Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Storytelling as a Means of Reflecting on the Lived Experience of Making Curriculum in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Storytelling as a Means of Reflecting on the Lived Experience of Making Curriculum in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

THE AIM OF THIS PAPER is to make public a means by which we reflected on how we constructed and taught a curriculum about subject content knowledge in the field of early childhood education. We have used our discussions, evaluations, feedback from colleagues and students, and personal reflections to better understand our practices and beliefs through telling stories. Looking back at our practice through stories and personal narratives had several purposes. First and foremost was our desire to better understand and improve our own practice as teachers in the context of educating early childhood teachers; second was the need to better appreciate the complexities of learning for our students and ourselves.

This paper is not about the development of curriculum. Rather, we have written here about the process by which we reflected on our own practice as teacher educators, anticipating that the explanation may be of use to others. First we provide a framework for understanding our final story by explaining the use of storytelling as reflection and method. In the second part of the paper we reconstruct our story of 'curriculum making and teaching'.

Part 1: Understanding storytelling as reflection and method

Storytelling as reflection

As teacher educators, academics, women, colleagues and friends, we found that our everyday life was complex, as we intersected with one another in different relationships for different purposes and intentions. Such interactions and relationships were given meaning by the discourses that circulated in different settings. The busy-ness of our lives had structure and meaning that was understood by others and by us because of the shared beliefs and values that circulated in those settings. Such inter-subjectivity occurred at an unconscious level and is part of what Giddens (1991) calls 'practical consciousness': the knowledge people use reflexively to make sense of their surroundings and actions in order to continue to act within accepted norms. Reflection, for us, became a way of foregrounding these unconscious rules and norms, and a means of subjecting them to critique so that our practices became more coherent and informed. Essentially, reflection allows individuals to 'step back' from their day-to-day practice so they can see, and think about, those practices from new and different perspectives. However, reflection implies more than just thinking about, analysing, evaluating or contemplating teaching. As Parker (1997) points out, 'reflective teaching is a technical term with a quite particular meaning which cannot be assumed straightforwardly to emerge from everyday notions of thinking and reasoning' (p. 8). Embroiled as we were in the constant juggling of teaching demands and researching pressures, we found it necessary to provide a structure to help focus and guide our reflective activity.

Storytelling recognises that stories are central to how we experience and make meaning of the world around us. We tell stories about our experiences, and it is through those stories that we can understand such experiences (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990). Stories help capture the complexity of human life and weave together the disparate parts into meaningful events (Bruner, 1990; Polkinghorne, 1988). Stories do more than just relay experience. They are essential in rendering experience as meaningful in the first place (Gudmundsdottir, 1996; Riessman 2002).

Telling and making sense of stories becomes an important mechanism for reflecting on teaching and learning. In writing our stories, and following a stage-by-stage analysis, we have distanced ourselves from our experiences and can re-view them from other perspectives. This intention--to describe and explain the deliberate and purposeful exploration of our practices as teacher educators through a storytelling method for the purpose of demonstrating practice which may be of use to others--is the raison d'etre of this paper. …

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