The Power of Storytelling in the College Classroom by Sal S. Buffo


The power of storytelling is all around us. When we watch a commercial there is often a brief story involved to help retain our attention. During a political campaign narratives are used to help create an emotional response to support audience attention. Storytelling can also be used in the college classroom to support learning. Sal Buffo in his article The Power of Storytelling in the College Classroom shares valuable insights through his experience of using storytelling in his role as an educator.

Storytelling not only allows an instructor to keep students’ attention, but it also allows students to better understand. This engagement allows them to build empathy and define a more meaningful learning experience. As Buffo states in his article, well told stories can hold a student’s attention and sets the stage for learning to take place.

“Our brains need the opportunity to classify and file information that is in relationship to each other. It doesn’t like that catchall closet of miscellaneous bits of information, it likes order, context, and continuity. “

  • Professor Sal S. Buffo

In a learning environment this storytelling approach makes sense. Incorporating a story to connect with learners on an emotional level leads to a greater willingness to learn. This is due to the student’s being able to think about how the story and subsequent learning content relates to them. I agree with Buffo’s reflection on hearing a well told story as a child and how immersive the experience is. This same experience can be created in the college classroom. Students will be able to recall the content learned for a longer period of time because of the personal connection that was made through the use of a story. This prolonged retention of knowledge allows the student to more easily apply what was learned.

Professor Buffo wraps up the discussion by acknowledging storytelling as what may be considered the oldest form of education. I can’t argue with this. Cultures are based on storytelling passed down from one generation to the next. I also liked how the Professor used a story about his early childhood to help build a case for storytelling in the classroom.

Storytelling is a universal means of communication. Through storytelling we can build empathy and keep the attention of an audience. This is powerful in almost all situations, in particular the classroom where instructors are increasingly challenged to keep students focused.