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Tell me a story

August 2, 2009

When we were little, our mother combed us for school every morning. While she tugged the comb through our hair, she’d practice sums with us. Her sums were always packed within a story. And slowly but surely, she’d work her way up to the problem solving part with her punch line: “And then came Bronson…”

Then came Bronson was a 70’s television series. It featured a Jack Kerouac type character riding through vast open American landscapes on a motorbike. We were crazy about the series as children, so our mother used it while teaching us sums.

Storytelling: learning tool

The art of storytelling has long been a traditional way of handing down knowledge from generation to generation. We are by nature narrative creatures. And through relating to characters, situations and events in stories, we grasp the world around us.

As an informal type of learning, storytelling can be used for different target groups. Making it an ideal learning tool that’s cross-cultural, -gender, -race and -age. It can furthermore be extremely effective in the way we convey, store, organise, interpret and retain information. Not to mention that it’s an outstanding method for teaching factual and conceptual learning material.

Nampak Cartons: program outline

At the beginning of this year I did an interim assignment for Nampak Cartons in Hoogerheide. The department Quality & Risk was in the final phases of developing a quality system BMS, and wanted to introduce it to the co-workers by means of training. To realise this, I was responsible for setting up a program and in addition the design and development of learning content.

My first task was to outline the learning program. Nampak is complied by external audits for her staff to work according to the latest standards. So, it’s important that every worker knows how to use the system and can easily find any required procedure or instruction.

System training: learning objectives

Having worked out the program outline in a concept, I went on to derive the overall learning objectives for the training:

  1. Create knowledge and insight of published procedures and instructions.
  2. Stimulate a regular and conscious usage of the system, resulting in better work performance.

The target group was diverse in educational background, working experience and age. Directed by the program outline and learning objectives, the training had to be interactive and able to convey factual knowledge and stimulate contextual insight.

Case studies: learning method

With the earlier mentioned objectives and the target audience in mind, I designed a few case studies in collaboration with the various service managers. The case studies were based on two types of instructional methods. First method was a story setup with assignments intertwined. The second method had a similar story setup, but this time interspersed with extra assignments.

The second method proved to be the favourite with the service managers, as it gave them more control over what was taught. The extra assignments highlighted that which the manager wanted to be discussed with his co-workers.

Example

Here’s an example of one such case study: Waar rook is, is…  (Dutch).
It’s the learner’s version (answers excluded). I wrote this particular case study for the subdivision Technical Services.

The layout of the case is quite straightforward and consists of 4 parts. It opens with the personal specifics, like name, date and so on. The second part introduces the learners to the assignment.

The main section, the third part, is the story. At certain turns in the story, there are interactive exercises the learners execute in teams. The trainer is instructed to use these intervals to stress certain procedures or instructions and give the learners reflective feedback.

Finally, the fourth part instructs the learner to use the system and match the storyline to work procedures or instructions.

Conclusion

You’ll understand that as an educator, I enjoyed this assignment tremendously. Not only did it appeal to my instructor’s experience, knowledge and insight; it also gave me a wonderful opportunity to tell stories.

All in all, this remains an example of using storytelling in a traditional classroom setting. I’m really looking forward to applying this learning method in combination with possibilities web 2.0 technology offers.
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