#Take5 #36 The Best Way to Tell Our Stories?

Stortelling in Learning Development

This #Take5 blog post is brought to you by Anne-Kathrin Reck co-organiser of the recent ALDinHE one-day regional symposium at the University of Portsmouth: ‘Storytelling in Learning Development’ (September 12th 2019). This turned out to be a day filled with fun, informative and participatory sessions, covering presentations, workshops, show & tells and a world café session. The speakers were recruited from the university with subject areas ranging from law to gaming, maths and performing studies. The presenters were learning developers, lecturers, librarians, and a faculty dean!

What’s the story morning glory?
Storytelling is undoubtedly powerful and not only for children. It preserves memories, personal histories, culturally important activities. Stories stay with us, they move us. If you need more convincing, read here: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/06/4-reasons-why-storytelling-is-powerful/.

With this in mind we planned our symposium in search of stories linked to academia, from around the university, looking at it through a LD lens. These are the highlights of that day.

It’s the way I tell them
I can only report on the strand I chaired, but participating in telling a story through body language (‘Acting Out Stories’) was received very well with a lot of laughter – and well acted!

Pic 1 Acting out stories (author’s own)

Equally, being exposed to precious (no food or drinks here!) books and artefacts from the library’s special collection was a real treat. We got our hands on objects that do not see the light very often, some books from the 17th century even. I for one did not know that librarians are inspired to research deeper into the background of their artefacts, linking them to real life stories and write about them.

Pic 2 Objects from the special collection at UoP (library)

After lunch we were all introduced to some spooky history of Portsmyth [sic] (‘Supernatural Storytelling & the Re-reading of Local Space’) associating it to the local landscape.

In the strands that I had to miss, there was some real storytelling going on in legal settings and in maths support.

LD contributions
To round up the day, my colleagues Laura and Rhiannon both offered an excellent show & tell session about the coal face of LD in situ. Rhiannon explained and illustrated the background, logistics and impact of her international reading group. Laura ran a very well received session titled ‘Not Seeing the Wood for Trees: Encouraging Active Reading’ which confirmed what we all know – academic confidence can rest on reading.

All participants were engaged in the final world café session which I facilitated. Here they summarised what they had learned, focusing on how their understanding of the questions had grown during the day – evidenced in these pictures:

Pic 3 The What? Pic 4 The Why? & Pic 5 The How? (all author’s own)

Once upon a time
One of the highlights of the day was the sheer enthusiasm that delegates had for the potential of storytelling to substantially impact on their teaching and academic skills development work and therefore on their students’ learning. In sum, there was something on offer for a wide variety of tastes during our small symposium on storytelling – I can tell you that!

The feedback we received on the symposium was simply brilliant and inspires us to look further. We concluded that this topic certainly ‘has legs’. We are now in the process of setting up a research cluster for storytelling, initially for two of our faculties. Our event showed how multidisciplinary the appeal of the topic is. The next step, after offering this symposium as staff development, is a student focused event on stories and research. It’s already in the pipeline for November. We need to brighten up the dark months of the year with stories.

My personal take-away from the symposium is that I undoubtedly gained/refreshed skills I never thought I’d need. Collaborating with LD colleagues from another faculty went really smoothly and all three of us made contributions on different aspects of logistics and organisation (three heads are better than one) as well as contributing on the day. Rejigging the programme numerous times, changing the actual date for it and recruiting colleagues from several university faculties were just some points we learned during organising an ALDinHE symposium.

Bio: Anne-Kathrin Reck, University of Portsmouth,
is a former university lecturer of German and Russian who ‘discovered’ learning development in mid-career. Over the years she gained extensive experience of working with international students as well as in the area of dyslexia support. She now works in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at Portsmouth in the role of International Academic Skills Tutor. She is a fellow of the HEA.

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