Tell Me a Story: The Power of Narrative in the Practice of Teaching Art

By Zander, Mary Jane | Studies in Art Education, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Tell Me a Story: The Power of Narrative in the Practice of Teaching Art


Zander, Mary Jane, Studies in Art Education


In Maxine Greene's words:

We take classroom discourse to be at the very heart of the teaching-learning process, as it represents the meaning systems mutually constructed by teachers and their students.... The power of narrative and dialogue as contributors to reflective awareness in teacher and students is that they provide opportunities for deepened relations with others and serve as spring boards of ethical actions.... Understanding the narrative and contextual dimensions of human actors can lead to new insight, compassionate judgment and the creation of shared knowledge and meanings that can inform professional practice. (Greene, 1991, p. 8)

In this passage, Greene alerts us to the importance of narrative in the classroom. She tells us that narrative contributes to learning by fostering deeper awareness and by assisting students in their search for personal meaning and social ethics. However, in the classroom, narrative is a powerful but possibly under-utilized component of discourse.

The Study of Discourse, Narrative, and Story

Metaphorically, discourse is a philosophical umbrella that encompasses narrative and other forms of communication such as dialogue or conversation. The study of narrative is only a part of the much larger field of discourse, so one of the problems in describing how narrative works in the classroom is to understand the many interpretations of discourse. Schiffrin, Tannen and Hamilton (2001) write that current discourse research encompasses a variety of disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, and cognitive and social psychology, and that definitions of terms, analytical models, and approaches to the study of discourse are both emerging and extending as those disciplines adapt the study of discourse to their own particular needs. Although discourse has multiple definitions, according to Schiffrin, Tannen & Hamilton (2001), those definitions fall into three main categories: "(1) anything beyond the sentence; (2) language use; and (3) a broader range of social practice that includes nonlinguistic and nonspecific instances of language" (p. 1).

While the literature of art education has addressed the study of discourse through each of these perspectives (see Zander, 2002), in this study, I will describe narrative through this third category of discursive research in which meaning is thought to be negotiated within a social context and through social interaction. This sociolinguistic point of view takes into account the multiple levels of understanding when people communicate (Fiske, 1996; Gumperz, 1982; Hymes, 1974, 1986; McEwan & Egan, 1995; Tannen, 1984, 1993). Within these philosophical underpinnings, narrative is understood as a discursive strategy in which speakers create their own histories about the past (including the immediate past) and the audience interprets them based on individual experience (Norrick, 1997; Ochs, Smith &Taylor, 1989; Schiffrin, 1984). From this perspective, narrative can be understood as an expression of social activity and identity and includes a variety of storytelling formats. These would include stories we tell others and ourselves, myths and stories which transmit information about events or cultural values, and the stories within a culture that affect the relationships and beliefs of individuals, groups, and cultures.

In their broadest sense, narratives are a loosely organized series of verbal, symbolic, or social behaviors that are sequenced in order to tell someone else something that has happened, while story is a form of narrative with a beginning, middle, and end (McEwan & Egan, 1995). Scholes (1981) offers an even broader explanation of narrative, describing it as a communication that refers to some set of events outside of itself, while stories are explanations of what has, what is going to, or what might have happened. In this article, I use the terms similarly, however, "story" refers to a particular event or set of events and "narrative" includes groupings of multiple stories. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Tell Me a Story: The Power of Narrative in the Practice of Teaching Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.