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Teaching within a Story: Understanding storification of pedagogy

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Storification is an emerging pedagogical technique, albeit research lacks the understanding of its benefits and detriments. This study examines a school in the US that has storified majority of their learning environment into various fictional and nonfictional worlds for students to learn in and for teachers to incorporate in their pedagogy. 11 educational staff and 79 students were interviewed, and classes were observed for 10 days to ground a theory of storified pedagogy. Storification, employed in physical learning environments and in teaching practices, supported pedagogy and decreased student misconduct at the school. Storified pedagogy empowered students through story morals and a sense of transportation, and enabled classrooms to turn into personalized spaces, enhancing the school experience and students’ academic performance.
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International Journal of Educational Research 106 (2021) 101728
Available online 6 January 2021
0883-0355/© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
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Teaching within a Story: Understanding storication of pedagogy
Isabella Aura
a
,
b
,
*, Lobna Hassan
a
,
b
, Juho Hamari
a
a
Gamication Group, Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
b
Faculty of Humanities, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
ARTICLE INFO
Keywords:
Storication
Pedagogy
Learning environment
Teaching practices
ABSTRACT
Storication is an emerging pedagogical technique, albeit research lacks the understanding of its
benets and detriments. This study examines a school in the US that has storied majority of their
learning environment into various ctional and nonctional worlds for students to learn in and
for teachers to incorporate in their pedagogy. 11 educational staff and 79 students were inter-
viewed, and classes were observed for 10 days to ground a theory of storied pedagogy. Stor-
ication, employed in physical learning environments and in teaching practices, supported
pedagogy and decreased student misconduct at the school. Storied pedagogy empowered stu-
dents through story morals and a sense of transportation, and enabled classrooms to turn into
personalized spaces, enhancing the school experience and studentsacademic performance.
1. Introduction
Nowadays, educators face a plethora of challenges to maintain effective and engaging pedagogical environments. With digitali-
zation and growing immigration, student groups are not only increasingly heterogeneous (in terms of race, gender and religions), but
studentsattention spans itself have signicantly decreased over the years with the rise of social media, YouTube videos and pervasive
spread of games (Rymes, 2012). It has, hence, become even more important for teachers to cope with the changing times, and perhaps
utilize some of the same emerging technologies and engagement practices to create interesting learning environments for students. We
have seen increased utilization of serious and educational games (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012; Vos, Van Der
Meijden, & Denessen, 2011), gamication (Majuri, Koivisto, & Hamari, 2018), storication (Akkerman, Admiraal, & Huizenga, 2009),
and roleplay (Heyward, 2010) amongst other engagement strategies and technologies becoming popularly utilized in education.
Of special interest to this research is the growing popularity of storication in education. Storication commonly refers to the
wrapping of an activity inside a(n) ctional or nonctional narrative so that the activity becomes more engaging (Deterding, 2016).
Storication within curricula or school activities is not completely new to education (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990; Sadik, 2008), and
has shown several merits (Armstrong & Landers, 2017; Prins, Avraamidou, & Goedhart, 2017). However, the levels of storication we
see today are unprecedented, understudied, with indiscernible effects. Case in point; a unique school in the United States, one of an
increasing number around the globe, that is the subject of this case study. Located in a low economic area with poor home conditions
and at-risk children, teachers transformed the majority of their curricula, classrooms and school hallways to align with ctional (e.g.,
Harry Potter, Disney, Star Wars) and nonctional (e.g., Grand Canyon, sports arena, ocean) worlds through re-designed curricula and
unique classroom design so as to create engaging, comfortable and home-like school experience for students.
* Corresponding author at: Gamication Group, Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, University of Tampere,
Tampere, Finland.
E-mail addresses: isabella.aura@tuni. (I. Aura), lobna.hassan@tuni. (L. Hassan), juho.hamari@tuni. (J. Hamari).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
International Journal of Educational Research
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijedures
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2020.101728
International Journal of Educational Research 106 (2021) 101728
2
The aim of this ethnographic case study is to examine such holistic, school-level storication so as to answer: How do teachers
employ storication in their pedagogy? And; How is it experienced to affect teachersand studentsattitudes, experiences and
behavior? With qualitative data collected from a storied school the aim is to generate a grounded theory of storied pedagogy and to
provide practical implications. Such a study is necessary to develop an understanding of how to use these strategies to bring about
positive, rather than detrimental outcomes.
