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Bringing it Back to the Learner

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Awhile back I shared some of my thoughts around research, theory and practice. Today I reflect on how all of these concepts come back to the learner. As I have moved into another identity of a researcher, I have begun to contemplate the significance of the “learner.” As a teacher, it always came back to the learner and in the role of a future K-12 researcher, this premise has altered slightly but it still reflects the idea of the “learner.” In this context, I look at my research participants and I present the narratives (“the story”). My research findings could have potential implications for pedagogy and ultimately the “learner.” What I take from this discussion is the concept of a “narrative.”

During high school I really wanted to be a journalist. I loved writing and reporting the story. I wrote for my high school paper and then later in university I wrote for the university paper and in each of these experiences I had the opportunity to share narratives and stories I had investigated. Although I never pursued a career as a journalist, what fascinated me with this idea of being a reporter was sharing narratives and stories. This fascination continued during my masters, I read a book on narratives. In this book, the researcher Curtis (2006) reflected on how empowering narratives can be. Narratives have the potential to change. It is also through a narrative that we gain a better understanding of a social phenomenon.  So you are probably wondering how does this relate back to this idea of a “learner?” It is quite simple actually. As a teacher, you can be the researcher and your students are the participants. Ask them questions and get to know their stories. When you have a better understanding of their learning needs, you can then plan more purposefully.

One way to do this is to engage your kids in the narrative process. Encourage them to tell stories about themselves and become “storytellers.”   It might be done multimodally and not necessarily in writing.  They should sing it, dance it, or even paint it. However, have them express aspects of their life.  Through these narratives you will learn a lot about your students. How they choose to tell these narratives (i.e. song, dance etc.) will tell you something about them as a learner. Perhaps they prefer singing to writing. Or maybe they just love to paint. These are all aspects that can be incorporated into your lessons. It seems simple right? However, you are wondering how can I do this?

For the elementary teacher, it might start with taking time out of each day to have a “talking circle” and encouraging your students to share a story from the day.  You might provide your students with sketchbooks and encourage them to reflect via different modes (i.e. pictures, words, etc.) about the stories they see around them. You might even get all your kids to create digital journals, encouraging your students to note “stories” in their surroundings.  Perhaps you will set up  Twitter accounts and get your kids to “tweet” out their stories using hashtags etc..  I was really inspired by this TED talk recently about Twitter stories.

It is also an excellent way of getting your kids to tell their narratives and for you to get to know your learners.