In order to raise the content issues that the women wanted to explore, the storytelling technique was successfully used. Smith also notes that over the course of the inquiry, participants began to view their differences as a creative resource. These differences were highlighted as the women told stories from their individual life experiences.
The power of student stories to elicit empathetic responses from the listener
has also been documented. Rossiter (2002) writes about the vivid human
experiences that are outlined when students tell their stories and how those
experiences evoke a fuller response than does a simple statement of fact. Again,
in an educational setting, those fuller responses imply deeper engagement
with the material raised by the story and, as a consequence, the potential for
richer learning. Rossiter goes on to suggest that storytelling
“provides the raw
material for both cognitive appreciation and affective response to the experience
of another person” (p. 1). Based on this, using students’ personal narratives
as a teaching technique can help foster a respect for diversity and a valuing of
different points of view. In turn, these empathetic responses are in keeping with
the literature on learning theory that suggests that positive emotional responses
facilitate student learning.
The work of P.C. Neuhauser (1993) suggests that stories are effective as educational tools because they are believable, “rememberable” and entertaining. It is the aspect of “rememberableness” that is significant when stories are linked to course content. If stories are remembered, does that suggest that the content they are attached to is remembered as well?
It is in the work of Schneider and Caswell (2003) that the specific use of students’ personal narratives to facilitate the creation of knowledge and build community in the classroom is discussed. In their handout from the pre-conference workshop I attended, they build on the narrative paradigm of Fisher (1997) and apply it to a classroom setting by utilizing a framework provided by Heron (1992). By using the narrative technique, students use experiential knowledge (that gained through direct experiences with the social and practical world) coupled with presentational knowledge (that used to order the experiences into the form of a narrative) to tell their stories in class. The instructor then connects these stories to the propositional knowledge of the particular field of study. Schneider and Caswell (2003) contend that the use of this technique results in a unique classroom experience; it was this experience that so excited me at their workshop:
Through narrative and in the interplay of experiential, practical, presentational and prepositional knowledge, a community develops in the classroom that values the contribution of every member as each story contributes to the development of interdisciplinary knowledge unique to that particular class (p. 4).