2. Background
2.1. Storication
Stories and storytelling are useful to attach meaning to new learning (Piipponen & Karlsson, 2019), thus making new information
more comprehensible, relatable and relevant, consequently increasing retention (Parker & Lepper, 1992; Stewart, 2012). An estab-
lished theory from the work of Bernstein, is that of code theory; language and contexts of pedagogical communication inuence
learning and school cultures, where students shape their values and practical views of the world (Bernstein, 1971). When lessons are
communicated through stories that students identify with, and through meaningful and rich language that is within the vocabulary of
the students and relevant to them, learning becomes more attainable for students (Bernstein, 2003). Therefore, it is not surprising that
educators have, unwittingly or not, long utilized storytelling to enhance their pedagogical toolbox to make learning more interesting
and engaging for students, whether that is in connection with or in separation of Bernsteins code theory (Bernstein, 1990).
Different terminologies have been used to describe these practices, such as, but not limited to; story-based learning and narrative-
centered learning environments (e.g., Dettori & Paiva, 2009; Glaser, Garsoffky, & Schwan, 2009; Mcquiggan, Rowe, Lee, & Lester,
2008; Rowe, Shores, Mott, & Lester, 2011). Recently, the term; storication emerged as a term connected, not only to these storytelling
strategies in education, but additionally to broader strategies of engagement online and ofine. Storication refers to the more holistic
use of stories in a way that creates and communicates a narrative to its audience in a more engrossing and pervasive way (Akkerman
et al., 2009). With storication, activities, for example, in education, are encoded (Bernstein, 1971, 2003), and wrapped inside a story
in a comprehensible way, so as not to just build connections between said activities, as is commonplace in earlier story-based practices,
but also to immerse learners in realities outside the immediate ones (Deterding, 2016), where the new teachings are contextualized and
made more relevant. Such heightened immersion and connection building can engender creativity (Tanggaard, 2014) and feelings of
transportation; an increased cognitive and affective attention allocation that can make individuals more absorbent (Deterding, 2016),
thus making education both; more engaging and effective. Studies show that storication can indeed increase studentsengagement
(Prestopnik & Tang, 2015). In addition to transportation and engagement, storication can enhance studentslearning, retention and
motivation, as well as bring enjoyment to learning activities (Akkerman et al., 2009; Dickey, 2011).
Gameful and playful approaches to education, such as serious games (Connolly et al., 2012), game-based learning (Alt & Raichel,
2020; Hamari, Shernoff, Rowe, Coller., & Edwards, 2016; Plass, Homer, & Kinzer, 2015), gamication (Hamari, 2019; Landers, 2019),
simulations (Rumore, Schenk, & Susskind, 2016; Rutten, Van Joolingen, & Van Der Veen, 2012) and roleplay (Cakici & Bayir, 2012;
Heyward, 2010), are prevailing ways to make learning an interactive and interesting experience for students (e.g., Malone, 1981). A
recurring and signicant feature of these techniques is their extensive employment of narratives and stories (Hassan & Hamari, 2020;
Ke, 2016), often falling under the umbrella of storication practices. Storication focuses on the motivational utilization of stories,
across contexts. It is a growing trend in educational settings, either as part of these approaches, or as a standalone implementation,
albeit little research exists to support its pedagogical benets. Understanding how stories and storication impact learning and
pedagogy has the potential to inform all of these practices across disciplines, along with, arguably, facilitating enhanced learning.
2.2. Storied learning environment
In order to understand storication in the pedagogical context, there is a need to consider it in relation to existing, prevalent
teaching approaches. As storication is often employed in education to make learning more engaging and interactive, it is often aligned
with constructivist learning and how it attempts to make learning active and encourages individual and social meaning-making
(Piaget, 1977). While traditionally, classroom activities are often behaviorist, i.e., teacher-centered and emphasizing rewards in
relation to stimuli (Hassad, 2011), storication is perceived to align with modern effort to accentuate child-centered learning, where
students are given more responsibility and autonomy over their own learning (e.g., Brouwer, Jansen, Severiens, & Meeuwisse, 2019).
Accordingly, storication can be positioned as a strategy to create socially constructivist and interactive education and perhaps
develop learning environments into social and open spaces. Nonetheless, to perceive storication and storied pedagogy in relation to
a larger pedagogical framework, be it constructivism, behaviorism, or any other, further study is necessary to understand how it is
implemented, experienced and utilized by educators and students.
Educators are often responsible for managing the learning environment and practical applications in it (Gremmen, van den Berg,
Segers, & Cillessen, 2016; Salokangas, Wermke, & Harvey, 2020), whether storied or not. Outcomes from storication highly depend
on how they make sense of and utilize storication, reect it in the physical environment of their classes, the digital tools utilized (e.g.,
websites, movies or games), and also in the social and psychological atmosphere they create through it.
