Guide for Faculty

Preparing Your Students for Digital Storytelling

Giving students feedback on their stories/reflections is important because it leads to deeper learning. When our ideas are challenged or questioned, it causes us to think more deeply about them, which is sometimes called "critical storytelling."

If you want students to dig deep into the experience and make sense of what has happened and what they have learned, supporters of critical storytelling say that it’s not just that we ask students to consider multiple perspectives, but be willing to turn the stories on their heads, looking quite differently at the potential, most likely hidden, meanings that have been pushed to the corners, or swept under the rugs. We need to investigate the nooks and crannies of our experiences, our memories, and our histories that the status quo intentionally attempts to suppress or rewrite for us (Norris, Siemers, Clayton, Weiss, forthcoming).


  • Who gives students feedback (instructor or peers)?
    • If students give each other feedback, what sort of guidance are you giving them? We don’t want them to give light copyediting or look for typos. How can you ask them to play a role in critical storytelling?
    • Do your students have the capacity to give the type of feedback needed? How do you build their capacity? This may depend on the discipline and course level.

At what point in the semester is it realistic for students to have a draft of their reflection ready for feedback? Key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you expect them to have a draft before or after they are taught how to create a digital story?
  • Is this due at the same time their story board is due?
  • Do you want them to have a solid draft BEFORE they start working on the storyboard? This is ideal, but may not be realistic depending on when the experiences they are being asked to reflect upon occur in the course (see sample course agendas for possible recommendations).

View a sample script.

The storyboarding process is where students need to identify key words or phrases that are important in their story/reflection. Often times, students struggle with this, especially freshmen. And, students often avoid the more complex statements and instead jump to words that would be easier to find an image of (e.g., door).

There is value in having a dialogue about what key words or phrases are selected and why. Additionally, there is value in having someone ask you why you are thinking about one image or another. For example, if the key phrase is “seeking out truth,” students are more likely to grapple with what that means if someone can talk to them about why they might choose an image of walking through a dark cave with a flashlight versus someone reading lots of books. In that dialogue there is an opportunity for students to make deeper connections and meaning of their experiences.


  • Who should give the feedback (instructor or peers)?
    • Consider students’ capacity to challenge each other and how you prepare them for this role.
  • When does this feedback need to be given in relation to other deadlines around the assignment?
    • Recommendation is approximately two weeks before the due date.
  • Can this feedback happen at the same time as feedback on the story/reflection?
    • Yes, but prepare the feedback on the writing ahead of time.
  • Can this feedback happen via comments/track changes or does it need to happen in person to allow for a richer dialogue?
    • If time allows, ideally this would happen in person. Start by allotting 30 minutes per student feedback session and adjust the next semester as necessary.
  • Approximately how much time does it take to give this feedback?
    • It is not likely that every image lends itself to a deeper dialogue and it certainly depends on the richness of the story and the language used. It can take as little as five minutes or as much as an hour, depending on the length of the story and the content.

Acknowledging student accomplishments at the end of the semester has been noted as a best practice or characteristic of a well-designed high-impact activity. This often takes the form of a showcase event or public presentation where others are invited. The reason this is important is because it gives students a chance to celebrate their accomplishments and to learn from each other. It also allows others to help validate what the student claims to have learned or to supplement by sharing other potential things the student may have overlooked or failed to recognize. Historically, students WANT to see each other’s digital stories.


  1. When
    • Option 1: During the scheduled final exam time
      • Pros: Gives you two hours instead of 75 minutes. Students are really ready to celebrate, and this is a great way to end the semester. Potentially allows for more time to scaffold the deadlines and feedback.
      • Cons: Doesn’t allow time for us to interrogate or challenge each other’s stories. May not be an option if there is a common final or if you MUST give a final exam. Students may be less inclined to show up (do they NEED to be there to share their video or get credit?).
    • Option 2: Last class of the semester (before the final)
      • Pros: Allows you to still have a final exam (doesn’t force you to make this the final project). It's a great way to end the semester; student attendance and participation can be expected.
      • Cons: Less time, and must fit the deadlines into a tighter timeline. May not allow time for us to interrogate or challenges each other’s stories.
  2. Who to invite
    • Consider inviting anyone you think might like to use these digital stories in the future either for research, assessment, marketing, or communications purposes. Invite community partners if this was part of a community-based learning activity.
  3. Creating a safe space
    • Splurge on some food and drinks. Make it a movie day. Have a plan in place for students who are not comfortable sharing their digital stories with the group. Discuss how we will or will not react to each other’s stories and that we are not judging them for the production aspects, but rather the evidence of learning. If you have been giving them feedback throughout the semester on their digital stories, this is easier than trying to make it happen on the last day of class.
  4. Options for managing large class sizes (more than 12 to 15 students)
    • Most digital stories will last four to seven minutes; plus, it takes time in between to get them set up. Recommendation is to allow 8-10 minutes per student.
    • Save some time by asking students before the class starts to get it loaded so they just have to click to play.
    • If you don’t have enough time to watch everyone’s video, consider creating groups of four to six and build in a requirement that they must share their digital stories within their groups prior to the showcase event and within their group they must vote on which one video they will share with the entire class.