Our narrative training builds on themes outlined in the book Re-authoring Teaching: Creating a Collaboratory: to consult with each other, bring multiple voices into our teaching and learning, and learn about life experiences from people who seek our services. We also aspire to enact wider narrative therapy principles such as collaboration, transparency, and social justice. These commitments helped create the following five principles that guide our approach to teaching and learning:
Collaboratory blends the two words collaboration and laboratory to convey an environment without walls where participants use computing and communication technologies to connect with a sense of discovery over a shared project. All of our online features – The Collab Salon, Online courses and webinars- build on this principle.
New Zealand Māori and Australian Aboriginal cultures have been highly influential in the development of Narrative therapy, through the experiences of Narrative’s Australian and New Zealander founders Michael White and David Epston. Bringing together the concepts of teaching and learning, the Māori word “te whakaakona” is central to the community’s principles. Dorothea Lewis and Aileen Cheshire offer this description of the word from their article Te Whakaakona; Teaching and Learning as One:
“The New Zealand Maori word ‘te whakaakona’ includes in the one word the concepts of teaching and learning, which traditionally in Western ways of thinking are viewed as different processes involving different positions for the participants. The concept that we can do both alongside each other has much appeal to us as teachers in a postmodern counseling training program. We have been experimenting with teaching practice ideas of working alongside students, making our knowledge and experience available rather than imposed or delivered, and being open to learning from students.”
We create our online resources for people coming from different professional backgrounds, levels of experience and access to resources. We strive to be aware of structural inequalities and to act according to our belief in social justice and human kindness. Some of us have been exposed to narrative ideas and practices for many years. Others have less experience, and perhaps fresher eyes. Some people are seasoned practitioners in independent practice, while others work primarily in community agencies, hospitals or universities. Some of us have personal experience as service seekers dealing with emotional challenges and psychiatric crises in our own lives, and/or with spouses, family members and friends. Some people are talented writers, and others are less confident writers, expressing themselves more freely in song, dance, art, hugs or…. We all come to this endeavor with different skills and knowledge – it is our hope we can become experience consultants to each other.
By flipping our classroom, we deliver content through a variety of forms such as sharing online videos, powerpoint slides and readings (for further description of this principle, see ‘flipping the classroom.’). Whenever possible, we deliver content outside of the real-time meetings, thereby preserving time to engage each other to explore topics in greater depth and to facilitate meaningful exchanges. We encourage our facilitators and faculty to guide and support rather than ‘teach’ and encourage peer-to-peer interaction and learning.
Our narrative training aims to create space where people can meet under the banner of curiosity and collaboration to learn from each other, build bridges, and engage in conversations about how we, as practitioners, can be most effective in the work that we do. As practitioners we all come from different theoretical, geographical and ideological backgrounds. These backgrounds define where we come from as professionals but do not limit where we are going. In the work that we do, we believe it is hugely important that we remain curious and open to learning from others both within and outside our theoretical framework(s).
We would like to acknowledge The Taos Institute for the support they have given to the Re-Authoring Teaching project to build these bridges. This is important architecture and we thank you for helping us with the foundations.