Studies show that classroom design parameters explain some of the variation in studentsschool experience and outcomes (Barrett,
Davies, Zhang, & Barrett, 2015). Physical aspects of classrooms, such as furniture and aesthetics, contribute to the comfort level of
students and therefore learning and teaching outcomes (Barrett et al., 2015; Cheryan, Ziegler, Plaut, & Meltzoff, 2014). As for stor-
ication especially, ownership and exibility tend to inuence learning outcomes in these environments as unique facilities and
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International Journal of Educational Research 106 (2021) 101728
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modiability allow different activities within the classroom (Barrett et al., 2015). Hence, while learning environments should be
planned in accordance with learning goals and studentsneeds (Cheryan et al., 2014; Puteh et al., 2015), it is essential to make them
interesting and pleasurable spaces for students (Barrett et al., 2015).
3. Methodology
The aim of this ethnographic case study is to investigate how teachers employ storication in their pedagogy, and how it is
experienced to inuence teachersand students attitudes, experiences and behavior. To these ends, a qualitative anthropological
approach through grounded theory methods (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was adopted to generate new theory of storied pedagogy, and
also to set it in the context of existing theories. The research approach was inductive; allowing relevant ideas to develop throughout the
research process, which is typical for grounded theory studies (Charmaz, 2006) as discussed in the analysis sections.
3.1. Case study description
This case study is of a public American elementary-middle school (K-8), attended by 350 students, 19 teachers and 9 educational
staff. Educators transformed the schools in-class pedagogical practices and the majority of its curricula delivery, hallways and
classrooms to mirror various ctional (e.g., Harry Potter, Disney, Star Wars) and nonctional worlds (e.g., Grand Canyon, sports arena,
forest) to foster learning and positive student behavior. The transition organically began a couple of years ago by some of the teachers
and with the principals approval. Gradually, the transition proceeded through curriculum implementation redesign, massive paint-
ings and murals in some of the school hallways and classrooms redesigns, growing into large-scale storication of the school as seen in
Fig. 1.
At the school, storication is seen to be implemented on a continuum from being part of both physical environments and peda-
gogical activities, to either one of these, to not being incorporated in teaching or classrooms at all by some of the teachers. Additionally,
as part of the storication, teachers started to employ exible seating opposed to traditional seats and assigned seating (Stapp, 2018),
further adding to the modiable and exible learning environments being created. Many teachers started utilizing new teaching
methods to support their existing, relatively traditional, educational tools, and altered their pedagogical thinking in order to make
optimal use of the new environments and make education even more immersive and engaging for the students.
3.2. Participants and data collection
Data collection took place during a two-week ethnographic eldwork to the school. As a common anthropological procedure, a
researcher observed several classrooms between the 6th and 8th grades that were taught by six teachers and attended by approxi-
mately 90 students. After initial participatory observations, theoretical sampling, as part of grounded theory (Creswell, 2012), resulted
in adding questions in the interview guide utilized to interview educational staff and students at the school. The combination of
observational ethnographic eldwork and interviews allowed the researcher to go back and forth between the same people and set-
tings, and to check hunches and follow leads of memo writing at an early stage of eldwork to revise remaining data collection
(Creswell, 2012). Theoretical sampling was used to increase knowledge of the studied people and phenomenon, and to strengthen the
credibility of data (Charmaz & Bryant, 2011).
As summarized in Table 1, a total of 11 educational staff at the school were interviewed. Eight were teachers, two were educational
staff, and one was the principal of the school. Interviews lasted from 10 to 45 min and were carried out in the teachersclassrooms, so
that they could demonstrate their work during the interview. Additionally, a total of 79 students from the 7th and 8th grades
participated in 15 focus groups of three to six students, the average being ve per group. 7th and 8th graders, being the oldest at school
(1214-year-olds), were chosen for the focus groups because they had the most experience with the storied classrooms. The average
age of the participating students was 12.8 years (SD =0.75). The majority of them were White (89 % White, 11 % Hispanic), and nearly
half of them were boys (49 % boys, 51 % girls). Students formed the focus group compositions themselves with the help of their
Fig. 1. Storied classrooms and hallways.
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teachers, so that the groups were of people comfortable with each other. Additionally, 27 school graduates (1418-year-olds) were
interviewed as a group to get insight from former students on their experience at the storied school.
Participation in the research was voluntary, condential, had no inuence on academic or job performance and participants were
able to withdraw from the study at any point. Written consent for participation in the research was collected from studentsguardians
through a form in which research objectives were outlined. None of the guardians withdrew their children, nonetheless, students at the
school were also encouraged to only voluntarily participate. Accordingly, four students declined to participate in the focus groups.
