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  • Writer's pictureGENIUS PRODUCED

A Story About Narrative Pedagogy

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Genius Produced takes a look at the use of narrative and anecdotal language in education and how educators can harness the power of story to provide learners with a lesson they won't forget.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the Director of the School of Phrenology for the most prestigious University in the Kingdom was struggling to properly and effectively take her Master’s degree program into the online space. Elders of the Kingdom have proclaimed for generations that the only true and acceptable way to build a curriculum is found in the methods and approaches of their ancestors. For generations, children and knowledge-seekers had been subjected to nothing but lectures and textbooks and written assessments that failed to engage or hold their attention adequately. Desperate to find another way, the Director gathered her courage and embarked on a journey beyond the castle walls and into the unforgiving elements of the outside world. With every ounce of her being, she pushed forward, determined to reach the Institute on the Top of the Mountain, where they use nothing but the most innovative, exciting new techniques to educate and train the next generation of Wizards and Warlocks. As she climbed higher and higher, she could feel the knowledge emanating from within the Institute’s walls. Soon she would find the answer she was looking for. Soon she would discover the power Narrative Pedagogy.

Stories are powerful. They entertain, they educate, and they connect us to each other through our shared experiences, desires, and instincts. While technology rapidly changes our world and our lives, it fails to have as drastic an impact on our minds. The human brain continues to evolve, but the foundations of thought and emotion remain very much the same. When information is presented in the form of a narrative or a “story”, it is received by the brain in a far different way than when delivered in a traditional method. “Traditional” educational methods (i.e. lectures, slideshows, textbooks) have been shown to activate what scientists call the Broca's area and Wernicke's area, the parts of the brain where words are decoded into meaning. Unfortunately, after that processing is complete, the activity ceases. With storytelling, however, those same language-processing areas are similarly engaged, but it is also processed through cognitive empathy, which allows us to relate to the information personally. The result of that extra processing is increased absorption, familiarity, and memory. Additional physiological reactions to storytelling also contribute to learning. When an audience or learner is thoroughly invested in a story, the brain releases chemicals, such as cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin, which help with awareness, arousal, and ultimately action.

While much of the impact of being exposed to narrative pedagogy is subtle, one does not have to measure the chemical makeup of the brain to recognize that stories and authentic representations of real-world scenarios can serve to motivate and encourage a learner to continue their pursuit. According to Psychology Today, “Stories continue to hold power in this digital age because the human brain hasn't evolved as fast as technology and it's only through stories that we can connect to the various digital platforms and media messages out there today.” We connect with people, particularly those within whom we see some of ourselves. By focusing on characters, situations, and problems that accurately recreate reality, educators provide real-life context, build familiarity, and foster an emotional connection to the topic. A story provides relevance, and relevance helps us understand the value in our own life. Research shows, “63% of people remembered facts better when presented within the context of a story, whereas only 5% remembered the information when presented in a traditional learning format.”

In general, eLearners are application and results driven, so by mirroring their reality through storytelling or the use of innovative presentation styles, the content provides relevance, helping the learner understand the value in his or her own life - i.e. ‘What’s in it for me?’ Additionally, these approaches make it easier to learn complex and abstract concepts with anecdotes and analogies.

  • Media assists with the development of quantitative reasoning.

  • Vibrant, emotional Media offers cognitive and affective experiences, which encourages discussion and self-assessment.

  • Relevant media helps connect learners with events and cultural phenomena.

  • Informative Media can connect theories taught in the classroom with real world events and policies.

  • Content that resembles popular media and entertainment productions that are familiar to students helps retain student attention and maintain student interest

  • Media that showcases theories and concepts in action brings the learning to life, allowing students to hone their analytical skills.

  • Creative Media can allow students to experience worlds beyond their own

As a filmmaker, I have always understood the power of story. It was at the heart of everything I have done. It wasn’t until I began working in education, though, that I fully understood why we connect with stories and how it could be used to strengthen the learning process. In response, I formed Genius Produced, where we create next-level visual educational content using the power of Narrative Pedagogy. Storytelling serves as the foundation of our proprietary Cinematic Engagement approach to content creation, which we have been developing since the emergence of Distance Learning over a decade ago. This approach has allowed us to become known in the world of education for creating content that has the look, feel, and watchability of a Hollywood film or television program. To fuse the spectacle with the tangible, we have a staff of instructional designers who work closely with our award-winning filmmakers and writers to ensure we are creating impactful, engaging, and thought-provoking pieces of media, which cannot be found anywhere in education. These are professionals, trained in the theories of Hollywood storytelling and visual design, working hand-in-hand with prestigious Subject Matter Experts to hand-craft custom, course-specific storylines and fictional “universes” where all of the necessary lessons can be observed and committed to memory.

As the world continues moving forward through time, the ways in which we access and consume information continues to evolve. The traditional classroom model for education has given way to a new frontier of learning, done online and delivered through engaging, immersive visual storytelling. We as educators should not be content simply working within that frontier; we need to challenge ourselves to explore the possibilities that exist there. What stories will you tell?

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