Tuesday, January 29, 2013

‘Story Editing’ as a Technique for Improving eLearning

Timothy D. Wilson’s book, Redirect, affirms the the power of ‘story editing’ as a learning technique that could positively change a person’s behavior, mindset, and attitude. Story editing our life experiences could help us overcome fear, change bad behavior, and improve our competency. By ‘rewiring’ our mind, we turn the ‘half-full and half-empty glass’ question from a confrontational juncture to a moment of rediscovery. __________________________________________________________________________
Image source: http://emilymullaswilson.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/half-empty-glass.jpg

In an interview which Gareth Cook did for the Scientific American, Timothy Wilson explains the essence of story editing and its impact on learning:
“We all have personal stories about who we are and what the world is like. These stories aren’t necessarily conscious, but they are the narratives by which we live our lives. Many of us have healthy, optimistic stories that serve us well. But sometimes, people develop pessimistic stories and get caught in self-defeating thinking cycles, whereby they assume the worst and, as a result, cope poorly. The question then becomes how to help people revise their negative stories.

But social psychologists have discovered another approach that is simpler and can help people with less serious problems. I call this “story editing,” because people are encouraged to edit their personal stories in beneficial ways. There are a variety of ways of doing this. In one, called “story prompting,” people are given information that suggests a new way of interpreting their situation. This is particularly effective when people haven’t settled on the narrative they will tell about what is happening to them.”
Timothy D. Wilson’s book, Redirect, affirms some of my observations in helping learners learn the result of a past experiment that my team did on a system called "STEXS or Stacking Experiences".

We gained insight, that in moderated online learning where learners are asked to tell their stories and experiences, they also unlearn new ones and modify their thinking of past experiences.

Is that glass half-empty or half-full?

We cannot evade the half-empty and half-full glass question as long as we are on our journey of existence. Each day, we confront conflicting life issues that create dilemmas.  Our choices could either result to frustration or fulfillment, hurt or healing,  meaninglessness or meaningfulness.

My decades of experience as an eLearning developer allowed me to observe how people react to interactive teaching methods. By simulating real-life scenarios in our learning modules, learners experience the learning process with impact. The learning strategy of Story-Based eLearning Design places our participants in a simulated environment that mirrors real-life situations. Since our interactive eLearning videos simulate actual life scenarios, the participants experience the urgency of the situation and discover their responses.

What will you tell an angry and unreasonable customer? How can you best handle a confrontational co-employee? What are the best ways to appease and validate a client’s concern without speaking bad about your boss? When is the best time to argue and when is it not? How do you react to flirtations in the office? How do you ask a boss about your job security or salary concerns?

Participants react to these questions according to the ‘wiring’ of their mindsets. As expected, they initially react to these scenarios based on their past experiences. This is so because our human brain was already conditioned by our experiences that and it makes us react in various unpredictable ways.

By this time, we have already defined how to interpret our ‘half empty and half-full’ life situations. Based on our own experiences – or prejudices – we label events as either ‘half-full or half empty. 

In the SRIA – Set-up, Relate, Interpret, and Apply – Story Design Model, I emphasized that the learner must have the opportunity to interpret the situation. This is where the climax of the story rests. In interpretation, the learner is able to assess, rethink, evaluate, etc. his/her past experiences – in a way “editing his/her story.”


So, are you ready to reconsider your answer: Is the glass half-full or half empty?

Read my related blogs

Are you guilty of interrupting the learners learning?

Context is King

Guarding Against Primitive eLearning Programs

Works Cited 

Cook , G. Interview with Timothy Wilson: How to Improve Your Life with “Story Editing”. September, 13, 2011. 

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"


  1. Some of the story editing may come when the learner is asked to interpret the situation. In the vignettes that you use, at the end there is usually 4 or more options to choose from as to how the situation could be handled. One of those options is "Is there another option." Some story editing may take place at this point. However, I think the "Story editing" comes when the learner reads the interpretations in the comments from other people and then writes their own interpretation which may in fact be a rewrite of their own story (e.g. how they would handle it differently now). It is also important to note the difference between interpretation and evaluation of a "story" be it your own story or that of another person. I think the benefit of "story editing" comes when learners are asked to re-interpret (this is what this means) and/or re-evaluate (this was good, bad, helpful etc) their own stories based on information from another story (vignette) or stories (readers comments).

  2. This is a very interesting blog with helpful insights for elearning developer. The post begins in a gripping manner; now as per my understanding, elearning requires developers to take a positive approach. Thus I'd say the glass is half-full.


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