Students and teachers received candy of the value of approximately 0.5 USD after the interviews to thank them for their participation,
as did students who did not wish to participate in the focus groups. Data was collected through audio recording, note-taking and
photographs. Field notes and audio were transcribed, and anonymized for privacy.
3.3. Analysis
This case study employed grounded theory methods (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), based on a constructivist approach (Charmaz, 2006;
Charmaz & Bryant, 2011). With this approach, the aim was to understand the feelings, attitudes and experiences of the study par-
ticipants in an exploratory, rather than a conrmatory manner (Charmaz, 2006). The generated theory is not discovered, but
co-constructed by the researchers and the participants (Charmaz & Bryant, 2011), accordingly, it is essential to bring out participants
views and voices in this approach.
The analysis process included coding (initial, focused and theoretical) (Charmaz, 2006; Charmaz & Bryant, 2011), constant
comparison (data with data, data with codes, codes with codes, codes with categories and categories with categories), as well as memo
writing and sorting, in order to elaborate ideas and thoughts about the data (Creswell, 2012). However, a grounded theory study is not
a linear process (Charmaz, 2006). It requires open mindedness and researchers awareness of their own biases and background, so that
categories can inductively emerge from the data and not be forced into preconceived notions (McGhee, Marland, & Atkinson, 2007). To
minimize these biases, coding was conducted independently by two researchers and the emergent codes and categories were later on
compared and reconciled. Additionally, a dialogue between the researchers was maintained to foster understanding of the generated
theory (Charmaz, 2006).
Initial coding included coding of individual actions, elements and segments of data as literally as possible, which was conducted by
using analytical questions such as What is happening in the data?and How is the participant describing storication?(e.g.,
Charmaz & Bryant, 2011). In gameful and playful practices, utilized elements and practices often spark changes in behaviors and
attitudes (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004), hence, we coded storication elements, as well as the behaviors, feelings and sense-
making associated with them. This was followed by a focused coding to develop abstract concepts through comparing and combining
the initial codes into broader categories. A core concept of storied pedagogy was identied at this stage. In the third step, theoretical
coding; categories were explored and analyzed in relation to each other, reduced and integrated towards conceptual terms, which
revealed three theoretical dimensions of personalized space, empowerment and academic performance. Furthermore, the dimensions
relations to the core concept were examined.
4. Findings
Focused coding around how teachers employed storication in both the physical environment of their classrooms and in their
teaching practices revealed six categories of describing perceptions and experiences of storied pedagogy discussed in this section:
alignment (integration) with teaching, providing a purpose for education, atmosphere (signaling), student (mis)behavior, accommodating
student abilities and sense of transportation.
Table 1
Breakdown of participants and data collected.
Number of people Time Transcript sheets
Observations 100 10 days; 5060 h 40
Educational staff interviews 226 min 106
2nd grade 1
5th grade 2
6th grade 1
7th and 8th grade 4
Other educational staff 3
In total 11
Student focus groups 15 groups 361.81 min 463
7th grade 41
8th grade 38
In total 79
Graduates 27 12.37 min 14
In total 130 70 h 623
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4.1. Alignment (integration) with teaching
The extent to which storication was aligned with teaching and curriculum delivery differed across teachers. Teachers who
incorporated storication in their teaching (English classes) did so by selecting storybooks that allowed them to deliver their standards
through the storybooks instead of traditional readings or workbooks. Additionally, the storybooks were next planned to be reected in
word problems in e.g., math classes and were often utilized to activate class discussions, especially those around morality and
responsible behavior. Teachers, additionally, created student tasks and activities around the stories and the themes of the classrooms,
such as crafts work, student projects, and group discussions, in order to let students construct their own meaning of the studied book in
relation to the subjects they were studying. One of the teachers explained how they utilize storybooks in class as:
Right now were doing kind of this timeline, and were going to go back and look through some of the things and trace some of
the ashbacks and some of the character development and things like that. I usually will give them some type of a choice project
where they can either create a graphic version of itTheres some online websites that weve used before, to do things like that.
