories of being cared for were instrumental in allowing healthcare professionals to understand their experiences and so change the way they delivered care. By empathising with patients the healthcare professionals found a new motivation to change their way of working.
Stories told – Try incorporating learners’ stories into e-learning
I view my life as an encyclopaedia of people, places, interactions, smells and sounds which I bookmark as stories in my head. Our life stories help us to construct meaning whenever we experience something new. We all share our stories. We share them in the pub, in the classroom, at home, at work – everywhere we go.
Sharing stories is a social interaction. There is a familiarity, a shorthand, a space for a cultural exchange. It often feels a necessity to do so because it’s an indispensable way of forging bonds between people. We should use this behaviour to improve learning programmes. Why not incorporate learners’ stories in the storyboarding process?
Stories recognised – The key to behaviour change
Finally, the key to getting successful emotional engagement through storytelling is self-recognition. A feedback survey on our mental resilience course for TfL illustrates this. It showed that 85% of individuals found the scenarios realistic or could personally relate to the scenarios used. This is what helped 70% of individuals to implement long term change.
This quote from Octavia E Butler’s story The Parable of the Sower encapsulates the effect that experiential stories can have on individuals and organisations.
All that you touch
All that You Change