When stories dominate the classroom

Roopa Vinayak Ram

Student engagement is an issue that most educators face invariably across the world. While there could be many reasons for this issue, the solution is not a single alternative. Teaching practices and pedagogy have evolved significantly over time with educators consistently pursuing all methods they know, be it conventional or groundbreaking or futuristic to enhance student engagement and understanding.

Storytelling is one such technique that has been largely used by educators in classrooms to keep students hooked to the subject being taught. By using narratives to discuss academic concepts, teachers aim to fascinate students, stimulate their imaginations, and further their critical thinking skills. However, singular focus on narrating stories without due attention to subject content can have a damaging impact on students’ academic growth and overall learning experiences.

This article will delve into the imminent by-products of teachers overly relying on storytelling, investigate the impact on subject comprehension, critical thinking abilities, and bring out the importance of blending appropriate subject content with storytelling.

The charm of storytelling in the classroom

Storytelling is an age-old method of conveying information, creating connections, and shaping minds. The storytelling approach in education affords teachers a powerful tool to stir interest, spur creativity, and refine learning experiences. It can be particularly effective in motivating students who struggle with conventional teaching methods. Stories, with their plots, characters, conflicts, and resolutions, can engage students with no sweat from the teacher’s end. Storytelling as a technique can also evoke emotions and facilitate better retention of information for students. However, when used excessively and without proper balance, this method can unwittingly sideline the essential subject content.

Neglecting subject content

Subject content is the fundamental knowledge base that students need to acquire for their intellectual development. By focusing solely on storytelling and neglecting subject content, teachers risk compromising the very essence of education. While stories can make complex concepts more accessible, they cannot replace the need for comprehensive subject knowledge. Over time, students may develop an incomplete understanding of the subject, leading to difficulties in higher academic levels and application of knowledge in real-world situations.

Impaired subject comprehension

Without a strong foundation of subject content, students may grapple with making meaningful connections between concepts. Stories, if not aligned with subject matter, can create distorted views of the topic at hand. If teachers rely too heavily on narratives without sufficient emphasis on subject content explanation, students may miss the crucial details needed for in-depth comprehension. This lack of clarity can consequently obstruct students from decoding the intricate relationships between various concepts, leading to patchy understanding of the subject.

Hinders independent thinking skills

There is no doubt that sharing personal experiences with students offer good insight into the outside world. However, there is also a possibility of students seeing the world with one-sided perspective, heavily influenced by the teacher’s views and opinions. This potential bias might hinder their ability to develop independent opinions and critical thinking skills. There is no denying the fact that the onus is always on the teachers to empower students and help them develop independent thinking skills. Students must traverse all possible angles of the matter being discussed without getting influenced by the teacher’s opinions and form their own opinions. Lest the intellectual growth of students get stunted!

While storytelling can no doubt keep students attracted to the educator and make them yearn for her class, the onus is on the educator. The educator has to draw a line to ensure that storytelling does not overshadow the principal goal of delivering meaningful content.  When educators prioritize fascinating narratives over substance, students may miss out on important learning opportunities. Finding the middle ground between engaging storytelling and content delivery becomes important for providing an educational experience that enables students to bloom.

The author, committed to creating productive learning environment in schools, is an accounts teacher at National Academy For Learning, Bengaluru. She can be reached at roopa304@yahoo.com.  

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