Some of them really enjoy drawing and lets say, for example, I want them to illustrate a scene, or last year I had students who,
with a novel that we read at the end of the year, made playlists for the characters and they had to talk about like the lyrics of the
songs and why they chose those lyrics and those songs and how they apply to different things that happened in the story and just
things like that, where theyre kind of looking at it in more than one way.- Teacher #3
The teaching approaches that were employed most commonly in the storied classrooms were constructivist and social
constructivist (see e.g., Piaget, 1977). Most teachers felt that the students were more relaxed, active and ready to ask and answer
questions in class. Storication, especially exible seating, was perceived by them to have encouraged classroom interaction and
cooperation as students were better able to lend a helping hand to each other. One of the teachers believed that the change encouraged
students to engage and participate more in their education at large beyond participation in class. She saw, for example, an increase in
students turning in their homework after the storication and exible seating were implemented. The general, new, social atmosphere
strengthened a positive attitude towards education:
Denitely since I have moved to exible seating, I have fewer students who are failing the class due to failure to turn in work. It
seems like they want to help each other more and they are more encouraging to do your homework. If someone doesnt turn
something in, they will say: "What, you didnt? Why didnt you do that? I cant believe it!" Or: "I cant believe you left your book
at home. Why did you do that?". . . In the past, I used to have a lot of students that- they just wouldnt do it. And I would have
half of the class that didnt turn in their vocabulary work. I dont have that anymore and I dont know if thats directly this
(gesturing towards the classroom) or if its something different with the mindset of the students, but I denitely saw that as a
result. I mean, like, after this change. So, we dont have nearly the number of students just failing to comply with assignments
that we used to.- Teacher #3
4.2. Providing a purpose for education
While teachers incorporated the stories and themes into their teaching in different ways; from mere decorations to redesigning their
teaching, the majority of the teachers felt that storication strengthened their impact on the students, helped them provide a purpose
for education to their students and brought a new excitement to their job. One teacher described her teaching in her Harry Potter
themed classroom as:
We focus on the part of Harry coming from such a rough background, because our kids come from the poorest of the poor and
without any kind of support. And so, we focus on that show and look how amazing he [Harry Potter] became just by doing what
he wanted to do, in making himself become incredible by his own desire, not because he had someone backing him and pushing
him. And we are trying to tell them: "You can do anything you want to do, you just have to want to do it.". . . I dont really focus
on the Harry Potter theme that much in my teaching, its just here for decorations and for the Harrys story for us to stress to
them.- Teacher #6
Furthermore, as communicated by the school principal, the change in the classrooms had not radically changed the way the
teachers worked or taught - as traditional methods, such as workbooks, journals, and student projects were still utilized along with
digital tools, such as computers and videos - however, the principal felt that storication had enhanced the general atmosphere or
mood at school, and through that, it indirectly supported attainment of learning objectives, provided purpose for their jobs and
facilitated learning of additional important life skills and morals, especially in the classrooms that had been storied as Harry Potter:
Have you seen any change in teachers when the classrooms changed? - Interviewer
I guess, what they do in the classroom: no. Well, Ill say, in the back hall I think it hasit sparked them back there, in the Harry
Potter hall. It sparked them and some of the other grades. No [referring to changes in teaching], as far as, what they brought- as
far as their teaching. But what it has done, has put a new sense of pride in their own classrooms and also a sense of one to keep
up… ’cause the atmosphere does matter. - Principal
4.3. Atmosphere (signaling)
The incorporation of storication in the learning spaces signaled the teachers dedication to the students through showing the
lengths of effort and monetary investments they were willing to go through to create a positive atmosphere for the students. Students,
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in turn, felt this dedication and often described storication holistically as cool or exciting, and felt they were happier to go to
school than they were before these changes took place. When asked about the general atmosphere in school, one of the students
described it as such:
Everything is normally positive here. Therere never really any negative attitudes. You know, everyone comes here, theyre
happy. And so, I think thats something with the atmosphere with the hallways and classrooms tended for everyone in a good
mood. Theres never any negativity going on when everyones just happy. - Student #37
Flexible seating was experienced as a vital part of creating a positive atmosphere in the school. While the intention of redesigning
seating was mainly for comfort and perhaps fun, students and teachers believed that it additionally introduced an element of refreshing
novelty every day, while teaching valuable social skills:
Which one do you prefer [assigned or exible seating] and why? - Interviewer
Flexible.- Students in unison
We can still do our work but we could talk to our friends. - Student #24
Just to change up where we sit every day. - Student #49
Is it unfair that some of the students can sit on the couch while others are on hard chairs-- Interviewer
We kind of work it out to where you want to sit that day and if someone always sat on the couch, they would let other people
take their turn on the couch.- Student #77
4.4. Student (mis)behavior
Overall, teachers and the principal thought that storication, and exible seating had an inuence on students behavior. They
provoked feelings of pride and enjoyment in students that were thought to be a key reason for their improved behavior and decreased
misconduct. The principal described the change as follows:
Painting in itself doesnt make a kid behave better, but when they take pride in something, it does. If you were to ask me, if
painting the halls would have done that, Id probably have said no. But you know, three years later, through the process, yeah, I
kind of see it, really.. . . I had two girls yesterday, who were cleaning bleachers, because they had written anti-bullying mes-
sages, which is, hey, great, Im like: I love a positive message, but dont write it on our bleachers. That was dumb. But we
justwe dont have that kind of stuff [misconduct]. And so, I dont deal with issues of that kind of matters very much anymore.
