Narrative Has a Place in Academic Writing in An MEd TEFSL Program

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Michèle Schmidt, Faculty of Education

Project team: Sepideh Fotovian and Charles Scott, Faculty of Education, Laura D’Amico, research assistant

Timeframe: February 2013 to February 2016

Funding: $5,000  

Courses addressed:

  • EDUC 825 – Seminar in Second Language Teaching
  • EDUC 840 – Graduate Seminar

Description: Whether spoken or written, narrative has been championed by scholars as a means of developing awareness of self, others, and the world by particularizing one’s physical, interpersonal, sociocultural, and historical situatedness (hooks, 1999, 2009, 2010; Morrison, 1991, 2008); thus working with one’s own narrative is seen as a legitimate form of inquiry for university students. Narrative has been recognized as a legitimate and particularized form of scholarly inquiry with its own rigors (Andrews, Squire,  & Taboukou, 2008; Clandinin, 2007; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Narrative has further been advocated as a means of developing reflexive educational praxis (Blake, 2012; Freire, 1998; Freire & Macedo, 1987). Finally, because additional language learning, writing, and identity formation for international students are all intertwined (Bathmaker & Harnett, 2010; Duff, 2002; Ivanč, 1998; Morita, 2004), narrative about the dynamics of being an international student and the resultant shiftings of identity can help and their international students explore these new territories collaboratively (Trahar, 2011; Wang, 2004).

We will examine the role of narrative writing in both academic and teaching identity formation among a group of international graduate students enrolled in a TEFSL (Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language) program in the Faculty of Education. A main objective of this project is about improving/enhancing teaching and learning; therefore, the data collection will include feedback about how narratives can improve students’ facility in learning about literacy theory and how to connect these theories to their own experiences. The final report will provide recommendations to enhance learning about literacy theories in EDUC 825 and EDUC 840.

Questions addressed:

  • What did narrative mean to the students before coming to SFU? What do narratives mean to them now? What opportunities did students have to write narratives before coming to SFU? How do students perceive the writing of narrative before they came to SFU and now that they have written the narrative?
  • What do students feel they are learning by writing narratives?
  • In what ways has writing the narrative helped students learn about theory and literacy research? If it hasn’t helped, why not? What could make a difference?
  • How do students describe the process of constructing narratives? What are the challenges? How were these challenges mitigated? What were the factors that facilitated students writing of narratives? (eg., resources, people, process, etc.)
  • Do students’ narratives show evidence of connection to theory?
  • What specific revisions can be made in the teaching of narrative in EDUC 825 and 840?

Knowledge sharing: Presentation at the MEd TEFSL Monthly meetings held in Summer 2014 when all instructors involved in the program meet to prepare the curriculum for the following cohort’s Intensive Orientation Course.  One public presentation convened by MEd TEFSL Program in summer 2014, Annual Collaboration Event in May, 2014. Poster presentation at UBC’s annual local Education conference in Summer 2014. One or two conference presentations are planned for 2014.