The use of student personal narrative heightened student engagement as they sought more information from one another and provided positive acknowledgement of what they saw and learned. Students seemed so engaged with one another through the use of this teaching technique that they worked to include others in the experience:
One group talked the student who had been away when the assignment was given into simply describing something special to her and telling the story about why it was special (Field notes, September 2004).
In this exchange, students took on the role of including everyone in the activity, indicating their desire to see something even from the student who had not brought a special item from home. These students demonstrated that they valued the insights, into both the topic and the person, that sharing personal narratives facilitated.
The students in this research project seemed to be extremely engaged, in general, in the course and class itself. While I would not attribute this solely to the use of student personal narrative as a teaching strategy, I do believe that it contributed to the overall engagement of the students. In a feedback form that students did in small groups after one month of the semester, I asked what they liked about the class. They answered that they liked the fact that everyone was included, they liked the feeling of being involved, and they liked that opinions were not shunned but appreciated.
The atmosphere and activity in the class itself seemed to engage or hold the attention of the students. They felt a connection and involvement with the class, which in turn affected their participation. Because they felt engaged, in general, with what was going on in the classroom, some of them approached English more positively than they had in the past:
I remember in high school I hated going to English class. If I could I would make any excuse to skip it and you know, I come here and “oh yeah, it’s English time.” You know, I’m enthusiastic to come to class to hear what’s going to happen next (Semester-end taped class discussion, December 2004).