It denitely has, and its gonna, surprise me. - Principal
Most of the teachers mentioned that before storication, detentions, as part of the schools discipline plan, were happening
approximately weekly with an average of six students, based on misconduct during a one-week time period. During the rst year of
storifying the classrooms, teachers reported a major change in students behavior and a considerable decrease in detentions and
misconduct. As time went on and more classrooms were storied, the period upon which detention was decided, grew from one week
to a two-week period and eventually, detentions now occur around once or twice a year. Teachers had not expected such a major
change in studentsbehavior. During the planning and implementation of storication, one of the teachers was sure that the students
misbehavior would extend to the upkeep of the storied classrooms:
If you would have told me three years ago that it would make such a difference, I wouldve laughed in your face.. . . But I was
thinking the whole time we were doing it [storifying]: "They [students] are gonna tear this up. Theyre gonna destroy it." But we
have been two years with no detention. We used to have detention every Friday or every other Friday for the kids who had got to
the detention part of their discipline plan. Andwe have not had a detention. I think we had one kid in one earlier this year.
That was the rst detention wed had in two years. And they really dont mess with the stuff. They took such pride in it. It just
blew me away. You would have never convinced me. We just wanted to do it, because itd be fun and different. And its turned in
to be just incredible for the kids.- Teacher #6
Furthermore, students were motivated to behave more responsibly and, for example, reduced their littering:
I did not think that [storication] would change anything. I did not expect their behavior to become better and I did not expect
a cleaner room.. . . So, if I had known that those things were gonna change, I probably would have done it sooner.. . . When I
swept in the afternoon, I lled up a little garbage can of trash that the kids just threw on the oor; their papers, pencils
everywhereWhich I still have, but now, when I sweep, I dont sweep every day. And so, the rst year that we did it [stor-
ication], that group of kids I went for the rst month of school and did not sweep and when I nally swept, the only thing I had,
was a pile of dust, like just dirt from shoes. - Teacher #1
While these positive changes persisted for a long time for it to be attributed to a novelty effect, a teacher hinted that perhaps a
habituation effect started to take place as students grew used to the new environment and reverted back to some of the behaviors that
had decreased. One of the teachers stated that over the past few months, more than two years after storication was started, a few more
students had been careless, causing trouble at class:
This year it seems like weve had maybe a few more [students] that have been more careless than we have in the last couple of
years, and I dont know if its because its always been like this to them, whereas the last couple of years it was kind of new. So, I
dont know if thats what it is, because I think sometimes when you get used to something, you tend to be a little bit more
careless with it.. . . I think maybe they dont appreciate it as much. - Teacher #3
One example of said carelessnesswas an incident that had happened shortly before the observation period; a student broke a
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chair, which caused trouble for the whole class. As a disciplinary procedure, students seats were assigned until the person would
confess.
4.5. Accommodating student abilities
Flexible seating, introduced as part of storication, provided a variety of seating and lighting setups that increased the likelihood
that students, especially those with disabilities or learning difculties, would nd what ts their needs. Students did perceive it to
accommodate different abilities, and especially helpful to students with learning challenges. However, a student with ADHD,
communicated that she preferred assigned seats over exible seating, as knowing where she sits and next to whom gives her an op-
portunity to focus better on work, and also a chance to ask for help from classmates rather than a teacher:
I have ADHD, and let me just tell you right now; you dont work with certain people. I get way too loud without noticing it and
then get off track of work. I do like the assigned seats because right now, my buddy, his name is (students name), he sits with me
in (teachers name) room. We talk, but we dont talk-talk, well go "hi" and stuff like that, and then like quiet down when its
work. Its like, if I do have a question- and Im a shy person.. . . I could ask him: "Hey, I dont know how to do this. Can you help
me out?"- Student #46
In addition to exible seating, to make sure that every student was equally able to positively experience the storication and to keep
up with the story books and novels regardless of their reading level, teachers aimed to accommodate student abilities by, for example,
assigning seats when needed, observing the performance of individual students, and through utilizing audiobooks simultaneously
while students were reading. One of the teachers described the use of audio books as follows:
Having such a wide range, I guess, of abilities in the classI mean, some of the students desperately need that audio. They are
not capable of reading a book like this and getting the meaning ofcomprehending it. I mean, they might be able to get through
it and read the words in it, but theyre not, you know, theyre going to spend so much time trying to decode those words that
theyre not going to use their brainpower to try to get meaning from it, theyre just spinning their wheels trying to know what
the words are, what does it say. So, I just found over the years that if we just read it together like that, then it is easier for us to
kind of stay on the same page literally and guratively - Teacher #3
4.6. Sense of transportation
In addition to redesigning the physical environment and teaching delivery, teachers frequently implemented storication within
Fig. 2. A model of storied pedagogy.
