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the uses of narrative, the value of expertise and the authority of experience

how, in a storyboarding workshop, participants shape the process and define the outcomes

Cloud created by:

Bill Law
21 January 2013

Bill Law
the career-learning café

This is about a day-long workshop, on three-scene storyboarding, for teachers and other careers workers, for their programme managers and for interested academics.  In advance of the workshop participants can access two sources... 

an illustrated account of underpinning thinking
an animated workshop presentation

The process starts with a question:

  • what do you hope for from this?

That opening-up question becomes a continuing conversation.  But, to start with, participants are introduced to the process of creating a storyboard.  They are asked to recall a turning-point episode in their own life, or of some other person with whom they can empathise.  In work-table groups of 4-5, they compare that storyboarding experience.  They can then revise their storyboard, or abandon it and start again.  In forming and re-forming groups for this work they are encouraged to work with people they have not met before today. 

Throughout the day they are asked variants of four questions...

  • what do you now hope for from this workshop?
  • what question do you have on how to work with storyboarding?
  • what reservations do you have about it?
  • what potential can you find, or not find, in it?

Their ideas engage cross-flowing interaction in the whole group - the questions become...

...who has similar ideas?
...who has different?
...who has contrary?  
...who has something not yet mentioned?

At some point during the day everybody has said who they are, and have shown what they have to contribute.  Sources of peer help are identified and professional links are made. 

All ideas are flip-charted for continuing review.  And, here’s the point, that on-going conversation makes it clear that some parts of the presentation need close examination, some can be skipped over, some can be ignored.  There is a lot to storyboarding; we were never going to cover it all - but we don’t need to.


Whatever learning up-the-front experts might anticipate, it is never identical to the learning that out-there experienced participants actually get.  The back-and-forth learning between everybody in the place makes the workshop an innovative research-and-development event for us all.

I’ve set out five headings for what that exchange gave us.


1. hopes for how storyboarding might help people

helping them to:

  • express a sense of identity
  • say what they need to say, that is what lies underneath what they do say
  • take charge of their own expression, and be calm where there is stress
  • enable people for whom language is not a tool but a hurdle
  • find and engage active learning-to-learn
  • find a focus in the complexity of contemporary life
  • help to visualise and recognise possible ways forward
  • be able to say it all out loud, meaning it becomes their commitment


2. ideas for how it might develop education professionalism

helping professionals to:

  • learn a new tool for improved effectiveness
  • find new perspective for professional expansion
  • see how to recognise when storyboarding will, and will not, be useful


3. how-to-do questions

practitioners need to know more about...

  • whether the turning-point has to be positive
  • whether it is for other peoples’ stories or only for the person’s own
  • whether ‘futuring’ (storyboarding’s narrative form of action planning) runs from where the person was in the episode or from where that person is now


4. professional reservations

professionals need...

  • a framework that gives a reason for doing this
  • to be convinced that storyboarding actually makes a useful difference
  • a feel for what can be safely shown in a storyboard - not risking too much disclosure
  • an idea of the policy focus for storyboarding - say for employability or well-being


5. ideas for storyboarding potential

working in this way can open-up possibilities...

  • we use storyboarding according to whether or not there is a recognisable turning-point to look at
  • conversations are originated by the storyboard, so there is an ethical equality where both we and they learn from each other
  • storyboarded episodes must not be ignored - they require action
  • the ‘futuring’ process needs to be un-resolved - and therefore open-ended
  • it means thinking about consequences of the facts, what they mean, this person’s purpose
  • different turning-points, over a period, can reveal helpful patterns in a life




I should be clear that I'm the tutor here.  But I don't claim I do it well - that’s for others to say.  I do claim, though, that something like this is required if education professionalism is to be respected, strengthened and voiced.

The implication is that there can be no known-in-advance assumptions about outcomes and how they are to be reached.  The workshop is a conversation between participants-and-tutor as a whole.  And, in the cross-flow of ideas, that conversation is often between the authority of expertise and the authority of experience. 

It’s true that there are unavoidable features of storyboarding format and process that need to be learned.  But it's also true that participants need to say where they are, where they need to be, where they are going with it, and what is helping them - and hindering them. 

One of the most telling signs of what is learned is in the way they first design and then revise the storyboards they create. 

On-line exchange means that the thinking can be widely and continuously extended and made the basis for innovative action...

  • finding what is critical to the value of storyboarding
  • realising what needs more thought, more discussion, or more enquiry
  • signposting needed changes in storyboarding format and process
  • prioritising future action
  • saying what I got wrong and whether I got anything right

Which is why I'm putting it where there is a space - below - for such comments, ideas and purposes.



some of the workshop storyboards will be made available at the career-learning café in due course - there will be an alert at...


 with thanks to staff, students and alumni at
VIA University College, Videreuddannelse og Kompetenceudvikling Aarhus


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