In 2003 my son, David, underwent surgery to repair a displaced hip. The procedure was not a simple one – the doctors had to cut through the hip bone, move it, and put it back together in a new position with several long screws. The day after the surgery when David awoke, he exclaimed “Mom, I’m so lucky, I got a new scar!” and “Mom, I’m so lucky, I can play video games from my bed!” I have used this story many times to illuminate the concept of optimism to students in my psychology classes. In fact, I have found stories about my children to be very effective ways of making psychological phenomena more memorable to my students.
According to Heath and Heath (2010) stories are the “currency of our thoughts” and using them to illustrate concepts is a very effective way to help students learn. In their article, “Teaching that Sticks,” they suggest that making concepts simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional are additional strategies that helps students learn.
As this semester comes to a close, you may be looking toward the spring semester and searching for new teaching strategies. If you are, I highly recommend reading the article Teaching That Sticks. It’s full of great ideas for improving student learning and fascinating stories that you won’t forget!