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International Journal of Educational Research 106 (2021) 101728
8
extracurricular activities at the school, for example, through dress-up, watching movies and arranging (Harry Potter) themed runs, in
order to create an engaging school experience for students. Students stated that collectively the story and theme related activities, and
the physical storied environment combined with how teachers put effort in it and how people acted in it, created a unique school
experience for them and enabled learning whilst facilitating a sense of transportation:
Its like ve days a week, you get to go into this wizarding world. Its amazing.- Student #79
You get to escape from your real world and go to this fantasy world that a lot of people dream about going to, when really, its
school. So, youre learning and getting stuff out of it while going to someplace and escaping everything else.- Student #46
Similarly, the school graduates said that storication enhanced their school experience and facilitated the attainment of different
learning objectives, for example, regarding the books they read. The notion that they were inside the storymade the learning
experience more engaging and educational, creating a sense of transportation. One of the graduates reected back to their former
school experience as follows:
I think when we read the Harry Potters and then we were actually like living inside of it at the schoolSo, well get more into
the book. It makes us learn more.- Graduate
5. Discussion
5.1. Dimensions of storied pedagogy
This ethnographic case study and its analysis aimed to provide grounds for a theory of storied pedagogy to emerge. After the initial
codes were organized into the presented categories, they were organized into three dimensions of personalized space, empowerment and
academic performance. These three dimensions gave insights into the inuence and implementation methods of storication as part of
teacherspedagogy. Fig. 2 offers a visual overview of the emergent dimensions of storied pedagogy. While these results come from a
singular case study, its uniqueness is the scale at which storication was implemented.
Noteworthily, the relationships between the categories, in the middle level, and theoretical dimensions in the inner level, are not
linear nor mutually exclusive, meaning that a category could be reected in more than a singular dimension, which the dashed line
represents. Similarly, storication practices presented in the outermost level have contributed to the emergence of several categories.
The following subsections provide an illustration of the theoretical dimensions of the generated grounded theory and underlying
categories, placing them within existing educational and psychological theory and provide practical implications of storied
pedagogy.
5.1.1. Personalized space
Storication was experienced to inuence the atmosphere of the school. Teachers utilized it to create personally meaningful
classrooms and teaching practices for them and the students. Teacherssatisfaction with their work environment and motivation to put
effort in it, was visible and appreciated by students, which might have created even closer and more personal relationships between
students and teachers (Kumar, OMalley, & Johnston, 2008). The resulting atmosphere is perceived as one of the key factors that
contributed to positive change in studentsbehavior. Generally, the closer student-teacher relationships are, the fewer misconduct
tends to occur (Claessens et al., 2017; Rudasill, Reio, Stipanovic, & Taylor, 2010).
This case study, perhaps, reignites a time-old discussion on arts spending in education. While arts are of value to most communities
(Kay, 2000), funds available to most schools remain relatively limited to extensively facilitate art programs. Arguably, schools with
most limited resources tend to also be the ones in poorest communities that could signicantly benet from art programs. One of the
reasons storication was implemented in the studied school was to intentionally compensate for adverse home environments and to
create an attractive, motivating and homelike atmosphere for students to express themselves and to grow up in.
Nonetheless, storication, as seen from our case study, entails extensive effort; from the thoughtful selection of stories and design of
learning environments, to their utilization. A level of coordination is needed to ensure equal learning opportunities for all students, and
especially with those with ADHD and on the autism spectrum. Despite this effort, students and teachers at the school would rather be
making these investments than reverting back to classical ways of designing classrooms through traditional furniture and relatively
plain walls, decorated mainly with educational posters (e.g., Cheryan et al., 2014). This calls for a re-examination of classroom and
educational environment design.
