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Using narrative in the classroom: A pedagogy to promote student engagement

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
"Sometimes a person needs a story more than they need food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves" (Lopez, cited in Lewis, 2006, p. 831). It is the purpose of this dissertation is to explore storytelling as a specific pedagogy that supports student engagement. In this dissertation stories or narratives (I use the words interchangeably) are carefully chosen remembrances, that are both age and content appropriate for the student audiences. Narrative (or story) as it is used in this discussion is defined as “…the act of telling, narrating or showing the subjective experience” (Schiff, 2006, p. 21). I will present the notion that the use of stories, told at an appropriate time in the classroom, may be recognized as a powerful pedagogy that goes beyond engaging students and becomes a means of generating a sense of wonder and awe in learners, particularly at the high school level. To support the belief that using stories in the classroom may be one specific pedagogical approach that supports student engagement I have drawn upon ethnography to conduct my work, particularly through the media of storytelling and poetry, in order to give voice to my soul’s deepest longing. Ethnographic research seems to complement this work, because “The complexity of human lives and social interaction cannot be reduced to a sterile laboratory experiment with strict control of variables characteristic of a scientific experiment. Instead, ethnography aims to study life outside of a controlled environment” (Murchison, 2010, p. 4). The data for my research method are gathered from three sources: my own experiences as a teacher and a story teller, the words of expert teachers and theorists on the power of storytelling, and a series of interviews that I conducted with three professors from Simon Fraser University. The interviews focused on the professors’ own use of storytelling pedagogy in the classroom.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Mamchur, Carolyn
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