Storytelling should help to impart knowledge in an easily understandable way. Stories are part of our everyday life and are perceived as informal learning, but are also used in the educational system and knowledge management. Particularly the informal character of stories can create a comfortable atmosphere at university classes – without pressure but unconscious learning. The students are being motivated and are being training both in listening as well as active telling. As students empathize with the stories, foresighted thinking and strategies are being fostered. Especially intercultural and intergenerational topics are well suited for storytelling as diverse perspectives and habits can very well be tackled. Traditional and indigenous knowledge is mainly passed on by storytelling.
The storytelling approach is described by Kleiner and Roth (1997, 1998) in connection with organizational stories (cp. Reinmann-Rothmeier et al. 2000). Organizations use storytelling to make internal processes visible. Staff and stakeholders are being interviewed and a holistic story is being developed based on these findings, which is again presented to the interviewees. Discussion, reflection and change processes should hence be initiated, which could lead to organizational learning. By telling stories identity and a sense of belonging are being strengthened.
The six steps of storytelling are being described in the following (according to Reinmann-Rothmeier et al. 2000, p. 6-8):
- Planning: purpose and scope of the story are defined in a first step; a storyline is being created, which serves as a thematic guideline for the development of the story.
- Conducting interviews: interviews are being conducted with stakeholders and people concerned about topics and incidents that should be focused on in the story. Development processes are hence being reflected and described from different perspectives.
- Extracting: results from the interviews (and independent research if applicable) are being filtered and assembled in stories.
- Writing: the story is being written, whereby an emotional and exciting style of writing is of importance, which also presents facts and concrete issues. While writing the target groups of readers should be taken into account.
- Validating: people concerned and the interviewees have the possibility to read the story and provide feedback.
- Distributing: the story is being told during a workshop with all participants and presents the basis for further discussions and processes.
Didactic description of the method
Storytelling can be implemented as a single, partner or group work – depending on the scope of the topic and available time resources. A partner or group work should be preferred as students better reflect and foster their social competences while working in groups. Groups should not include more than five students. The total number of students is limited insofar as the students should have the possibility to present their stories in class.
Consider a topic the students should deal with. This might be concrete case studies and facts you provide to the students and where they have to create a story out of it (in approximately 2-3 teaching hours).
Or you propose a topic and the students have to research the contents on their own, on which they base their story. For this you will need several teaching units or time for independent research. Hereby the students could work with organizations and NGOs, describe their development processes, challenges, milestones and important decisions, which could be identified through interviews with different stakeholders. The students should follow the six steps approach (see main text).
At the end of the lecture the students tell their stories.
Not students, but you as a lecturer develop and tell stories in order to translate complex topics into better understandable and emotional stories.