This qualitative study explores the impact of experienced teachers’ stories on pre-service teachers. Specifically, it examines what stories pre-service teachers hear and remember, if/how those stories impact thoughts or actions, and what factors influence impact.
Analyzing pre-service teachers’ reactions to stories and utilizing their direct feedback on a proposed pathway, the researcher generated a flowchart that details the impact of stories, pathways to impact, and factors influencing movement along those pathways for these participants.
The impacts included: (1) increased narrator influence, (2) reinforcement of original beliefs and pre-existing plans/actions, (3) encouragement to begin acting on original beliefs, (4) challenge of original beliefs and change in plans/actions, (5) challenge of original beliefs and partial change in plans/actions, (6) challenge of original beliefs, but no change in plans/actions, and (7) no impact.
Pathways to impact included listening, reflection, determination of moral, acceptance/rejection of moral, affirmation/doubt of original beliefs and degrees of change/no change.
Factors influencing movement along pathways included characteristics of the narrator, the listener, and the story. Detailed descriptions of factors are provided. Movement along the pathways was complex and included pathways that produced impact (a) indirectly by increasing a narrator’s influence and (b) after a delay, if a later classroom experience triggered recall of a story, re-evaluation of its applicability, and a change in thoughts or actions.
Analysis of study results and literature resulted in the following conclusions: (1) Pre-service participants’ reactions to stories were individualized, highlighting the importance of soliciting feedback from pre-service teachers about what they need in order to learn from a story. (2) Social elements, including interactions with narrators and experiences student teaching, influence impact. Teacher educators should pay attention to how these social elements shape the way a pre-service teacher engages, or refuses to engage, with a story. (3) Teacher educators must carefully consider the purpose of storytelling. Literature suggests the goal is inspiring thoughtful action and recommends (a) sharing the story, (b) encouraging listener-made meaning (McDonald, 2009), and (c) encouraging application of meaning to new contexts by modeling “reflect[ion]-in-action” and by providing application opportunities during more independent student teaching experiences (Miller, 1990, p. 121).