The social construction of narrative: An inquiry toward locating teacher voice

Susan Ellen Canizares, Fordham University


This investigation examined the relevance of narrative as a meaning-making tool in dialogic exchange between teachers. With the researcher as moderator, six early childhood teachers from three schools participated in two focus group sessions to discuss connections between classroom practices and curriculum materials under development. Factoring in the discussions were artifacts (materials brought in by the teachers) and materials presented by a school publisher. Both sessions were videotaped and the transcripts were analyzed to uncover the nature and functioning of narrative activity. The stories' contents revealed that: (a) they were thematic and delivered through literary tools, such as humor and drama; (b) they were socially constructed through negotiation markers, such as questioning and dialog bridges; and (c) they were told for specific purposes, such as to generalize and reflect. Storytelling processes revealed that stories were co-constructed through role exchanges. Data analysis revealed co-constructions in four generative instances: (a) individual partial stories, (b) individual well-formed stories, (c) joint partial stories, and (d) joint well-formed stories. Each instance revealed unique aspects, such as the nature of interruptions and pauses, the telling of piggyback and simultaneous stories, evidence of shared disposition, and evidence of shared experience and philosophy. Hypotheses generated from the findings posed that communication through stories is a way for teachers who know one another, as well as for those who do not, to find commonality in past experiences, to hypothesize about the future, to generalize from collective experiences, and to reflect upon professional work. It was further hypothesized that the social construction of narrative in conversation provides a window into the dynamic nature of the teaching world as seen by a given group of teachers, and that such data provide avenues toward generating authentic knowledge about teachers' classroom lives. In its conclusion, the study suggests that further research explore the relevance of these findings to issues in teacher education, professional development, and perspectives on narrative as research methodology.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Preschool education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Canizares, Susan Ellen, "The social construction of narrative: An inquiry toward locating teacher voice" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9947859.