Aboriginal Education, Hebrew Pedagogies, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Pedagogies

The importance of narrative in home-based education: Learning from our Indigenous friends

Yunkaporta and Kirby, writing from an Indigenous perspective, in their chapter from Purdie, et al., entitled ‘Yarning up Indigenous pedagogies: A dialogue about eight Aboriginal ways of learning” (pp. 205-214) had this to say: “… the narrative and yarning modalities of our oral culture have been the keys to our thinking, learning, doing, knowing and being for many thousands of years” (Purdie, et al., 2011, p. 205).  This implies that from an Indigenous perspective, lots of story telling is an important feature of their educational processes.  This is supported by the original research of Etherington (2006), in his doctoral dissertation, Learning to be Kunwinjku.  Etherington points out that “… the function of Kunwinjku*  narrative is to provide the internalised, automatic models on which personal life decisions and behaviours are built, consciously or not, in emulation of the story tellers as much as of characters in the stories” (p. 375).

Story telling is an important Hebraic pedagogical strategy.  Jesus told lots of stories, many of them parables, and the images that are evoked by the stories have a singular meaning, but a multiplicity of applications.  Story telling is an economic means of communicating  complex and important concepts with a minimum of words.  The good story teller can tell the same story over and over, and by emphasizing or drawing attention to different elements in the story, through the way it is told, can help the listener to apply the same story to a range of appropriate circumstances.

The lecture of school has someone telling the listeners what to think and what is important.  The story teller, on the other hand, leaves room for the listener to draw from the story those elements of the story that are appropriate to their own situation.  The lecture abstracts knowledge, the story embeds knowledge in the concrete, but allows the listener to move from the concrete to the abstract as they are able.  Everyone gains from the story.  With the lecture, if you don’t get it, then you are dumb.

Home-based education is enriched by lots and lots of stories – stories from the heritage of the family, Bible stories, stories that provide interest for everyone from the youngest to the oldest in the family, but which also have varying levels of application throughout the family as appropriate.  Shared stories create a bond of relationship.  They provide a relational dimension to learning and education.
*First Nations People of Western Arnhem Land


Etherington, S. J. (2006). Learning to be Kunwinjku: Kunwinjku People Discuss Their Pedagogy.  A thesis submitted in Faculty of Education, Health and Science, Charles Darwin University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Purdie, N., Milgate, G. and Bell, H.R.. (eds). (2011). Two Way Teaching and Learning: Toward culturally reflective and relevant education. Campberwell, Victoria: ACER Press


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