Symposium Books Logo

Narrative Research on Learning
Enlarge cover

Bristol Papers in Education

Narrative Research on Learning

comparative and international perspectives


2006 paperback 280 pages, £30.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-60-1

Please note that although the printed book cannot be ordered directly from this website, it can be ordered from any reputable bookseller. Alternatively, to immediately obtain an eBook version please click on the links below to Amazon Kindle and/or Google Books.

About the book

This book examines narrative research from a range of different perspectives. It discusses international and comparative experiences of doing narrative research on learning, paying particular attention to the cultural contexts within which the research is conducted. The ways in which narrative research can address some of the methodological and epistemological issues faced in conducting insightful and systematic research across cultures are also included. The book’s approach is essentially an integrated one, exploring narrative as methodology in both theoretical and practical terms. It also emphasises the ethical issues that need to be considered by researchers engaged in this form of enquiry, particularly where cultural and religious contexts have a significant impact on research.

The first section of the book considers different perspectives on narrative as methodology, including its value in particular cultural contexts. The second section provides readers with international and comparative perspectives on the practical application of narrative methodology in a wide range of arenas worldwide. This combination of methodological issues with practical examples provides opportunities to examine how narrative as a methodology is applied in a range of ‘real world’ situations.

This original and imaginative volume bridges the professional and intellectual cultures and traditions of comparative and international education with those of counselling to show the rich benefits of such cross-fertilisation. It will be of interest to researchers in education and across the social sciences as well as those involved in teaching research methodology and those concerned with the complex ethical issues inherent in cross-cultural research.


Sheila Trahar. Introduction. The Contribution of Narrative Research to Comparative and International Education: an editor’s story


Martin Cortazzi & Lixian Jin. Asking Questions, Sharing Stories and Identity Construction: sociocultural issues in narrative research

Christine Fox. Stories within Stories: dissolving the boundaries in narrative research and analysis

Sue Watson. The Stories People Tell: teaching narrative research methodology in New Zealand

Kim Etherington. Reflexivity: using our ‘selves’ in narrative research

Nell Bridges. Learning and Change through a Narrative PhD: a personal narrative in progress


Angeline M. Barrett. African Teacher Narratives in Comparative Research

George M.P. Bailey. Curriculum Narratives: the global dimension compared

Elizabeth McNess. Conversations across Cultures: the narrative construction of the primary class teacher in England and Denmark

Beth Cross. Embedded Narratives, Negotiated Identities and the Complexity of Learning Landscapes in Upper Primary Classrooms in Scotland and Jamaica

Richard Kiely. 'In Fact I Can’t Really Lose’: Laure’s struggle to become an academic writer in a British university

Sheila Trahar. A Part of the Landscape: the practitioner researcher as narrative inquirer in an international higher education community

Sue Webb. Learning from Elsewhere: ethical issues in a planned piece of narrative research in New Zealand

Tim Bond & Dione Mifsud. Narrative Conversation between Cultures: a novel approach to addressing an ethical concern

Jane Speedy. The Gulbarrian College Gargoyles and the Narrative Gaze: landscapes of the future, imaginative learning and researcher identity

Sheila Trahar. Postscript


George Bailey is a member of two research centres in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK – the Centre for International and Comparative Studies and the Centre for Globalisation, Education and Societies. Dr Bailey’s research interests focus on communities and individuals’ accessing and experiencing of education. He is also a member of the Ethics Committee for the Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of the West of England and is interested in the processes, thinking and outcomes of the drive by governments to link education and health policies.

Angeline Barrett worked for a number of years as a mathematics and physics teacher in further education colleges in England and in secondary schools in Uganda and Tanzania, before studying for a Master’s in Education at Leeds University. This led her into a PhD at Bristol University, comparing Tanzanian with English primary school teacher identity. She is now a research fellow within a research programme funded by the British Department for International Development – Education Quality in Low Income Countries – collaborating with colleagues within a consortium of higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.

Tim Bond is Reader in Counselling and Professional Ethics in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK. Dr Bond is the author of Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action (Sage, 2000) and Ethical Guidelines for Researching Counselling and Psychotherapy (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 2004), as well as many articles on professional ethics. Recurrent themes in his work are developing contextually and culturally appropriate ethics and the ethical challenges of communicating across cultural difference. He is also a member of the Executive Council of the International Association for Counselling.

Nell Bridges is currently undertaking doctoral research at the University of Bristol, UK, exploring counsellors’ experiences of being pressured to practise unethically. She is particularly interested in challenging boundaries between art, science, therapy and spirituality, for example by using narrative methods and autoethnographic, creative and therapeutic writing. Nell has many years of experience as a counsellor, supervisor and counselling educator in a wide variety of settings.

Martin Cortazzi is Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick, UK. He has taught applied linguistics courses and trained teachers in the UK, China, Turkey, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere. He has published many books and articles on narrative analysis and language and education, literacy, vocabulary learning, discourse analysis and cultures of learning.

