Create a narrative/s in your topic

The Macquarie Dictionary describes the noun ‘narrative’ as:

  1. a story of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious
  2. the rationale for a sequence of events, presented as the underlying explanation.

Both these meanings could apply to creating a narrative (or range of narratives) in your topic. But you might also be able to add more meanings.

Why add a narrative/s to your topic and what might this look like? To answer this question, have a look at an existing topic with a (new) student’s eyes. This can be hard to do when you are really familiar with it, so it is a form of role play. In your topic, switch to preview as a student to see it with (beginner) student eyes. Ask yourself (as a student might):

  • What is this topic about?
  • Where do I start – it’s big!
  • What are the assessments?
  • What do I have to do?
  • What do I have to learn / where is the content?

As a teacher you know the answers to these questions, but are these answers reflected in your topic? The all-encompassing question is: Does my topic make sense? Or, to return to the dictionary definition of ‘narrative’, does it have a story, a rationale for a sequence of events (which might be resources, activities, assessment, connection)? Does it ‘flow’? Do the topic ‘chunks’ (weeks / modules) connect together?

Focusing in on actions required of students (What do I have to do?):

  • Is the purpose of the activity / series of activities clear?
  • What is the activity’s context – how does it fit within formative / summative assessment?
  • Is it well scaffolded?

Considering these deeper questions will ensure that your topic narrative provides students with a clear understanding of how to succeed in the topic.

You have many choices for creating a narrative that helps ‘solve’ these questions. You could:

  • create a welcome for your topic that situates it in the discipline or course – this is the first thing the student sees, and could be text or video / audio that sits in module 0
  • name weeks / modules meaningfully – they are signposts for the topic’s progression
  • contextualise weeks / modules – this could be a summary of what will be covered, questions to consider, a list of tasks and time on task, a visual representation and/or video / audio
  • provide instructions for activities and assessments – this could be a description that sits under the activity and is visible on the homepage, or an ordered list of actions
  • use HTML editor features such as headings, text styles (eg call-out boxes), labels and/or horizontal rules to create a narration pathway.

Personalise your narrative – bring your presence to life and talk to the student (video / audio or text). Explain, instruct, support, number, highlight, emphasise, encourage, draw attention to, remind, challenge, play … These narrative actions will take the hard work out of navigating your topic and leave students free to learn and engage.

Not sure what to say? If you have a Study Guide and/or PowerPoint that you use in class and upload to FLO, you could ‘unpack’ these and insert them at key points in your FLO site instead. Students will remain located in the FLO site rather than opening a file that takes them out of the site. This narrative strategy could free up class time for other activities and potentially bring the FLO site into the classroom.

The ultimate verb for creating a narrative is ‘narrativise’ – story-tell your topic and ask your students for feedback. Use their queries to build future narratives. In the bigger picture, you are providing options for comprehension (Universal Design Guideline ‘Provide multiple means of representation’).

Andrea Rankin
Learning Designer – CILT

Posted in
Ed tech

Leave a Reply