The Narrative Imperative: Creating a Storytelling Culture in the Classroom

  • Glenda A. Gunter
  • Robert F. Kenny
  • Samantha Junkin


One who studies the history of learning recognizes that story is the one of the oldest and most elemental forms of knowing. Story and storytelling precede the art of writing, with the earliest forms of story consisting of the combination oral speech, gestures, and facial expressions. For thousands of years, storying has “…evolutionarily rewired the human brain to be predisposed to think in terms of story and to use story structure to create meaning and to make sense of events and other’s actions” (Haven K (2007) Story proof: The science behind the startling power of story. Greenwood Publishing, Westport, p.27). Unfortunately, the use of story as a knowledge acquisition tool has declined significantly in many Western cultures during what had become known as the “modern period” and has given rise to a shifting away from story and replacing it with a focus on scientific inquiry Boa-Ventura et al. (2012). Many attribute this transformation to Gutenberg’s printing press when story (especially oral story) as a way of becoming “learned” was perceived to be inferior or backward and a primitive form of entertainment fit only for children, the illiterate, and the uneducated (Bradt KM (1997) Story as a way of knowing. Sheed & Ward, Kansas City; Ong W (1982) Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word. Methuen, London).

Initiated, perhaps, by early successes in psychotherapy and aided by the advent of digital media technologies, we seem to be entering a postmodern era in which story has begun to re-elevate itself from an art form into an emerging change agent that can transform imagination into action (Coles, 1989). Story is enjoying a modest revival with educators because it relates well to constructivist ideas about teaching and learning. Educators who are somewhat reluctant to change are beginning to understand that story is a valid way of knowing things – a “narrative epistemology” as Bradt (Story as a way of knowing. Sheed & Ward, Kansas City, 1997, p. xi) referred to it. Many educators correlate story constructs to Bruner’s ideas about situated cognition, where embedding context in situational (i.e., story) environments helps learners retain and understand information for longer periods of time and with deeper meaning (Bruner, 1990). Situating what is to be learned in terms of story helps learners select, arrange, and organize things in manageable chunks Riessman (1993). Because story requires one to suspend his or her beliefs in order to buy into a premise, a learner is already conditioned to accept change – a necessary precondition to learning. As suggested by some, evaluating story as a valid learning engine is much more complex than simply situating content (Haven K (2007) Story proof: The science behind the startling power of story. Greenwood Publishing, Westport).


Story and cognition Digital narrative Story culture Integrating Integrating story into STEM 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda A. Gunter
    • 1
  • Robert F. Kenny
    • 2
  • Samantha Junkin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department, Educational and Human SciencesUniversity of Central Florida, College of Education and Human PerformanceOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Florida Gulf Coast University, Leadership, Technology & Research, College of EducationFt MyersUSA
  3. 3.Lee County School District, FloridaFt MyersUSA

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