When Aboriginal and Métis Teachers use Storytelling as an Instructional Practice

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In traditional times, storytelling was used for many  reasons—to teach values, beliefs, morals, history, and life skills in Indigenous communities. Storytelling still holds value as it has become a powerful and interactive instructional tool in today’s classrooms.  In this naturalistic research study, the co-researchers used conversational interviewing to explicate how teachers use storytelling as a teaching practice throughout the curriculum in elementary, middle, and secondary schools.  Seven  First Nations and Métis teacher-participants were asked how, why and when storytelling was integral to their professional practices.

The findings reveal that storytelling Indigenizes the curriculum.  First Nations and  Métis teachers do not strive to  represent Indigenous knowledge; instead,  they incorporated Indigenous ways of teaching  within the socially constructed context of their lessons to be more culturally responsive to each and every student.  In using storytelling, they became institutional agents by  providing analogies or connections to ideas that students can understand, so that learning is meaningful and transformative.  Through sharing stories, the lessons carried a deeper, implicit, or multi-layered message that illustrated shared values. Storytelling created a climate that is responsive to the individual needs of the classroom while making analogies explicit to prior learning.

The findings also suggest that storytelling was reciprocal.  Classrooms  became a community of storytellers as stories stand on the shoulders of other stories. As teachers shared personal stories of their experiences, the students responded by sharing their own stories within a caring classroom of trusting relationships. In this way, storytelling created a dynamic of interactive shared learning and equality of  learners. Personal storytelling changes the classroom from having one expert opinion to many voices of experience. A key factor  in the development of close sharing was trusting relationships and  respect for others. What was important is not just students’ respect for teachers, but rather the teachers unconditional respect for each and
every student.

This  study speaks to the need that in educating students, First Nations and Metis teachers  became learners of and teachers of their students.  They centered their instruction more on the lives and activities of the students first, and secondly on making links to the content.  Teaching was about building relationships rather than finding an endless list of best practices as a panacea for instruction.  A caring community was the starting point for effective instruction.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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