Using Oral History as Learning Material: Guide for Teachers and Youth Workers, 2017

personal story is an oral or written historical source, either someone’s narrative or a story set down in writing about one’s life. This kind of narrative is subjective and is based on memories. People’s personal experiences help to better understand the era and events, and to get to know the experiences and understandings of different people. Thus personal stories are important sources for making sense of the past.
The personal story not only imparts to us what people did or saw, or what happened to them, rather it also conveys their thoughts, feelings, motives for action, and opinions concerning the actions, motives for action, and objectives of their fellow men. We also find out the opinion of the participant in the event under consideration concerning their actions at that time.
The personal story helps to develop empathy. It is a feeling of communion, a way to comprehend another person and that person’s attributes, states of being, and behaviour. This empathy is based on the ability to enter into the inner world of another person, to see everything from that person’s viewpoint, to understand and sympathise with that other person.
It is important that the pupil understands the limitations of memory and personal observations. The fact that someone was an eyewitness of an event does not unconditionally mean that his account is true. Studies have shown that people’s long-term memory is more precise and stable than their short-term memory.


Authors: Grete Rohi, Reili Reintal