About storytelling

Storytelling and Research

Storytelling and narrative can allow us to examine actions, intentions, consequences and context.

A good story should be emotionally engaging, capable of application in different contexts and provide a broader framework for understanding generalities, partly because there is a certain looseness of ideas. Generalities in this sense are different from knowledge derived from abstraction: in this case learning and knowledge are the result of multiple intertwining forces: content, context, and community.

In purposeful storytelling people should get the central ideas quickly and stories should communicate ideas holistically, naturally, clearly and facilitate intuitive and interactive communication. Story telling to enable us to imagine perspectives and share meanings about different educational transitions by conjuring up pictures more conducive to a culture of learning and development.

We have used story telling as a research method in a number of projects including the G8WAY project. You can read some of these narratives in the section on ‘Stories’. Alan Brown, Jenny Bimrose, Sally Anne Barnes and Deirdre Hughes adapted a similar approach in their research for the UKCES report on Career Adaptability. In the report they explain:

The research study adopted a retrospective and reflective approach asking adults to reflect on their experiences of labour market transition, comment on the strategies they deployed and what, with the benefit of hindsight, they might have done differently. This approach has analytical power in that it enables individuals to ‘tell their career stories’, who invariably respond well to being given an opportunity to do so. Most individuals in our sample constructed coherent career narratives that had a current value in offering perspectives on where they were now, had been, and were going in their work lives. It could be argued that the career stories of some individuals may have been partly based on past events that have been reinterpreted from how they felt at the time they occurred. However, this misses an essential point about career adaptability: it is how the past is interpreted and reinterpreted which can act as a trigger to positive engagement with education and training when faced with labour market transitions. Hence, it is the stories in which we are interested, rather than searching for an unobtainable ‘truth’ about their attitudes and behaviours in the past.

Findings from this study have, therefore, the potential to widen and extend the knowledge base of career adaptability by providing an analysis of how it could be used. Some key concepts can be retrospectively applied by, for example, using reflective techniques to analyse critical turning points and coping strategies adopted by adults in labour market transitions. In this way, a slightly different perspective on career adaptability is provided, since a young person’s anticipation of their possible future behaviour lacks the perspective of lived experiences. Adults, at different stages of their career development, are able to analyse transitions by reflecting on what actually occurred, what triggered these transitions, how they reacted, how their behaviour changed (or did not change) and how this has impacted on their life course.

This reflective approach has provided deep insights into dominant features that characterise an individual’s career adaptability profile, namely: individual (personality) characteristics; context and opportunities (opportunity structures); learning and development; and career orientation. These features are in constant and dynamic interaction, one with another.

In past work we have developed and piloted a careers e-portfolio to encourage young people to reflect on potential careers and career transitions. However, the form of the portfolio, in its reliance on text inputs, provided insufficient support for storytelling as a narrative for reflection.

Therefore we have developed two new approaches. The first is a platform comprising of series of activities allowing rating of jobs and careers and encouraging an explorative approach to careers choice and transitions. The second is the development of a multimedia tool for storytelling – Storiboard.

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