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Digital Storytelling in the School of Education


Digital Storytelling in the School of Education

This collaboration began when Dr Teti Dragas and Dr Laura Mazzoli-Smith found a mutual interest in digital storytelling. Laura’s research focuses on narrative methods and she has been interested in digital storytelling using it mainly as a research methodology. Laura’s work married very much with Teti’s exploration into the affordances of digital storytelling as a pedagogic tool, investigating its use in different disciplines and HE contexts. This led to many conversations about how it can work as both a methodological and learning tool began to the impetus for this work in the School of Education. Laura teaches on a first-year module that seemed to very much suit the reflective approach that digital storytelling promotes.  The convener, the lovely Dr Sophie Ward was approached with the idea and the project then begun in earnest.

Historical and Philosophical Ideas of Education is a core first year undergraduate module on the BA Education Studies degree programme.  In this module, students explore the doctrines of some of the major theorists (“Spotlight Theorists”) who have helped shape educational research and practice in the UK and elsewhere. By locating philosophies of education in their historical context, students are guided to explore how ideas evolve over time and to understand the source of some of the key beliefs around teaching and learning. The aim in this project was to see to what extent digital storytelling could provide students with a creative way of connecting these public beliefs and theories to their personal beliefs and theories. The digital story would be created as a means of focusing on their own understanding and personal connection and meaning-making related to a particular thinker and/or topic area explored on the module.

Link to Module Proforma


DS Innovation in Assessment 2020-21 and 2021-22

Digital storytelling in the UG module Historical and Philosophical Ideas in Education first ran in 2021 to a cohort of 100+ first year students both home and international, many of those from oversears working from their home country. The module was run solely online and spanned two terms following a traditional lecture and seminar format which had been adapted to the online environment with both synchronous and asychrononous materials in the form of pre-recorded lectures and online seminars. This was a particularly challenging year as not only in terms of developing the module online but in terms of introducting a new innovation. In 2022 the module ran again to a cohort of similar numbers (100) but more compressed into one term and it was largely run hybridly, with both face-to-face and some online delivery.

Across both year groups, the digital storytelling component came towards the end of the module in order to ensure that the key content as regards educational theories and thinkers had been covered, so that it could be meaningfully drawn on in the storytelling and reflection. Students were directed to produce a digital story that drew on a personal and meaningful experience they had in an educational context. They were guided and supported through input both on elements of creating personal narrative, digital skills development (e.g. sourcing images, video-editing tools and software) and personal and collaborative reflection to create it. Students were then asked to write a reflection on the story, connecting it to a theory/philosophy/thinker. In this way, the digital story became itself a portal through which to delve back into the philosophies theories and thinkers in education which in turn, gave students a new way into exploring and understanding the theories by connecting them and translating these anew through their understanding of their own experiences. The students then followed the reflection with a more ‘conventional’ essay, that discussed the theory/philosophy/ thinker in the context of education. The digital story itself was not assessed but was neccessary part of the assessment in terms of supporting students to come to the reflection and to connect with the course content.

Dr Teti Dragas led the materials development and focus on the online lectures and seminars, including the development of the assessment. She worked with the convener Dr Sophie Ward and Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith to develop these meaningfully into the curriculum and facilitated the lectures and seminars in this area. In 2022 Teti further developed a set of reflective criteria to aid the assessment of the reflection.


Insights and Reflections on DS Innovation: The Story so Far

Overall, Sophie and Laura were both incredibly pleased with the success of the digital storytelling intervention and the what it has brought to the module. This has had a number of key gains including:

  • enabling students to meangingfully engage with the academic content
  • developing their knoweldge through mutlimodal as well as traditional written modes
  • enhancing and furthering their digital skills and supporting creativity and encouraging personal connection with the subject
  • facilitating a connection into a disciplinary and wider academic community through storytelling practice

As Laura has noted ‘the digital storytelling turned out to be a real success’ in particular because storytelling provided students with a way to connect to themselves and each other, at a time when students felt extremely isolated, bringing them closer into a community. The success of the innovation both in terms of curriculum development and assessment has been evidenced both from the student essays, the student feedback (the module scored the highest ever on MEQs in the pandemic year and the highest ever seen in the department) and from core staff. You can read some of the feedback in the section below.

The team have already written about this work in a chapter in a forthcoming book Understanding Education Studies (Routledge 2023) and are currently finalising the analysis and writing up the work on the assessment aiming to publish the findings in the coming year.

Feedback from Staff and Students on DS in UG Education Module

The following quotes are gathered from focus group and MEQ summative feedback as well as extracts from student reflections. Staff also comment on the input and value of the intervention for the module in Education.

'The digital storytelling assessment is challenging and novel.' 'The summative assessments were super engaging and fun!'

Education Student Feedback on DS Assessment