In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the constant search for innovative teaching methods continues to be a driving force. One powerful approach that has stood the test of time is storytelling. Beyond its entertainment value, storytelling has proven to be a highly effective educational tool, engaging learners and facilitating the retention of information. Here, we will explore the transformative power of storytelling in higher education and how artificial intelligence (AI) may be opening doors to create compelling narratives that could possibly enhance learning experiences.
“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”
-Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge
The art of storytelling in higher education
Engagement and connection
Telling stories as a pedagogical tool is nothing new. Historically, storytelling was used to pass along knowledge and values. When it comes to conveying new ideas, concepts, and information, the use of stories has pretty much always been used since the beginning of mankind. Fast forward to today, now that education is systemically approached, we still can incorporate storytelling to better engage and connect with our students. Storytelling captivates the student, fosters a sense of connection between them and the teacher. In the education setting, this kind of connection can be the very bridge the makes complex concepts more relatable and easier to understand.
“Stories elicit student attention, giving them something to remember, reconsider, and reconnect with long after the story is shared.”
–The Power of Storytelling to Facilitate Human Connection and Learning, Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning
Retention and understanding
Educators have all experienced the lack of retention by students after delivering a very long and thought-out lecture on a new topic. Some studies have shown as little as 5% of any given lecture being retained by the listener. It’s statistics like those that force the educator to believe the topic is just boring and there is no way to deliver it to the student in a better way. However, the same content, when delivered through a short story, has dramatic differences. Stories are different from the straight-forward-lecture format. The human brain is wired to remember stories. When brand new information is delivered in a narrative, it transforms into something that is more memorable and easier to recall. This then aids in a long-term retention and deeper understanding of the new subject matter.
“Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.”
-Stanford Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker
AI’s potential role in crafting educational narratives
Personalized learning experiences
One downside to using stories as a teaching method is that somebody has to create them. Whether you have run out of stories or you don’t have any of your own, AI can help create or improve stories. Using AI, you can customize a story to your needs. You can change the story for individual learning styles, preferences and strengths. It is this type of personalized approach that could enhance the engagement and comprehension in the classroom.
Interactive learning environments
By incorporating AI into storytelling in the classroom, you can enable the development of interactive learning environments. If the students partake in the creation of these stories, the learning process can become more dynamic and engaging. The student may be able to actively participate in creating and shaping the very stories that are teaching them. All of this adds up to the classroom gaining an even deeper and long-term connection with the topic being taught.
“50% of students say they are not engaged with what they are learning in school most of the time.”
-Student Engagement, Gradientlearning.org
Conclusion: Storytelling in higher education, the secret ingredient
The marriage of storytelling and AI in education could be a powerful tool that holds potential for transforming traditional teaching methods. With this tool, you could capture attention and cultivate a deeper connection between the educator and the learner.
It is with these stories that abstract concepts and new topics can become tangible experiences, fostering a sense of shared exploration and discovery. With AI, there are many possibilities when it comes to the level of creation and personalization. In the unity of storytelling and AI, the traditional boundaries of one-size-fits-all approaches could crumble, giving rise to a pedagogical landscape that is as diverse as the learners it serves.
As we stand at the crossroads of tradition and innovation, the narrative unfolds, inviting us to reimagine education not as a monologue but as a dialogue between storytellers and learners.
We can lay the foundation for a future where storytelling continues to be the catalyst for transformative learning experiences. Educational storytelling could be the secret ingredient that transforms information into inspiration, fostering a connection that supports deeper learning.
Written by Joseph M. Dobbs, a dedicated Carpentry Instructor at Northwest Kansas Technical College and Pastor of Weskan Bible Church. He has a deep passion for crafting not only wood but also meaningful stories.
Want more on storytelling in higher education and AI narratives? Joseph M. Dobbs will be presenting on this topic in our 2024 Empowered Educator virtual conference, February 14-15.