From The Three Little Pigs to Plato, Using Storytelling to Enhance Teaching

Professional storyteller to work with staff to improve lecturing techniques

Staff at the University of Leicester – recently crowned University of the Year – are to learn about how the story of the Three Little Pigs, as well as examples from classical literature, can help them deliver better lectures.

As part of the University’s commitment to enhance teaching and learning, a professional storyteller, author and freelance writer will lead workshops at the University to encourage tutors to develop storytelling techniques in the seminar room.

This is part of a series of staff development workshops at the University -ranked in the UK top 20 and world top 200 universities- where courses such as voice coaching, lecture performance techniques and teaching with emotional intelligence have also been delivered.

The interactive and lively workshop will be led by Alison Davies, from Nottingham, who brings a range of activities to demonstrate how lecturers can use storytelling in their work.

She says her workshops will help staff through:

  • Learning how to create stories, and apply them to a particular area of expertise
  • Learning how to engage with students
  • Learning how to use creative techniques to deliver ‘difficult’ concepts in new and exciting ways
  • Improving communication skills
  • Developing creativity

    Derek Cox, of the University’s Staff Development Centre said “We are really pleased to be using Alison’s expertise to add to ideas for teaching at Leicester. You can have fun with storytelling but it is also a serious tool in giving life and depth to academic study. Story telling techniques can use all sorts of sources from the classical philosophers through popular culture to the teacher’s own creative abilities”.

    Alison said: “The skills developed during these workshops can be used by people teaching all subjects. I have worked with people from a diverse range of disciplines and firmly believe that everybody can gain useful skills through these workshops.

    “We all use stories in communication – it makes conversation interesting. If you look through the ages our ancestors, as we continue to do, used stories as a way to create a common landscape. Stories help us to engage people and these workshops will encourage you to apply those skills to the teaching and learning environment.”

    During the workshops participants are encouraged to think creatively and are given an opportunity to try out the skills being developed. They will go through the opportunities offered by the three different types of stories – Traditional or folk tales, springboard or crisis stories and memory tales.

    To show how storytelling can be used in the learning environment, Alison gave the example of a social studies tutor who had been aware of ‘losing’ her students while teaching about certain rules and regulations.

    During a workshop they had been talking about traditional or folk tales and the story of the three little pigs came up, and it was at this point the tutor had a ‘light bulb’ moment. They were able to connect the need for rules and understanding of their development to the story of the three pigs whereby the third pig had learned from the experiences of the previous two and was able to build a house that could not be blown down.

    Alison also covers springboard and memory tales as part of the workshop. Springboard tales use scenarios to engage the audience as they then have to go away and think about what happens next. Memory tales are frequently used in every day speech as they are based on personal experiences.

    The workshops will take place on 19 Nov 08 and 14 Jan 09.

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