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October 2014

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage students as well as to foster the acquisition of key competences, like verbal and communication skills in the mother tongue, skills in a second or foreign language, imagination, creativity, learning to learn, intercultural understanding, etc.

But how is the art of storytelling (both traditional and digital) taken into account in teachers’ training as well as in school practice, across Europe today?

The TALES project has run an extensive investigation in the partners’ countries (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Italy, Norway, Portugal, UK) through surveys to teachers’ training organization and teachers on the job, to answer the question “is storytelling an asset in our school system?”.

The aim of the questionnaire was to gather information about using stories and storytelling techniques in learning. The questionnaire consisted of questions whose aim was to ascertain how interested and ready active teachers (in primary or secondary classroom practice), teacher trainees and trainers were to test and apply their knowledge in this field.

The main questions for teachers (including students and lecturers) were:

  • Is storytelling (as a didactic tool) a part of the teacher training course in your organization?
  • Are you interested in storytelling as an educational tool? Have you developed or have you been looking for useful material in this respect?

In addition, professional storytellers were also asked about their experience.

From the questionnaire for teachers/trainers we received 161 answers. Most of the respondents (33.78%) were connected with secondary school, followed by primary school (21.62%). The respondents came from Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland, UK, France, Estonia and Canada.

There were 71 storyteller respondents from the following countries: Ireland, Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, France, USA/Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Italy, Switzerland. The respondents qualified themselves as follows: most storytellers are active as a performer or active in education, 50% of them as a storyteller trainer, 42% as a trainer of storytelling techniques in different sectors.

How often do you use storytelling or storytelling techniques in practice?

Storytelling is often used in conjunction with other activities, like for exmaple drama, songs, and props. Several descriptions show that activities are often low-tech and some respondents do not seem to rely on digital storytelling at all. 82.09% said that some of the teachers use stories and/or storytelling techniques in their training practice. The same was asked about digital storytelling and here the results are not so good: 47.54% said “yes”, while 52.46% said “no”.

The result confirms that storytelling elements are actively used.

Why use storytelling?

All respondents (teachers and storytellers) indicate that they feel storytelling in the classroom can support all aspects of learning and development which were included in the questionnaire, including motivation, memory skills, values, emotions, foreign language learning, mother tongue learning, literacy skills, creativity, imagination, intercultural understanding, connecting information from different subject fields and finding cohesion in an abundance of information. The average score for each of the above was over 4 out of 5 (i.e. between ‘rather yes’ and ‘definitely yes’). The only skill to score under 4 (between ‘maybe’ and ‘rather yes’) was the question of whether storytelling in the classroom helps pupils to monitor their learning.

Is storytelling (as a didactic tool) a part of the teacher training course in your organization?62.50% of the active teachers, teacher trainees and trainers noticed that storytelling was presented as a teaching methodology (short theoretical input) and 20.83% claimed that is was offered as a practical training module (minimum 10 hours). 19.44% said that it was not used at all in their organization.

On the question ‘Do you think teacher training students should get some sort of storytelling training to be able to use it in their future teaching?’ all (100%) teachers and trainers answered ‘yes’, from storytellers only 3 % didn’t feel the need.

Would you like to introduce storytelling as a didactic tool in your classroom practice and what would you need?

88.54%of the respondents would like to introduce storytelling as a didactic tool in their classroom practice. To effectively introduce storytelling in the classroom they need methodological materials, good examples, training, money, resources and time.

All teacher trainers are convinced that future teachers should get some sort of ‘storytelling training’ to be able to use it in their teaching.

What are storytellers’ expectations?

What also came out in this respect is that both a storyteller and teacher are needed in this process: the storyteller should focus on the practical side of the training while the teacher is to keep an eye on the didactical process. They need to inform storytellers about the educational framework in their country, in the framework of which storytellers could work. Storytellers offer practical insights for using storytelling in the classroom and could boost the teachers’ confidence and creativity. Also elaboration of content throughout creating stories and storytelling came across as one of the things storytellers could offer. As a result of going through the survey, we can conclude that there’s a need for structured materials on the matter of storytelling in the classroom.

In conclusion, referring to most answers given, we could state that storytelling is a great pedagogical instrument’ and storytellers should inspire teachers and encourage them in using storytelling in the classroom.

TALES is a Comenius Multilateral Project that wants to introduce oral and digital storytelling and the use of storytelling techniques as a pedagogical tool in school education. TALES started in November 2013 and will last 2 years.

Project partners:

Landcommanderij Alden Biesen (BE) – coordinator

The Languages Company (UK)

Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg (BE)

Tallinn University Haapsalu College (EE)

Oslo and Akershus University College of applied sciences (HiOA)

Pädagogische Hochschule Steiermark (AT)

Ouvir e Contar, Associação de Contadores de Histórias (PT)

Politecnico di Milano (IT)