Understanding Narrative Relations in Teacher Education

May. 25, 2010

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 38, Issue 2, p. 87–101. (May 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The use of stories in teacher education is ubiquitous; yet, the question regarding how stories help teachers make sense of their professional lives is more complex than it first appears.

In this article, the authors offer a theoretical framework, drawn from Judith Butler's politics of the performative and Adriana Cavarero's narrative relations, for understanding the dynamics of using narratives of practice in teacher education.

The authors address to the following questions:
what does it mean to say that 'we make sense of our lives in stories' (Leggo, 2008, p. 9)? And, how can understanding this help us use stories in our teaching, in particular when discussing the difficulties the new teacher faces in coming to terms with how she sees herself as a teacher?

The authors draw from Cavarero’s understanding of narrative relations as the political site where one’s unique singularity is revealed in the desire to have one’s story told. The authors compare her insights to Judith Butler’s resignification of injurious speech, examining both positions as they apply to a beginning teacher’s efforts to become the professional she admires.

It is suggested to teacher educators that they use stories from practice to foreground the tension between a teacher’s life and her life-story.


The authors conclude that although many of the questions teachers face may appear straightforward in situ, each question a teacher answers and/or acts upon has ethical consequences in that she acts in locus parentis. Therefore, the teacher is responsible beyond the foreseeable effects of her actions, regardless of whether she can be held responsible according to the letter of the law.

By understanding the irresolvable tension of desire to have one’s story told, a teacher has a better chance of recognising her own vulnerability and that of her students, and of teaching at the starting place of ethics.

Butler, J. (1997). Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. Routledge , New York & London.

Cavarero, A. Kottman, P. A. (ed) (1997/2000). Relating narratives. Storytelling and selfhood. London and New York , Routledge — Trans.

Leggo, C. Springgay, S. , Irwin, R. L. , Leggo, C. and Gouzouasis, P. (eds) (2008). Autobiography: Researching our lives and living our research. Being with A/r/tography pp. 3-23. Sense Publishers , Rotterdam

Updated: Nov. 28, 2010