Apart from multiple other advantages, stories work brilliantly as learning or teaching tool.
Firstly stories put the listeners in a mental learning mode; people are generally in a rather critical or evaluative mode when they listen to new material or people they do not know and they are more likely to reject what´s being said. However research has shown that people lose some of their critical mode and open up when storytelling gets involved.
Stories open up our posture
Often only the six words “Let me tell you a story” let people open up. Why? Because stories are as demographic-proof as it can get. Everybody likes stories. EVERYBODY. Good stories do recreate in us an emotional state of curiosity. The curiosity, which is ever present in children but which adults unfortunately tend to lose when they grow older. However when we as adults hear the beginning of a story our child-like curiosity kicks in and we want to know how the story progresses…and ends. We open up our posture and start listening. In an open state we tend to be more receptive and interested in the information given. This is an ideal position from which to learn.
Stories create meaning to data
Also we live in times of BIG DATA. I know, I know this is a buzzword but it´s true. Data is everywhere. We are drowning in data. Many people perceive data as meaningless numbers. But when a story is wrapped around the data it comes alive. Thus when we weave a story around data, we invoke a greater power than the sum of the facts we report. I came across some data analysis company which pairs number crunchers with a storyteller to turn their results into compelling stories; and the results worked really well for their customers. Another example: since they introduced history books in storytelling form it has been proven that students can contain way more historical facts than before.
Stories appeal to all kinds of learners
Lastly stories appeal to all kinds of learners: In any group of people, roughly 40% will be predominantly visual learners who learn best from videos, images or illustrations. Another 40 per cent will be auditory, learning best through lectures, audio books or discussions. The remaining 20% are kinaesthetic learners who learn best by doing, experiencing or feeling. Storytelling has aspects that work for all three types. Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes, Auditory learners focus on the words and the storyteller´s voice. And the rare breed of kinaesthetic learners remembers the emotional connections and feelings from the story.
So this was my take on storytelling as a learning tool. Next time you want to teach something consider trying it with a story. It actually makes fun wrapping a story around your data.