The emotional learning journey. Planning the highs and lows in storytelling.

I’ll be the first to admit that i have pretty bad taste in films, favouring an action and adventure movie to a classic musical, but whatever type of film you watch, there’s a typical pattern that they follow. There are energetic moments, reflective moments, dramatic moments, scary moments, all with their accompanying cinematography and soundtrack tricks. Different lighting and effects as well as dialogue are used to ensure that you have the correct response.

It’s the same thing that we should do within a learning solution, although possibly without the scary music and with less popcorn. Varying the pace of the emotional journey is essential, if you keep it too low key for too long, we are going to lose interest, whilst if you try to maintain a blistering pace, it’s like a car chase scene that goes on for half an hour, you just get exhausted. The trick is to vary the pace, like the conductor of the orchestra, taking the mood up and down as appropriate.

Now, within a learning piece, the emotions may not be to do with it being thrilling or frightening, it may be more to do with ‘risk’. Introducing new learning is to introduce risk or challenge. We may come across as if we are telling people they are doing something wrong, or we may come over in typical pedagogic manner as being cleverer than they are (or trying to be).

Introducing topics and ideas needs to be done in the right way. The language that i usually use to describe this is throwing a rock into a pond. You need to understand that there will be ripples and, the bigger the rock, the bigger the ripples and the longer that they go on for. Having introduced risk, we need to make it safe or help people to make it safe.

This journey from unknown and risky to known, mastered and safe is typical of any learning experience, but it’s one that we should consciously track in design. First, we need to establish commonality at the start, the equivalent of building a relationship with the main character in a film. On screen, this might be done by showing them in a domestic situation, with their partner, living the idyllic life (before it all gets torn apart and they have to don a white vest and hang glide into Panama to blow up a monastery and save the day – did i mention my taste in films?) the aim being for us to establish rapport, essentially to care about them.

Within learning, the point of establishing commonality and rapport is to give us a safe foundation to create the learning on. Once we have this, we can throw the rock into the pool and create ripples, using subsequent sections to make them safe, to support people on the journey and to bring us back to shore.

The emotional aspects of the learning journey also feed into how we write the materials. If we are using characters, they need to be convincing. How often do you see characters in video pieces who are just poorly written, acting out unconvincing situations and for whom you have no empathy at all. This isn’t just poor writing, it makes for poor learning.

Like it or not, learning is storytelling and, as such, we need to create convincing and compelling stories that take people on a journey, not too fast, and not too slowly.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Creative, Disturbance, E-Learning, Empathy, Engagement, Instructional Design, Learning, Learning Design, Learning Journey, Narrative, Rapport, Scenarios, Stories, Storytelling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The emotional learning journey. Planning the highs and lows in storytelling.

  1. Pingback: Tokens and Totems | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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