J. Robin Ward


Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2015 taught by Zhang

Jump to: Narrative in Instruction and Assessment

I will use this page to plan out my instructional design project for ETAP 623, Systematic Design of Instruction.

About me

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I am currently in my 4th semester of PhD program in ETAP at SUNY Albany (part-time). It is also my sixteenth year teaching English at Poughkeepsie High School, Poughkeepsie NY, as well as my first year as an adjunct instructor with Dutchess Community College (also in Poughkeepsie). I received my MAT from SUNY New Paltz in 1999.

While I am still in the early stages of forming my research focus, I find I am gravitating towards both the nature of inferential capabilities and the value of narrative structures upon the learner's ability to process information.

In addition to teaching and pursuing my Ph.D., I am also establishing myself as a part-time voice-over artist, and I do some freelance proofreading on the side. In my spare time (what there is of it!) I do historical recreation through the Society for Creative Anachronism, watch perhaps a few too many sci-fi TV shows, enjoy phone calls with my grown son in Massachusetts, and spend quality time with my husband and our cats.

My Topic/Purpose

I want to develop my mini-course around the idea of using narrative structure in lesson planning and curriculum development. The power of the narrative is often overlooked, but it is one of the most basic human communicative tools, and I think it could be better utilized in instructional venues.

Possible topics:

  • What is narrative structure? What are the elements that identify it?
  • What is the power of narrative? What can narrative do that informational text cannot?
  • Analysis of narrative texts
  • Utilizing narrative to illustrate material/skill
  • Students using narrative to reflect on process
  • Students' personal narratives as tools for differentiation
  • Utilizing narrative as teacher self-reflection

Learning Outcomes

Learners who complete the course will gain a solid understanding of the nature of narrative structure and its potential benefits for instructional practice. They will learn how to incorporate narrative structure into instructional activities, as well as how to utilize narrative as an element of assessment and reflection.

Needs Assessment

The course I have in mind is intended for professional educators; however, I am planning with the idea in mind that I might not know my exact audience. Therefore, I have conducted an informal and anonymous needs assessment in the form of a survey which has separate options for Teachers/Former Teachers and for Students/Former Students. My goal is to get a general idea of both populations' understanding of "narrative" means as well as their experience with narrative forms in instruction, either as the teacher or the learner.

The survey can be found here: Survey: Use of Narrative in Instruction.

The anonymous responses can be found here: Use of Narrative in Instruction -- Responses

The responses indicate the following:

  • With only one exception, all self-identified Students/Former Students and Teachers/Former Teachers identified "narrative" appropriately.

For Teachers/Former Teachers:

  • All indicated that they have used narrative "Sometimes" or "Frequently" as an instructional tool, and all but one rated its effectiveness as 4-5 out of 5.
  • Most indicated that they have asked students to use narrative format to reflect on their learning; the ratings of effectiveness were broader, 2-5 out of 5.
  • All indicated that they have used narrative "Sometimes" or "Frequently" to reflect on their own practice, rating its effectiveness as 3-5 out of 5.

For Students/Former Students:

  • With one exception, all indicated that they have experienced teachers using narrative "Sometimes" or "Frequently" to help them understand an academic concept (the exception selected "Possibly, but I'm not certain"); effectiveness was rated 3-5 out of 5.
  • Responses were more widely ranged regarding whether or not they had ever been asked by a teacher to use narrative to reflect on their own learning: "Frequently" 1, "Sometimes" 7, "On Rare Occasions" 5, "Possibly, but I'm not certain" 4; Of those who answered "Frequently" or "Sometimes" the effectiveness rating was 3-5 out of 5, but with a greater proportion of 3s than in any other question.

Initially, these findings suggest to me the following:

  1. The basic concept of narrative is well-known.
  2. Teachers and students are familiar with narrative as an aid to instruction, and generally find it effective.
  3. Teachers are slightly less likely to ask students to use narrative as a reflective tool, although teachers regularly use narrative as an effective tool for their own reflection.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

Although narrative can be incorporated into instruction at any level, this particular course is geared towards educators in secondary schools. The course material is intended to assist educators in any discipline. Both beginning and experienced educators will have potential to benefit from the course, as it encourages use of a methodology that not only improves student connection to material, but also improves the educator's ability to reflect on practice.

While the course instruction is designed to be entirely contained within the wiki, it may also be used as an instructional tool by educators who are instructing pre-service or in-service teachers. The product of the instruction is intended to be a practical application of the methodology, appropriate for inclusion in actual classroom instruction and personal reflection.

Performance Objectives

Course-level objectives

By the end of the course, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Explain the value of narrative as a tool for teaching, learning, reflection, and assessment.
  • Identify opportunities for incorporating narrative elements into instructional activities.
  • Engage in interpretation of narrative to identify meaning within the summary of experience.
  • Design instruction that incorporates narrative elements.

Task Analysis


Participants are expected to enter the course with...

...a basic understanding of the elements that make up narrative

...experience in creating lesson plans

...experience with assessing student work

Unit 1: The Power of the Narrative Form

  • Participants will read scholarly texts on the use of narrative forms in communication
  • Participants will analyze the qualities and benefits of narrative forms in communication

Unit 2: Utilizing Narrative Elements in Instruction

  • Participants will identify and evaluate the use of narrative instructional elements in sample lesson plans
  • Participants will draft lesson plans that include narrative instructional elements

Unit 3: Student Narrative as Assessment Tool

  • Participants will examine a lesson plan that asks students to employ narrative as part of the assessment process
  • Participants will analyze a sample student response for purposes of assessing student learning

Unit 4: Student Narrative as Differentiation Tool

  • Participants will identify how student narratives can be used to differentiate instruction
  • Participants will analyze a sample student narrative to evaluate needs and design differentiated instruction

Unit 5: Personal Narrative as Reflective Self-Assessment Tool

  • Participants will read a sample demonstrating how a teacher utilizes narrative to engage in reflective self-assessment
  • Participants will write their own narrative of an instructional experience, and use it to engage in reflective self-assessment

Curriculum Map

Curriculum Map for Narrative in Instruction and Assessment.jpg

References and Resources