An Engineering Outlook on Story-telling (Part 1)


  • Storytelling may be employed as an effective technique to exemplify significant themes and topics,

  • Give comprehensible connotation to superficially deviating subjects,

  • Support learners in memorizing subject matter, or

  • Merely to pause or disrupt an extensive discourse.

Once the technique is continually used in engineering classrooms, scholars are sure to ask more stories to include in classroom sessions. Let’s have a look at some approaches and outcomes of story-telling in engineering curriculum aids.

  • This was more or less the traditional thinking, I reckon. Engineering mentors used to feel that stories in the middle of teaching process are interference's or deviations to inculcating the crucial content of a topic.

  • Now the times have changed. Story has grown to be everything everywhere.

  • Stories command engagement. Educators have now the courage and realistic back-up to convince themselves that storytelling is definitely an enhancement to customary instruction practices.

As hinted at the start of this chapter, storytelling may be employed for the following reasons:

  • To exemplify significant themes and topic or points;

  • Give comprehensible connotation to superficially deviating subjects;

  • Support learners in memorizing subject matter;

  • Or, merely to pause or disrupt an extensive lecture.

Storytelling can be procedural tool broadly in all curriculum's:

  1. Junior-level Data Structures and Algorithms,

  2. Senior/grad-level Software engineering courses.

  3. Ideally and organically fit into Professionalism and Ethics training.

How Story-telling can be used in Engineering Classrooms?

We’ll first try to find some specimen stories that can be used in engineering classrooms. Then we’ll deconstruct the samples in the following manner:

  • The Theme describes the environment and objective of the story, and also labels how the content might be linked without using stories;

  • The Story is a re-telling of the actual story;

  • The Class discusses the knowledge that is gained by the students as a result of teaching the material using storytelling.

Example 1: Story-telling to illustrate important points

The Theme: Group work in engineering classes. Usually, the students are habituated to working in a competitive milieu, rather than a compliant atmosphere. Therefore, they are often not adapted to work with colleagues.

The Lesson: Let’s consider this lesson is about working in groups. In a non-story situation, the professor might say that working together is highly imperative because it is the best way to gain fruitful and wide-ranging result.

The Story: I was on a vacation to my hometown in Alleppey, Kerala, and came up with quite an unprecedented visit to my good old friend’s parents. The old couple had been married for at least sixty years but still maintained their habitual argumentative dialogue for anything that they came by, a feature we friends used to giggle about long past. 

A Woody Allen movie I’d seen before (I don’t exactly remember the name of the movie now) should be a clear example to detail the couple’s commitment to their trivial belligerence. In the movie in a scene, we could hear as background sound, the character’s grandparents and constant disputants arguing: “No, no, the Pacific Ocean is a way better ocean than the Atlantic Ocean”. That is almost close to describing the deep commitment to arguments my friend’s parents developed too, over the very long period of their marriage.

As I entered the hall of my friend’s home, his parents were sitting in their usual chairs in contrasting corners – exactly the same way I could remember from the times I used to visit them since long. I was wearing one of my favorite sweatshirts at the time, that had S-C-R-I-P-T spelled in a semi-circle across the top of the shirt.


The contrasting position and angle my friend’s parents were sitting, my friend’s mother could not see the ‘T’ on my sweatshirt and the father could not see the ‘S’ on my sweatshirt.

My friend’s mother asked me “John, what is ‘SCRIP’?” Almost immediately, the father said, “Susie, the shirt says C-R-I-P-T. The word is ‘CRIPT’, not ‘SCRIP’. By the way son, what is a ‘CRIPT’?”

The old couple had started with another argument of the day for them, as me and my friend slowly slid into my friend’s room to have a long-pending chat together over a cuppa.

The Lesson: Clearly, we function in a world of fractional knowledge. Most commonly, we would just have a fraction of the thorough knowledge that is needed to resolve a problem. Again, the knowledge that we have can intersect with someone else divide of the knowledge and when confronted with the other divide or partition, we may either assert that the other person is wrong (as my friend’s parents did), or use each other’s fractional awareness to come up with the overall, precise answer.

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