Teaching with relevant (and irrelevant) storytelling in the college classroom

Stephen M. Kromka, Alan K. Goodboy, Jaime Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Instructors tell stories for pedagogical reasons, but not all classroom stories are necessarily relevant to students and their learning. This study examined how instructors tell stories in ways that students find relevant or irrelevant to their lives. Participants were 388 undergraduate students who responded to an open-ended survey asking them to identify either a relevant or an irrelevant instructor narrative and then report on why the narrative was relevant or irrelevant to their classroom needs, personal interests, and/or future goals. We examined their responses using qualitative content analysis. Results revealed that most students found an instructor narrative to be relevant when it discussed perseverance through personal struggles and decision-making in college because it related to the students’ own current difficulties. Many students perceived a narrative to be irrelevant when it mentioned a marital partner and/or children because students felt these stories had little to do with the course content. These results provide preliminary evidence for the types of stories instructors might share (or avoid) to ensure that students find classroom narratives pertinent to their lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-249
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ARCS model
  • narratives
  • qualitative content analysis
  • relevance
  • storytelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics


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