Narrative Pedagogy


Narrative pedagogy drives Stilwell. Stories are presented through a range of narrative devices and styles. This pedagogical approach focuses on activities such as appreciating different perspectives and striving to reach a shared understanding of events as the vehicles for student led learning.

This approach also facilitates discussion of difficult topics. Stilwell has been designed to provide a learning environment suitable for approaching difficult and traumatic subjects than more conventional pedagogy. Narrative pedagogy allows both critical thinking and reflection in relation to complex situations where nuanced changes can have a big impact (Scheckel and Ironside, 2006). Stilwell creates immersive characterisation and cohesion that allows for the authenticity and cross-connection that is required to ensure that there are appropriate opportunities for students and tutors to engage meaningfully in the narrative. Users of Stilwell are able to investigate situations from multiple points-of-view and understand the events that led up to a particular event. 

Although the use of video in Stilwell has the great impact and captures student imagination most readily, other media are also critically important. Therefore audio (podcasts), images (maps, diagrams, photos etc.) and text based resources (records, local newspapers, case notes, blogs etc.) are essential components.

The unique nature of Stilwell is that it delivers narrative pedagogy which does not produce ‘training video or manual’ type resources that users are simply required to copy in a behaviourist manner. Stilwell is an authentic resource in that it does not always portray events ‘as they should be’, but instead ‘as they are’. In Stilwell users become self-aware as they reflect on their feelings about the ultra-realistic characters they come across which resonates with the self-awareness that is vital for putting learning into authentic practice (Walsh and Crumbie, 2011). Evaluations of Stilwell have confirmed its solid base of creating opportunities to gain the self- awareness that is vital in effectively engaging with narrative pedagogy (Chan, 2008; Young, 2004).

A key feature of Stilwell and narrative pedagogy that resonates particularly strongly in the wake of recent calls for increased compassion in those professions who serve the public (e.g. healthcare and policing) is the humanisation of content and competencies (Walsh, 2011). Linked to this is the drive to require generalist professionals to understand some of the challenges related to areas where it is difficult to gain real life experience. This might be due to the numbers of student professionals versus a limited number of opportunities, for example adult branch students gaining an insight into Learning Disabilities. Or the time-intensive nature of creating authentic and realistic resources to foster inter-professional learning. Narrative pedagogy allows and Stilwell presents opportunities which answer these challenges because these opportunities can be accessed by large numbers of users (Walsh and van Soeren, 2012) and yet remain realistic rather than instructional.



Chan, E. (2008), ‘Evaluating narrative pedagogy in nursing education in Hong Kong’, Nursing Science Quarterly, 21 (3), pp. 261 -267.

Scheckel, M. and Ironside P. (2006), ‘Cultivating interpretive thinking through enacting narrative pedagogy’, Nursing Outlook, 54, pp. 159-165

Walsh, M. (2011), ‘Narrative pedagogy and simulation: Future directions for nursing education’, Nurse Education in Practice, 11, pp. 216-219

Walsh, M. and Crumbie, A. (2011), ‘Initial evaluation of Stilwell: A multimedia virtual community’, Nurse Education in Practice, 11, pp. 136-140

Walsh, M. and van Soeren, M. (2012), ‘Interprofessional learning and virtual communities: An opportunity for the future’, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 26, pp. 43–48

Young, P. (2004), ‘Trying something new: reform as embracing the possible, the familiar and the at-hand’,  Nursing Education Perspectives, 25 (3), pp. 124-130.

In print: Stilwell virtual community and the Trauma Recognition and Management tool with Cumbria Constabulary. This will be published next year in Policing : An International Journal of Policy and Practice.