Wednesday, April 23, 2008


During the last fifteen years I have travelled on numerous occasions to the United Kingdom to teach at various universities, present at conferences and undertake collaborative projects. Prior to my last visit in 2006, I was asked by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Metropolitan University to write a two hundred word reflection on learning through storytelling, my primary research topic. Meeting such an exact word count was a challenge. I had to synthesise my ideas into a concise, coherent whole while making them accessible to lecturers who might not have used reflective storytelling processes in their learning and teaching contexts. What could be said about this topic in two hundred words? Quite a lot actually, so I’ve decided to add this page to my website with the aim of writing other pieces of a similar size. I have no set plan other than to reflect regularly on topics such as reading, writing, storytelling, travel and unusual experiences (for me) like having an English butler for ten days! My first reflection is the one I originally wrote for Leeds Metropolitan University.

Storytelling is a powerful communication tool which can be used to facilitate and deepen learning. Those who work with stories use a range of processes and methodologies. Some lecturers tell stories purely for entertainment value while others actively engage students in meaning-making storytelling activities. Research reveals that the type of story told, where it is shared, who is involved, and how it is processed influences the breadth and depth of learning. My storytelling experiences also suggest that significant insights are more likely to occur when listeners and tellers are encouraged to integrate subjective aspects of learning (feelings) with objective aspects (thoughts).

So, how can we enhance our potential to facilitate transformative learning through storytelling? Firstly, by nurturing our own and our students’ capacities to imagine, reflect and empathise. Secondly, by processing stories from multiple perspectives, engaging in truly reflective dialogue and creating opportunities to expand our understandings of self and others. Thirdly, we can digitise and fictionalise experience, as well as utilise forms available to visual artists, to provide additional lenses. Such approaches, when anchored in sound educational frameworks, enable us to develop dynamic teaching practices that maximise opportunities for students to integrate their learning experiences and achieve meaningful outcomes.