Tell Me a Story – But Where in the Learning Design?

Telling stories is BIG nowadays in the Learning Biz.

But I recall the movement against War Stories waged against Instructors/Facilitators back in the 1980s/90s.

Listen Up Learner!

But in my designs I always left room in the timing of a Lesson for ILT – Instructor-led Training (as Timing Is Everything) – whenever I knew I would have a new Instructor/Facilitator – either right at the beginning and/or each time that would happen and a new person would appear in front of the class. They most likely needed to establish their credibility – as Learners were skeptical back in the day too – so I left them space to tell the Learners about themselves with a focus on them doing the performance that the learners were about to learn.

Priming the pump – as they used to say – back in the day.

BTW – I always called those cats Facilitators – as in: Facilitators of a designed learning experience.

And my Learners were Participants – in that: designed learning experience.

I wanted the designated people to facilitate the design and I wanted the other designated folks to be active participants in an action-based design – more focused on apply the Info and Demo components – those mean s to the ends of APPOs. That Information typically followed by Demonstration leading quickly to Application of what they – the Participants – heard and saw… in that measured learning experience. Measured at Level 2 (not just Level 1).

So I had my Facilitators tell – what we called back in the day – their War Story – something more interesting or not – something to build the confidence of the Learners/Participants in the Facilitator’s street “cred”/ their been there and done that “cred” – and then they would segue into an overview of the Lesson’s Flow – to demystify that too.

They were also to use this as their opportunity to spy on the Learners/Participants – to see who looked confused, who got it, etc.

I fondly recall Kim P. reading a book in my Training/Certification on how to do my PACT Analysis back in the mid-1990s – which she picked up after the Advanced Organizer as I the Facilitator repeated much of what I had just said – Redundancy By Design – as most needed to hear it again, slower/mostly the same/ but just a little different for them to arrive at their ah ha moment.

She got it the first time – atypically. But if I didn’t do that Repeat – most would be confused. They were about to learn something complex – and most didn’t come in with the prior knowledge to see the pattern and see how it was just like something else – from their past.

Kim was both an ID – and a Chemical Engineer – so she “got” the data linkage of an AoP (Area of Performance) and its Outputs and their Measures/Standards, and the Outputs Tasks and their Roles/Responsibilities, and then the Output’s Measures linkage to Typical Gaps and their Probable Causes and their Gap Cause Types.

So I couldn’t see if she already got it or not as that was happening – but she did soon prove to me and others that she did indeed “get it” and got it well.

But I digress.

Or was that a story?

Stories Help Us Remember 

They give us a context in their Story line – and important points in an interesting manner – more so than a string of bullets being read off some slide from upfront. Bed time Story. Zzzzzzzz.

Stories can be spoken live, or put on video – sometimes preferable if your Facilitators cannot be trusted to:

  • Tell only the key points and not create cognitive overload by overloading their story with digressions
  • Or wandering off point
  • Or by taking too long and creating a time shortage – always made up by skipping the Applications Exercise with reinforcing and/or corrective feedback
  • And the Application (know in PACT-lingo as an APPO) is almost the most important part of the Instruction/ Training/ Learning/ Whatever you call this thorny Rose known by many labels

On the Lesson Map

Where to tell that Story or Stories?
Using my PACT Processes’ Lesson Map – always informed by both a Performance Analysis and Knowledge/Skill (don’t you know) so that the APPOs can be specified first (to meet those Lesson Objectives – 3-part behavioral or otherwise) – and DEMOs specified if appropriate – and the INFOs sourced from the K/S Matrices – of up to 17 K/S Categories.

Stories can be used in the Open – where I park my Advanced Organizers – and in INFO (not all!) and in DEMOs (not all) and sometimes in APPOs – but not always – if there is a Case Study or Simulation being used as the APPO platform.

This example does not include Stories in the APPOs – so folks speed Story scanning/ reading don’t over-generalize.

Which is what can be inadvertently happen when you use only one Story – and not a mix of different Stories – appropriate for the type of Performance being addressed. If Performance appropriately varies to the varied Situation – then a varied set of Stories can help set that context.

Stories that are framed (for a live facilitator) or designed for use in a Video to be viewed or a PDF to be read – are helpful for the Learner.

They can better tell if this is going to be authentic content and context – or not.

They can better tell if this Facilitator has credibility – or not.

They can better tell if this Lesson is going to be worth their while – or not.

Stories are a double-edged sword.

They cut both ways.

Authentic Stories Are Best

The basis for the story needs to be sourced from/informed by an analysis of authentic Performance.

Active Listening – used in almost any job – isn’t exactly the same – from one job to another. The same is true for many favorite Corporate training/Learning Titles. They have “face validity” in title. Sound reasonable. Sounds good.

But the Context of where and how and who else is involved – differs from Performance Context to Performance Context for most of those generic titles.

The key is in being authentic enough – for the Learners.

Only carefully planned and managed Pilot Testing can tell you if your stuff is authentic enough – or not.

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