“We are all made of stories. They are as fundamental to our soul, intellect, imagination, and way of life as flesh, bone, and blood are to our bodies.”
~ J. MacGuire (1998) “The power of personal storytelling: Spinning tales to
connect with others.”
Storytelling is older than language and larger than any particular ethnicity or region. Social scientists, anthropologists, and educators of all types have extolled the virtues of storytelling because stories weave a common thread through cultures, and it makes for an exciting and engaging teaching technique for these same reasons.
Grade school teachers have great success bringing students together with the practice of telling stories and inviting feedback, or through telling anecdotal stories to explain concepts and help children remember.
In adult education, storytelling helps students and teachers connect and operate from a place of trust and support. In his paper, "The Power of Storytelling with Adult Learners," Breck A. Harris of Fresno Pacific University says, storytelling can be a powerful way for the adult educator to
build genuine personal connections and friendships with students. The effective
use of storytelling with adult learners can create moments of powerful,
unforgettable moments of epiphany in the classroom that lead to transformative
learning for both the teacher and her adult students (2005)."
There is science behind the efficacy of storytelling as the neocortex receives information through storytelling and as the brain envisions scenes from the story, new neuropathways are created. Here is a great little video about how this works:
Most importantly, the power of storytelling is universal and has global application. It is possible to transcend and even unite cultures through sharing stories and telling tales to explain the world. UNESCO offers a programme called Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future (TLSF) that focuses on curriculum and teaching strategies that support sustainability and global equity. TLSF has several modules on storytelling that bring components of environmental awareness to a digestible, cross-cultural platform by way of folktales, legends, and creation myths. According to A. Gersie, author of Earthtales: Storytelling in Times of Change, “Storytelling is currently experiencing a considerable revival of interest. This has led many educators to think about ways in which storytelling can be used to explore important shared themes and visions.
“The current concern about environmental issues is connected with this revival, since folktales about the relationship between the Earth and its human inhabitants have been at the heart of storytelling since earliest times. Not only do such stories offer a source of inspiration, they also contain a potential for understanding the many ways in which we value and devalue our beautiful green and blue planet.”
In a professional or educational environment, storytelling has many functions and can take many forms. This page looks at some of the Myths and Facts of storytelling and gives some great suggestions for activities instructors can use to implement storytelling into their practices.