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what future for narrative methods?

Cloud created by:

Bill Law
22 August 2012

Bill Law
The Career-learning Café

Three-scene storyboarding is a format-and-process for reflecting on how past experience can become a new starting point.  The theory is of turning-point episodes as new departures.  The aim is ready-for-anything flexibility.  The philosophy is that nothing is inevitable

An EU Leonardo project has done enough piloting to suggest that this use of narrative is worth developing.  But there are issues about how far we can sufficiently...

  • enlarge education professionalism
  • expand learning purposes
  • re-situate student narratives

The issues are wide ranging.  The links below will fill you in on storyboarding and related issues.  This is not about so-called academic learning for use in assessment, it is about recognisable learning for use in living.

Your experience of working with any such use would be useful.  The discussion section at the foot of this blog can hold your comments on any issues raised here - together with whatever you can tell about your organisation and role.  Thanks for that.


enlarging professionalism - making room for storyboarding

The issue is do careers-work professionals have the freedom and resources to make good use of these kinds of narrative techniques and processes? 

Some Leonardo workshop participants voice frustration at being in no position to do what they know they are capable of doing.  Going through training in storyboarding can add to that bad feeling.  There are resource and strategy issues here concerning...

  • whether your position gives you enough scope... or not
  • if you have special ways of managing this... and how
  • what the people introducing such methods should be doing about it

expanding purposes - storyboarding for the race and the journey

Narrative methods, like storyboarding, can enable the people who already know what they want to do to find a distinctive voice for realising that purpose.  In recruitment and selection it gives them something special to say - showing the different ways they each stand out from the crowd.

But it’s possible to be too certain about what you want.  So storyboarding is designed, first, to take people through episodes in their lives where they can find clues to new meaning and purpose.   It raises questions about turning-points.

There is a distinction here between getting-ahead competitiveness - as though in a race, and wait-a-minute exploration - as though on a journey.  The distinction gets a lot of attention in storyboarding workshops and follow-up discussion.  There are programme-development issues here concerning...

  • how frequently people want to use the story to compete for a known intention... and whether this works out well
  • how frequently people want to use storyboarding to explore new possibilities... and whether this works out wel
  • what the people introducing such programmes could be doing about this

re-situating narratives - different places calling up different stories 

Narrative methods raise questions about moving on in life - ‘stay or go?’, ‘where can I go‘, ‘what to hold onto and what to let go?’.  They are questions differently answered in different locations - the stories are situated.

Situated areas of community experience are called ‘enclaves’.  They link people together in a sense of belonging.  There are enclaves in neigbourhoods, and also on the net.

Narratives can therefore show how people who are psychologically different are also bound together by shared experience in enclaves.  Although personally different they may well be culturally similar - their stories reflecting shared beliefs, values and expectations.

Project feedback and follow-up discussion sees the importance of this.  Enclaved attitudes can entrap - so narratives need to be re-situated to embrace new possibilities in surprising futures.  There are equal-opportunity issues here, concerning...

  • what range of different situations your people come from... and how that is reflected in their stories
  • whether narrative methods help people to recognise unforeseen possibilities... and help you to see what you can usefully do
  • what people advocating such approaches might usefully do


Narrative methods are increasingly canvassed as congenial ways of engaging students in learning for living.  But a tour through these links shows that narrative methods are not problem free.  Nonetheless, they can usefully represents contemporary experience.  We therefore need to be able to present these innovations to all our stakeholders in terms which are not just congenial but also practicable, defensible and robust.

Thank you for your help with that.

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