I am intrigued with this new thread on storytelling.
I am a training and development specialist at the Oak Ridge
Institute for Science and Education (a federal DOE lab).
Just recently we completed the development of a
computer-based training system for veterans benefits
counselors who work at the various Veterans Administration
regional offices across the US.
Throughout the development of the curriculum and other
job-reference type information, we had several experienced
counselors, who'd been doing the job for 15-20 years, working
with us to be sure the that the info we were teaching was
accurate, complete, and --most importantly --job-based.
After our first on-site visit to watch these counselors in action, we
quickly realized that storytelling and examples were how, in real
life, the experienced counselors trained the new counselors.
We wanted this element to be carried over into the
computer-based training as well.
Here's what we did to enrich the training:
We built in a feature called "examples", where the student
(counselors in training) could click on an example button and
read stories and examples about what was being described on
We also built a "scenario" section where new counselors could
watch an expert handle a customer call. Injected into each
scenario were questions, references, and explanatory notes
provided by a "narrator".
Looking back, I see we could have done more. Ideally, that is, if
we did not have certain hardware constraints.
Here's my point that I bring to this storytelling thread ....
A great deal of learning was happening during the PROCESS of
putting this training system together. It was happening because
the group of experienced counselors who were part of the
development team were telling stories to justify to the workgroup
why certain information needed to go into the training. Each
member of the work group had the responsibility for a particular
benefit area --they were to be the workgroup's expert for that
subject. Their stories were involving, sincere, and personal.
So many times during our workgroup meetings, I would have
loved to have had a section of the conversation videotaped. We
could have then added that into the training program.
I have another incident to relate --from something I saw being
done by the Institute for Learning Sciences (Northwestern Univ.)
but I'll save that for another post....
In the meantime, I'll continue to keep watch for storytelling
techniques that can be shared. I believe that, from what I've
seen, the most effective storytelling experiences contained these
* They were short and to the point.
* They were told by the one who was there --not actor conveying
a story that came from someone else (sincerity is crucial).
* They seemed to end with a message along the lines of "so
here's what this means to you...".
What are the qualities of the best storytelling that you've heard?
Eileen S. Sample
Training and Development Specialist
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
(615) 576-6247 (fax: 615-241-3851)