Expanding repertoires for narrative engagement in science education

Year: 2007

Author: Gough, Noel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper uses literary critic Gerard Genette's framework for analysing narrative discourse to explore some of the conditions and circumstances that foster the production and reproduction of particular types of partiality and distortion in the narrative accounts of science typically found in science education curricula (e.g. textbooks and other 'documentary' media). Genette distinguishes three facets of narrative: (i) rhetorical moves that create a particular 'narrative statement', (ii) the events and situations that are being described, i.e., the larger 'story' that is being told, given that the same events can be told in different ways, and (iii) the 'act of narrating'. Critics of particular narrative statements in science education typically focus on qualities of a particular statement that may mislead students in understanding the larger 'story', but tend to overlook the significance of 'acts of narrating'. This paper argues that the particular types of partialities and distortions found in narrative statements in science education are at least partly a function of the limited repertoires of narrative production upon which science educators draw, and suggests some alternative narrative practices from which they might select the statements they make available to learners.