Storytelling and Communication for Social Change and Leadership

Storytelling and Communication for Social Change and Leadership

Course Overview

Analytical and logic reasoning is often considered a skill that should be cultivated in higher education. This skill suffices to fulfill our need for rationality and truth; however, to build a closer connection with the world, the people and whatever else surrounds us, we must appeal to feelings and emotions. In this course, students learn through lectures how to reasonably speculate the surface truth of a story. Through discussion, students also learn how to come up with story-telling skills and strategies and determine the truthfulness out of factual realities in consideration of different points of view. By telling brief yet moving life stories in their hands-on practice, students further learn how to deliver ideas, invite sympathy, and ultimately achieve successful communication. This course is mainly taught in Chinese, but during weeks 7-12 it is taught in English.

This is a new course for undergraduates only, designed for those who want to learn how to communicate and influence in the public sphere through storytelling and personal narrative. Drawing from presentation and storytelling skills, from drama to delivery, students will learn how to structure, engage and connect in their personal choice of communication mode, by transforming the arc from a “story of self” to a “story of us and now”, and through this, become engaging future leaders in academic and professional careers with a particular emphasis on and concern about issues within the public sphere.

Course Objectives

This goal of this course is to guide students how to tell good stories through exploiting personal experience and harness the power of story-telling to achieve effective communication and extend influence in their professional realms.

This course is designed to help undergraduates develop storytelling skills and guide them to more deeply see the “story of self” — personal narrative and experience – within the context of awareness and concern for our world today and society. Using multiple modes of communication, the focus will be on developing competency through the practice of a variety of communication skills, and the acquisition of specific skills and techniques to become engaged as future communicators and leaders through the use of shared values and experiences to address pressing contemporary topics in our world and society.

Course Requirements

一、Some lectures and presentation tasks are delivered in English. Learner-centered discussions, however, can be conducted in any language.
二、This course is open to enrolled undergraduates only. No auditors allowed.


1. Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact by Annette Simmons (ISBN-13: 978-0814409145) (W2: Ch. 1; W3: Ch. 2; W4: Ch. 3; W6: Ch. 5&6; W9: Ch. 9; W10: Ch. 8; W12: Ch. 14&16)
2. The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative by Stephen Denning (ISBN: 978-0-470-89390-6) (W1: Ch. 1; W2: Ch. 2; W4: Ch.3&6)
3. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative by Stephen Denning (ISBN: 978-0-7879-8789-3) (W1: Intro; W5: Ch. 4&5; W7: Ch. 6; W8: Ch. 7&8)
4. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (ISBN-13: 978-0596522346) (W13: Ch. 3; W14: Ch. 6)
5. TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks by Akash Karia (ISBN-13: 978-1507503003)


Types of Assessment Weighting
Attendance 10%
Participation 20%
Completion of Presenting 30%
Language-Building Tasks 20%
Presentation 20%

Course Overview

Topic Course content
Presenting Tasks Introducing yourself
Communicating ideas clearly
Telling a story
Persuasion Talk I – make comparisons, using data, illustrating points
Persuasion Talk II – logical, emotional and ethical truth
Persuasion Talk III – debating/defending your opinion
Developing stories of self, us, and now by identifying shared values and experiences
Language-Building Tasks Shifting vocabulary – using plain academic language
Openings – purpose, motivation, outlining the talk
Signposting – oral cohesion
Common presentation phrases
Describing data – description, comparison
Articulation & Pronunciation