In Defence of Youth Work Storytelling as Methodology and Curriculum in HEI teaching

Connaughton, Paula; de St Croix, Tania; Grace, Pauline and Thompson, Naomi. 2019. In Defence of Youth Work Storytelling as Methodology and Curriculum in HEI teaching. In: Mike Seal, ed. Teaching Youth Work in Universities: Tensions, Connections, Continuities and Contradictions. Tartu, Estonia: University of Tartu/Newman University/Humak University of Applied Sciences/Estonian Association of Youth Workers, pp. 247-255. ISBN 9789985411612 [Book Section]

[img] Text
Story-telling in HE chapter (4).pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (170kB)
nlib-digar_406370_2.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This chapter explores the use of storytelling as part of a curriculum and method for teaching youth work within a Higher Education environment, focusing on the In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW) storytelling process and resources. IDYW, a collective of youth work practitioners and lecturers based in the UK, has developed and undertaken a series of storytelling workshops both nationally and internationally; the process is described in their book 'This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice' (IDYW, 2011), and resources and further reflections are shared on the web resource ‘Story-telling in youth work’ (IDYW, 2014).

Storytelling is well regarded in certain academic fields of practice; for instance, in history, there is a long tradition of using narrative and oral history methodology to illuminate specific events; and in research informed by Critical Race Theory, narratives and testimonies are valued as an insightful method that builds on the oral traditions of cultural groups. Within the youth and community work context, storytelling is part of everyday practice in the form of (for example) case studies written up in annual reports. The IDYW approach attempts to bring rigour, criticality and collective reflection to this everyday use of stories. It builds on community philosophy adaptations of Socratic Dialogue as expressed by Sarah Banks (2013), in which complex questions are explored by a facilitated group using concrete examples.

As youth and community work lecturers, we seek to enable students to explore their practice from personal, political, philosophical and social perspectives. By using the IDYW storytelling approach in our youth and community work teaching and learning, we have created a space where participants' examples are subjected to scrutiny through peer questioning, followed by the identification, analysis and recording of fundamental principles.

In this instance, storytelling and story writing are valid methods of enquiry, methods of research, where "writing no longer merely 'captures' reality, it helps 'construct' it" (Bolton 2010: 84). This point is crucial to the overt political nature of the IDYW stories methodology. It is the very act of countering the dominant discourse, of challenging the prevailing attitudes, what Gramsci called 'hegemony'; that the telling and sharing of stories becomes a radical transformative act, and youth workers become Gramsci's 'organic intellectuals'.

In this chapter, we begin by setting out the political context in which youth work teaching and learning is situated, which prioritises measurable outcomes over narrative and qualitative evaluation. We then explain in more detail why IDYW was set up, and how and why the storytelling approach was developed. We then go on to explain how we and others have adapted the storytelling method in our higher education classrooms, and share a case study of how this works in practice. This is followed by a discussion on what storytelling contributes to youth and community workers’ practice and academic development, as well as an acknowledgment of some key limitations and challenges. The conclusion pulls out some of the key aspects that need to be considered in using storytelling in youth and community work training and education.

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

Published jointly by the University of Tartu (Estonia), Newman University (UK), Humak University of Applied Sciences (Finland), and Estonian Association of Youth Workers. With the support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


January 2019Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Jan 2019 15:06

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2020 12:07


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)