chapter  1
Introduction: Bringing story into education and professional development
Pages 9

I have visited story as a topic again and again in my life and this visit promises to be a big one! All of us – I think it is all of us – visit story all the time, so I will employ the well-used words that ‘story is everywhere’. It is the stuff of our entertainments, our day and night dreams; it is in the comfort that we give to others in times of difficulty – ‘when this happened to me … ’ It is part of the way that people identify themselves and part of the way that communities or cultures are characterised. I see it as related to our inclination to make sense of things – or sense of nothing: as Ben Goldacre says. ‘As human beings we have an innate ability to make something out of nothing. We see shapes in the clouds, and a man in the moon’ (Goldacre, 2008: 226). Goldacre is talking of how scientific data can be distorted into ‘bad science’ (Goldacre, n.d.). Perhaps it is distorted particularly when bad science makes good story! Story is represented throughout the diverse processes of education, both for the

teachers and for those who learn, and this is the focus of this book; however, it can meet a solid block of prejudice in the throw-away comment that it is ‘only a story or “mere entertainment” and therefore not worthy of attention’ (Mar and Oatley, 2008) and in particular not worthy of the attentions of psychological research. I am only the same as any other human in terms of the story-filled nature of my

life, but I have come back to the idea of story again and again because it intrigues me. It is as if a pixie called Story keeps waving to me in the midst of my activities in education and at home, saying, ‘Hello, I am here again … ’ And Story is there again … and again … For example, recently I was writing some curriculum materials on the improvement of group work for undergraduate students, using the principles of academic assertiveness (Moon, 2008a, 2009a; Ireland and Moon, 2008) – and there was Story, waving at me again. Story was present in the manner in which I illustrated academic assertiveness with real-life examples and in the group work scenarios that were presented for discussion in groups of students. So it is time to make greater sense of this thing. I focus on the role of story in

higher education, though the first six chapters are much broader and it is the later chapters which explore the educational uses of story. And it is time to drop

the capital letter of Story, though I do not wish to leave behind the notion of play and enjoyment that is so much gathered in the idea of story. We enter the portals of formal advanced education (and within that term I include professional development), but play and enjoyment do not need to be left at these gates. They enhance serious learning and they remain one of the drivers for the writing of this book. In broad terms the book is an exploration of what is meant by ‘story’, and why

it takes a large role in human existence. I want to understand more about how we learn from stories and how story compares with other forms of expression and about the role of story in advanced education. Like others of my books, this is an act of research and exploration but also a provision of ideas and techniques to enhance education and learning. The enhancement may mean development of deeper understanding – or maybe it could mean that learning is made more enjoyable and there is encouragement towards life-long learning. Story may enhance learning directly or it may influence it through enlivening the act of teaching. My early thoughts on this project were that it would entail a tidy sequence

from a theoretical framework to applications in practice. I thought I had found a framework that would serve as an ordering device for the book (Moon, 2006: chapter 11), but then I found another ten frameworks that story fits or that fit story and I concluded that story is too diverse to be tucked into sequentially related chapters. There would be too much overlapping, so the neat framework idea had to go and now, though the first six chapters follow in a sequence, the next eight, about different uses of story, are not sequenced. Most uses are relevant to most disciplines so these chapters form a sort of patchwork quilt of story – and hopefully the thoughts and ideas add bright and attractive colour to education.