Book Review “The Learner’s Journey – Storytelling as a Design Principle to Create Powerful Learning Experiences.” Written by Bastian Küntzel Review by Matthew Hill

“Identity is the story we tell ourselves”

Bastian Küntzel, Interculturalist, trainer and volunteer, has pushed himself to produce a practical book, that reflects its subject matter, is fit for purpose, and, keeps the audience engaged all the way to the end. Just like a good story.

Success – The book works. Imagine if this tome had failed to keep the reader turning the pages or left the trainer / coach / presenter more confused than when they started!

A journey to wisdom

Tone – The author adopts an intimate style with self-deprecation, revealing honesty and scattered references to Hollywood films that we all know – Harry Potter, Die Hard, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, etc. We are drawn into this cosy fireside chat (the worked examples in the book’s appendix include old barns and wood burning stoves to add to this feeling), as we begin to join Bastian in his story and journey.

With references to the works of Daniel Kahneman, Joseph Campbell and Yuval Noah Harari, the author provides evidence that he has read widely, dived deep, and, is up to date with his sources and research. The authors are sited in footnotes at the bottom of each relevant page. A bibliography at the end would have been a nice addition.

He deconstructs their models to form his own philosophy around identity, learning, motivation and change, and, does so in a clear, rational and appealing manner.

The Hero’s Journey – We start with the 17 common elements of all stories as collected, analysed and explained by the great Joseph Campbell. With liberal reference to George Lucas who famously used Campbell’s schema to produce the most successful film franchise in the history of cinema – Star Wars, we understand why Bastian adapted the title of Campbell’s most famous work and named the book – The Learner’s Journey.

We then move to Dan Harmon’s updated and truncated model with 8 phases of the voyage.

1. Protagonist

2. Need

3. Go

4. Search

5. Find

6. Take

7. Return, &,

8. Change

The supposition is that this universal structure, found all over the world, in all cultures and throughout time, provides a robust template for training design.

To prove this point, the author spends the rest of the book matching Harmon’s stages to the student’s learning journey and suggests activities, criteria and pitfalls for each step along the way. This unique approach aims to help the classroom pupil to change, transfer and re-integrate into their workplace.

There are some fun moments – The holding of a “Fuck-up” night during an off-site multi-day training – A sort of improv, open mic session where story telling on the theme of how it all went wrong leads to bonding, positive vulnerability and the parking of egos for the duration of the course.

Criticism – Whilst the book is a light, informative and a well-intentioned effort – the model does not always fit the facts, the training purpose, or, the audience. The 3 examples at the end mostly fit but do not 100% conform to the stages of Harmon.

Audience – This book will appeal to those trainers, facilitators, teachers and coaches, that have enough experience to be able to put together a course for themselves – A beginner may be overwhelmed by having to adapt to the various stages and resign, disheartened.

Personally, I identified with the stages and found myself beginning to brainstorm activities and exercises that would fit the 8 parts and found plenty of ideas to insert into each stage.

Conclusion – This is a clean, simple and useful book that will help the passionate trainer, looking to improve or perfect their design craft to take their classroom delegate’s experience to the next level.

There are enough warnings and sorry tales contained within the pages too to act as a vicarious instruction manual for the newer designer.

All in all, The Learner’s Journey is a recommended read for the progressive and open-minded trainer who wishes to gain entry to the hearts and minds of their audience, move them emotionally, and, achieve a learning transformation that is worth reading about.

The book is accompanied by a resource centre – www.learners-journey.com and is available in Kindle and paper form.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s