The Brief Story On Storytelling


In this picture, I'm presenting my thesis to the public.

And to do that, I gave my story on how the project came to be and how it progressed. I was always a fan of this type of explaining. Giving my personal story. As opposed to the "let's dive right in, and let me explain the most important things" type of teaching.

It's true, some things need to be taught with a head-on "here's how it's done" type of teaching.… but more often than you think, the method of narration can be implemented, with so much more benefit.

That's why I like to call myself a storyteller. Not just a cinematographer. Not just that random videographer. Not "hey, wow you're that video guy that made those videos around campus". Narration and plot structure are way more important than visuals. But why?

Why should I be a storyteller instead of a traditional lecturer? We become 'geniuses' after a TEDTalks, and we feel impassioned after invigorating speeches. Why is storytelling so important?

Obviously it's more personable, but evolutionarily, why is narration more effective than exposition?

I asked this in third year, and wrote a brief story/summary of my literary research.


Once upon a time, there lived an idea named Storytelling. His eternal existence within human history sired many ideas to grow further, and ultimately became the father of all ideas known to man. Without Storytelling progressing alongside human interaction, one comes to see how different the world would be and just how important he is in forwarding thoughts. This story is about him, and how Storytelling is increasingly being taken for granted in the modern teaching era.

In the beginning, Storytelling created allies and coalitions between Proto-humans. The infant stage of Storytelling consisted of primitive communication, though Storytelling nonetheless. To have survived the early days of humankind meant that one needed to share relevant stories on past experiences, and pass on the knowledge of survival tactics. This use of Storytelling as a currency was then followed by a bond of trust within groups and societies, thereby increasing fitness by decreasing chance of predation.

As Storytelling grew older, he became acquainted with physically recording human tales. Not only were stories communicated orally, but also through illustrations. By studying the multitude of cave paintings, vases and other artifacts across the globe, one sees the traditional stories that were told among varying cultures (often intended to share knowledge or ideas). This was not unlike the form of recorded Storytelling found today.

We can now see Storytelling take on a large number of digital forms, ranging from ebooks, movies, podcasts, music and many other media outlets. With so much of Storytelling’s impact on human history and knowledge, it becomes shocking to see his disappearance within the modern school system.

Schools have entrusted Storytelling’s twin – did I mention he has a twin? – with teaching students. His name is Explaining. Explaining uses expository language to convey a message, instead of using a narrative style to convey a message. Expository teaching styles rely on semantic memory registration, where students memorize bits of trivial information and create synaptic links based on pure meaning. This approach does not fare well with the rest of recorded history, where Storytelling was the trusted twin. Narrative teaching not only involves bits of information and their connections, “but also their sequential structure, unrelated events, and underlying emotions”. This allows for contextual synthesis of information, and an overall better learning experience.

This superiority of teaching through Storytelling has not only been studied multiple times in the classroom, but has shown importance in the “real” world as well. Storytelling creates a sense of community within organization members, and helps workers understand the narrative structure of their company’s past, present and future goals. Storytelling also shows to have a deeper impact on the average consumer, influencing an audience's interests waaaay more than expository language does.

So why doesn’t Storytelling come back into the lives of human teaching and learning? TED Talks speakers narrate their lessons through a story-esque demeanor, and that has shown tremendous popularity among the people. In the end, no one can know for certain if teaching structures will dismiss pure Explaining and bring back Storytelling. Maybe someday lectures will end with…

“And they all lived happily ever after”

And that's a brief story on the relevance of storytelling and why I choose to be a storyteller. Because it's been ingrained in our species and because it touches more lives.

Further Reading / References:

  1. Zipes, Jack. 2012. “The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Tales: Human Communication and Memetics.” The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre, 1–20.
  2. Glonek, Katie L., and Paul E. King. 2014. “Listening to Narratives: An Experimental Examination of Storytelling in the Classroom.” International Journal of Listening 28 (March 2015): 32–46. doi:10.1080/10904018.2014.861302.
  3. Oduolowu, Esther, and Eileen Oluwakemi. 2014. “Effect of Storytelling on Listening Skills of Primary One Pupil in Ibadan North Local Government Area of Oyo State , Nigeria” 4 (9): 100–107.
  4. Boal, Kimberly B., and Patrick L. Schultz. 2007. “Storytelling, Time, and Evolution: The Role of Strategic Leadership in Complex Adaptive Systems.” Leadership Quarterly 18: 411–28. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.008.
  5. Fenger, Morten H.J., Jessica Aschemann-Witzel, Flemming Hansen, and Klaus G. Grunert. 2015. “Delicious Words – Assessing the Impact of Short Storytelling Messages on Consumer Preferences for Variations of a New Processed Meat Product.” Food Quality and Preference 41. Elsevier Ltd: 237–44. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2014.11.016.
  6. Denskus, Tobias, and Daniel E Esser. 2014. “TED Talks on International Development: Science Communication, ‘Digital Solutionism’, and Social Change,” 1–34.
  7. Romanelli, Frank, Jeff Cain, and Patrick J Mcnamara. 2014. “Should TED Talks Be Teaching Us Something ?” 78 (6): 5–7.