Narrative Writing Instructional Videos

Susan Barber

Gilberto Martinez

Teresit Barbou

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Susan Barber, Faculty of Education

Project team: Zana Becker, research assistant; Gilberto Martinez (Director, DP, and Editor) and Teresita Barbou (Producer and Assistant Editor), film crew

Timeframe: February to September 2013

Funding: $5,000  

Course addressed: EDUC 472 – Designs for Learning: Elementary Language Arts

Final report: View Susan Barber’s final project report (PDF)

Video: "Introduction to Narrative Writing"

From the final report: When responding to, “How do students describe their own learning from the video series?” Susan wrote, “All 44 students responded “yes” when asked if they would use narrative writing in their future classrooms. In individual comments, several students said the videos: “were good for visual learners”, “technology is a great way to hook student interest”, “the videos really suited my academic strengths”, “showed different ways to use narratives with great strategies”, “great way to review concepts and view them at my own pace”, and “showed steps that I could view over and over.” Read more >>

Description: Many students are asked to write narratives, or “reflections”, in Education courses, especially in the Professional Development Program (PDP).  Other fields where students are mentored or have practica, such as nursing or medical fields, also rely on narratives as a way of learning through experience.  In this project, I will design a series of short videos on how to write better quality narratives, guiding students through levels of complexity, so students increase their understanding of how to learn through this medium.  These videos would be tied to course objectives, course assignments and class discussions.

In my experience teaching, many students do not fully understand how to write narratives that adequately explore their experiences, and hence do not expand their learning to their greatest potential.  Students tend to record the factual information of “what happened” in an experience and ignore the emotional verification of how they felt in a conflict and what they thought about it with hindsight, which can lead to deeper understanding.  I believe there is an art to writing narratives that connects professional experience to personal meaning.  Effective narratives access not only the cognitive but also the affective realms and enable students to grasp more holistic ways of looking at theory and practice.  When written well, narratives provide starting points of discussion between author and self, author and peers, and author and instructors/mentors.  Narratives can be the heart of classroom dialogue and considerably raise the quality of learning.

A major stumbling block for many students is not knowing how to begin, how to trace ideas to their roots, what to include and what to leave out.  An instructor can give examples in class and offer feedback on student narratives, but because narrative writing is a process where skills are improved over time, and especially when students enter their programs with different levels of writing abilities, I feel the instructional videos will advance student learning in many ways because it could be viewed multiple times..

Questions addressed:

  • Will student narrative writing improve over the semester while watching a series of videos that teach narrative writing?
  • How do students evaluate the video series as a learning tool?
  • How do students describe their own learning from the video series?

Knowledge sharing: I will present my findings at the annual SFU Teaching and Learning Symposium in the Spring of 2014.  In May 2013, a paper presentation was given at a conference in Brighton, England at the 2nd annual HEA Arts and Humanities conference entitled, “Digital natives and digital narratives: teaching narrative writing through video.”  Many in the audience remarked on the quality of the videos, their usefulness in teaching, the support to ESL students and how these videos could be used in many other fields.  In June 2013, I was invited to publish a paper on the topic in the Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: an international journal of theory, research and practice (in press).  In September, I will share my findings with the Faculty of Education at SFU. I presented "Effective Narrative Inquiry in Teacher Education: Illuminating the Path" at the Investigating our Practices (IOP) conference at UBC (May 2014).

Barber S. (2014, May). Effective Narrative Inquiry in Teacher Education: Illuminating the Path. Presentation at the Investigating Our Practices 2014: IOP's 17th Annual Conference, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Barber, S. (2013, May). Digital natives and digital narratives: Teaching narrative writing through video. Presentation at the 2nd Annual Higher Education Academy of Arts and Humanities conference, Brighton, UK.