Beth Cross is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK, with an interest in children’s literacy issues, popular culture and the interface between formal and informal learning. Dr Cross’s work also includes consulting widely across Scotland with local authorities developing projects to re-integrate storytelling into the culture of the classroom.

Kim Etherington is Reader at the University of Bristol, UK, and a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy accredited senior counsellor and supervisor in private practice. Prior to retraining in the counselling field, she worked for more than twenty-five years as an occupational therapist for the UK National Health Service, social services and charitable organisations. Her work at the university includes teaching and supervising research students on Master’s and doctoral programmes, as well as undertaking and writing about her own research. She is particularly interested in using, teaching and supervising reflexive narrative research methodologies, and in exploring the researcher’s personal and professional development through using these methods. As a practitioner researcher her aim is to bridge the gap between practice and research through writing, editing and publishing accessible texts, and to encourage and assist others in doing the same. Her book Becoming a Reflexive Researcher: using our selves in research (Jessica Kingsley) was published in 2004.

Christine Fox is a senior academic in comparative and international education, based at Wollongong University, Australia. Dr Fox has extensive experience teaching and supervising students in narrative research methodology. She has worked and lived as an educational consultant for over twenty years in various countries in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in the UK, the USA and Latin America. Her expertise lies in working in partnership with in-country educational personnel to appraise and formulate policies and programmes that are appropriate to the sociocultural context. She has published widely on critical intercultural communication theory and practice and on the subaltern voice. Dr Fox is immediate past-President of the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society and is a former Vice-President of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies.

Ruth Hayhoe is a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and president emerita of the Hong Kong Institute of Education. She has written extensively on higher education in China and on educational relations between China and the West.

Lixian Jin is Principal Lecturer in Linguistics at De Montfort University, UK. She has taught applied linguistics courses and trained teachers and speech and language therapists at universities in China, Cyprus, Turkey, Hong Kong and the UK. Her research publications are in narrative analysis, intercultural communication, cultures of learning, second-language development and bilingual clinical assessment.

Richard Kiely has a PhD in programme evaluation from the University of Warwick, UK, and has published on ethnographic approaches in language programme evaluation and applied linguistics. A book, Programme Evaluation in Language Education (with Pauline Rea-Dickins), was published in 2005 by Palgrave Macmillan. He is currently involved in research projects into learning to do research and the impact of language proficiency on international students. Dr Kiely currently coordinates the Master of Education TESOL Pathway at the University of Bristol, UK, and has worked as a teacher and teacher educator in Zambia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, France and Ireland, as well as in the higher education sector in the UK.

Elizabeth McNess is a Senior Lecturer in Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK. Dr McNess is Joint Co-ordinator of the Centre for International and Comparative Studies and Head of the Document Summary Service. Her main research focus has been on a sociocultural explanation of the unintended consequences of policy. She has an interest in developing qualitative methodologies such that their capacity to illuminate the ‘private’ can be set against the ‘public’ concerns manifest at a macrostructural level.

Dione Mifsud works as a counsellor at the University of Malta, where he also lectures in counselling skills and career counselling. He was involved in the establishment of the Malta Association for the Counselling Professions in 2002. His research interests involve contextualised counselling supervision, cross-cultural counselling and ethical issues around counselling. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Bristol, UK.

Jane Speedy is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Bristol, UK. She coordinates CeNTRAL, a multidisciplinary research centre in narratives and transformative learning, as well as a doctoral programme in narrative and life-story research and a Master’s programme in narrative therapy. Her research interests include ‘troubling the edges’ between therapy and research methodologies such as autoethnographies, collective biographies and fictional accounts.

Sheila Trahar is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Bristol, UK. She is co-Director of the Master of Education programme and teaches on this programme in Bristol and in Hong Kong. She also teaches on the Doctor of Education programme and is a trained counsellor and counsellor educator. A committed practitioner researcher, Sheila is currently pursuing doctoral research, exploring her own and students’ experiences of teaching and learning in an international higher education community. She is particularly interested in developing ways of teaching research methodology that are creative and accessible and that encourage students to critique the Eurocentric epistemological and ontological perspectives underlying many paradigms.

Sue Watson has had a varied career, from a secondary school teacher of English to her present post as Lecturer in the Department of Health and Human Development at Massey University in New Zealand. She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in adult development, narrative as a research methodology and attachment theory and research. Her main research interest is the nature of the cognitive/emotional environment provided by parents to their infants, especially as revealed in their autobiographical stories.

Sue Webb was born and brought up in Leicestershire, UK, and worked as a secondary school teacher in Bristol, but has lived in New Zealand for the last thirty years. She is now Senior Lecturer in counselling at Massey University. She has interests in counselling process research, women’s issues, school counselling and counselling ethics as well as narrative approaches to research. She is a former President of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors and serves on the Association’s Ethics Committee.

Related and recent books

School History Textbooks across Cultures JASON NICHOLLS

Book Reviews