Storytelling as a method: an online course for adult education.

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Well-told stories can be the ace up your sleeve in adult education. Learn how to use storytelling in the StoryComp online course.

Since time immemorial, people have told stories to pass on knowledge and experiences. Their strong images and concrete characters arouse emotions and stimulate reflection. But how do you tell a story that promotes learning? And how do you incorporate them into teaching units? These questions are answered by the online self-study course of the Erasmus+ project StoryComp, which is initially aimed at adult educators in primary and civic education, but is transferable to other areas.

The StoryComp project understands storytelling as a method of adult education. It is not only about storytelling, but also about competence-based learning. And the StoryComp course shows how this can be achieved with stories.

Talk is silver, storytelling is gold: the course at a glance.

The StoryComp course is modular. You decide yourself which topic to start with and you can switch between the modules at any time. The well thought-out linking of the contents allows you to dive deep into the material without losing the thread. The modules are divided into manageable learning units, contain exercises and end with small self-tests.

The Storytelling Module

In eight units, one learns how stories can promote competences and what constitutes the craft of storytelling. This course is characterised by the fact that it clarifies the concept of competence in a generally understandable way. Only in this way can competence-oriented learning succeed in everyday adult education. This may sound theoretical at first, but this module makes a coherent connection to the practice of storytelling.

No stumbling block on the way to a well-told story is overlooked: Criteria for the selection of a story, tips for retention or the design of the learning space are learning units of the module. With varied work suggestions, the module shows what makes storytelling tick. The importance of voice, facial expressions, gestures and rhythm are illustrated with the help of videos.

Storytelling as a method also means working together with stories. The course shows ways to do this: Participants can tell stories, invent characters or let their life experiences flow into the plot. You learn how to turn passive listeners into active storytellers.

The module “Learning scenarios”

This is about concrete teaching phases: When does what kind of story fit into the lesson? Realistic impulses are given, for example, to introduce a topic. For newcomers to the world of storytelling, it may be an eye-opener that stories can also support the transfer of practice. But the imagery of stories promotes retention, which is why they are also suitable for introducing a topic. Certainly, a story does not always fit, but this module opens up an enormous range of possibilities for teaching.

Overview of other course modules

In the modules “Basic Education” and “Political Education”, storytelling is deepened for learning scenarios in these areas. Special requirements with regard to barriers to learning, learning opportunities and accessibility to educational offers in these areas are taken into account.

A story collection completes this course. What is special about it is that the stories are assigned to the intended purpose and can be selected. One finds stories that serve to impart knowledge, promote critical thinking or support language acquisition.

Storytelling for all areas of adult education

The course is very usable for all adult education. The modules “Storytelling” and “Learning Scenarios” offer a sound basis for using storytelling as a method in, for example, vocational education, specialised training or health education. Sure, sometimes breaking it down to these areas is more elaborate. But the examples in the course are by no means only related to two educational areas, which makes transfer to other areas much easier.

Conclusion: A course for adult education practice

This online self-study course is successful all around and meets the needs of its target group. The approach is factual and at the same time creates proximity to the everyday work of teachers. This creates a practical learning experience. In addition, this course is serious about self-directed learning. You set your own learning goals, choose your own learning paths and organise the learning process autonomously.

Of course, one can argue that some participants will reject storytelling. Maybe it seems childish to them or a story seems like a useless pastime. In this case, teachers need to have the confidence to rely on the power of stories in a specific teaching situation. Complementary learning opportunities to strengthen teachers’ personalities can be helpful. “But that is another story and shall be told another time” wrote Michael Ende in “The Neverending Story”. And that applies to this topic as well.

Read more:

Conceptual framework for storytelling as a method developed by the StoryComp project:  

Echtermeyer, Katrin: Stories as a key to the target group   

Lindsberger, Martina: Storytelling als Methode in der digitalen Erwachsenenbildung

The article “Storytelling as a method: an online course for adult education” by Dörte Stahl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The linked works and the images in the contribution are under their own licences. Please check before using

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