Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson - Tip #43

The SRIA (Set Up, Relate, Interpret, and Apply) model is the cornerstone of the effective use of interactive stories in learning design. It contains the four key elements that gives the learner the best possible experience and helps him or her make the most of the learning received.

What kinds of story questions are applicable to each step of the SRIA model?

How do we identify and use these questions to our advantage?

Learning is a Race with Yourself 

Have you ever been in a rowing race? You know, the kind where three or more people team up to compete as one coordinated body - each one contributing their skills and strength to win ? How about a Triathlon? Three different events, three distinct activities, all leading to one ultimate finish line. 

Learning is a lot like that, and so is the SRIA model (Set Up, Relate, Interpret, Apply). Each step is different, but it all takes us to the same finish line. The good news is, the only competition the learner has is with himself/herself, and it is our role to guide him through the obstacles using Story Questions.

Story Questions Every Step of The Way

From the book, Story Impacts we know that, "Story Questions focus on the consequences. Learners pay more attention to story questions because these help them to quickly identify the discovery points, as these questions provide clearer images and reference points. The Story Questions help learners to mentally fill in the gaps. Most of the time, this is unconscious and instantaneous."

The Story and Story Questions work hand in hand to bring the learning immediately to the learners' minds and understanding. The quick message is this: use the Story Questions well, and you can spark different kinds of memories that will ensure the lesson sticks and improves the overall learning experience.

You need this. This is valuable real stuff that you will use in life.

There are two parallel tracks: The evolving story and the learner viewing the Story. To engage learners to interact with the story, we ask them Story Questions.

The learner is watching the story and yet he/she unconsciously asks questions and story questions, to keep him/her engaged with the story. These are Story Questions that the learners generate.
  • What will happen next?
  • Who is this character?
  • What will he do?
  • How will this end?

In our Story-based lessons, we construct the Story Questions and help the learners by asking him/her these questions.

Let's take a look at how Story Questions are used in each step of our SRIA triathlon:

Training Scenario: Ergonomic Workspaces and Well-being in the Office

1.   SET UP - The Warm-Up: The Story-Based Learning Objectives

·    The Set Up is a Story-Based Learning Object; unlike the static and linear learning objectives, we help learners to immediately recognize the value of the objectives and lessons to be learned.

·    Getting learners to look forward to the lesson (State of Readiness) and giving them a peek of what lies ahead (objectives, goal-setting)

·    Show a challenging scene from the story
·    Ask Story Questions that bring the learners to the why and what would happen (possible consequences). 

     Encourage learners to visualize the content goals in real-life situations

·    Story Questions Guide:
o   Use questions that help them look ahead.

§  "How will ergonomic office design shape your working environment?"

o   Use questions that bring to mind the big picture

§  "How will your company benefit from providing ergonomic options to employee?"

o   Use questions that involve them in future action

§  "How has incorrect working posture affected your quality of work?"

2 .RELATE - The Swim: We invite the learners to be in the story.

·    Learners are now jumping into the water, getting deeply immersed. Here they learn to find their place (Context). As we learned in the previous chapter, the Autobiographical Memory begins to make a connection with the learning.

o    Story Questions Guide:

§  Use experiential questions
"Have you ever sat in one place in the same position for hours on end? How did you feel then?"

§  Use questions that evoke action and decision-making

§  "What would you change about it? How can you make it better?"

3. INTERPRET - Cycling - They are acting in their minds; thinking, assessing, evaluating, visualizing, etc. 

·    The learners are now in possession of knowledge, which, coupled with their experiences can propel them faster, harder, and closer to the Finish Line. Here we bridge gaps in rapid succession, zip into new evaluations, strengthen connections. Almost there!
     These are Interpret questions:  

o    Use "what if?" questions

§  "You're planning to relax at home and it's the weekend. What if you were told that you must sit close to your TV with your back hunched and your arms crooked in front of you for 8 hours?

o    Use questions that evoke action and decision-making

§  "You do that five days a week, every week. What changes do you feel you're ready to make?"
4. APPLY - Run - They are applying the ideas in their real-life work situations

·    This is it. The home stretch. Just the learner, the road, and the finish line somewhere in the distance. Just a few short sprints and voila! Success!

·    Story Questions Guide:

o    Use questions in the form of scenarios and allow learners to explore different options

§  "You notice your employees work while slumped over their keyboards. This causes lethargy and an overall environment of sluggishness. Later in the day, they complain of backaches and pains. What is your recommendation and how will you make things better?"

o    Use questions that tie into existing realities

o    Use questions that guide them into connect the Story with fact, thereby closing the loop.

§  "Which three spots in your workplace need improvement the most? How would you address that?" 

Story Questions, SRIA and Recursive Learning

Knowing how human memory works and how questions can be used to effectively encourage the learners to remember better, ends in a more satisfying and long-lasting learning impact. As exhibited in Recursive Learning, simply asking the right types of questions at the right stage of SRIA, we forge a solid link in their minds between what they learned and what they can use in real-life situations.


Story Questions help learners realize that VALUE =New information + Real-life application. Story questions should be used across all phases of SRIA. With the proper kinds of questions for each step, we create Autobiographical Memories that seal in the learning.


Story Impacts eBook

Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop

Tip #42: Provoking Learners with Story Questions and Learning

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

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