Why use story narratives in learning?

By Vicki Kot, LX Design Manger

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People find it difficult to learn things that they have no interest in or are just “told” they need to learn. Sure, they can attend the classes, sit through the online course or webinars but unless they have a vested interest in what they are learning, the information is unlikely to stay with them for very long.

Have you ever watched a comedian and only remembered one joke because you found it particularly funny, or been to a pub quiz and only remembered one new fact because it was in your area of interest? Now think of your favourite movie or book, I bet you can remember the characters, their histories and the plot in great detail?

That’s a lot of information, and yet it seems pretty effortless to remember. This applies to all types of learning; the learner needs to be interested, and understand how the information relates to them.

Since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods and the primary way information was passed down the generations. This is why you remember what happened in Jurassic Park, and yet struggle to recall the company procedures you just read.

So, this tells us that we need to anchor the content for the learner, and story narratives are a brilliant way to do this. Stories also help us by allowing us to visualise ourselves in the story or situation. If the story can provide different options that lead us down different routes it can help make it even more engaging.

For example, if I have to learn the health and safety rules at a new job and I’m being shown all the do’s and don’ts in a click through list, I’m not engaged, and the information probably isn’t sinking in. But if I can put myself in Bill the new employees’ shoes and see all the potential health and safety issues he comes across, the context provides a narrative framework for the information, relates it to real world situations, and I’m more likely to recognise those situations as they arise in real life.


The memory centres of our brains didn’t evolve to process information through reading about it, we learnt through stories and experience, so trying to recreate that in any learning opportunity has to be beneficial, right?

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