5.1.2. Empowerment
Findings, overall, indicate that the storied learning environment at the studied school was implemented in a way that com-
plemented both pedagogy and studentsand teacherscomfort levels (see e.g., Barrett et al., 2015; Cheryan et al., 2014; Puteh et al.,
2015) and in line with motivation and empowerment theory (Hassan, Harviainen, & Hamari, 2018; Reeve, 2002; Ryan & Deci, 2000)
and transportation theory (Green & Dill, 2013). Feelings of immersion, transportation and escapism are often a main reason behind
how storication is observed to facilitate information retention and learning (Deterding, 2016; Gorini, Capideville, De Leo, Mantovani,
& Riva, 2011).
Storication, and this transportation, were, in this case study, further employed to facilitate a feeling of autonomy; that the students
are the masters of their own fate despite their backgrounds as teachers employed the protagonists of stories as role-models for the
students with the aim to provide purposeful and psychologically empowering environments and role models for them through these
immersive powers of arts and stories. The teachers almost unanimously based the storication of their classes and curriculum on stories
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that they selected, because they believed the stories, either communicated empowering messages of overcoming adversity and
challenges (e.g., Harry Potter), or because they instilled positive morals, such as the value of friendship and family (e.g., Disney).
Stimulating feelings of autonomy and mastery (as seen through the storication at the school) is essential for human motivation, as
outlined by the self-determination theory (Reeve, 2002; Ryan & Deci, 2000).
5.1.3. Academic performance
The re-designed curriculum through the storication was more engaging for students. Teachers reported that students had become
more active with homework and class participation, which implies that storication may have had positive effects on student learning,
consistent with previous studies (Akkerman et al., 2009; Dickey, 2011; Prestopnik & Tang, 2015). Physical aspects of classrooms
contribute to comfort levels and therefore to learning and teaching as well (Barrett et al., 2015; Cheryan et al., 2014). These positive
impacts of storication, noted especially by the school personnel, strengthens the perceived potential of storication in enhancing
learning and education (Lee, 2012).
Constructivist approaches, combined with the carefully selected storication stories for their moral values, provided teachers
means through which they could hold personally relevant and rich discussions with the students, facilitating, not only delivery of
curriculum, but building the characters of their students and teaching of extracurricular life skills (e.g., Bernstein, 2003; Valli &
Chambliss, 2007). Nonetheless, we observed storied classes, where teaching was anchored in traditional didactic methods (Stewart,
2012), which indicates that storication in a classroom is a tool, like any other that is multifaceted and can be utilized for different
purposes (Dettori & Paiva, 2009).
One of the main purposes storication was observed to be utilized for, was delivering pedagogy through vivid stories, which
communicated lessons and values in a concrete and relatable way rather than in abstract concepts, which is especially benecial for
children of poor communities (Bernstein, 1990, 2003). This, perhaps, might be of value for diminishing the gap of educational
inequality between social classes, as Bernsteins (1971, 2003 code theory suggests that theres a direct correlation between language
and societal class. He argues that schools can induce a change of language code for lower socio-economic children and with this a
change in the way children relate to their community (Bernstein, 1971, 2003). Drawing from Bernsteins code theory, storication, and
the language and values it communicates, might be a powerful tool for helping schools to narrow the achievement gap of students
coming from diverse backgrounds.
5.2. Practical implications
The degree to which the stories are integrated into the learning environment and teaching practices will differ, as seen from this
case study, depending on teachers, their interests and the personal and institutional resources available to them. Nonetheless, this case
study showcases that various levels of employing storication can empower students, support their academic performance and allow
them and the teacher personalized spaces. Storication does not have to take place on a large scale as is seen in this case study, where
almost the whole school participated, but it can perhaps take place through various methods that complement each other in immersing
the students into learning.
Storication can be aligned with educational objectives, for example, using adapted word problems, projects, illustrative props in
class, or through reading material that fullls curriculum requirements and supports students academic performance. Flexible and
alternative seating, furniture inspired from the stories, audiobooks or movies, can be employed to augment that work and support
students with different abilities in class (e.g., Morgado Camacho, Lopez-Gavira, & Mori˜
na Díez, 2017) considering the impact physical
environments have on learning.
Stories with perceived moral underpinnings open the door for moral discussions needed for extracurricular skills (Valli &
Chambliss, 2007). These discussions can take place in classrooms, or through other, digital or non-digital, learning platforms. Stories
that indirectly showcase the value of education can especially be employed to provide a purpose for education to students to perform
better to similarly rise above any circumstances. Such stories and physical storied environment can transport students to different
realities where they might be more empowered than they are in their immediate reality, and where they might be more inclined to
behave positively (Deterding, 2016).
The general decrease in misbehavior, bullying, littering and classroom disruption, reported by the students and teachers of this case
study, might indicate that storication can decrease student misconduct. However, storication is not a magic solution to misconduct;
negative behavior may start to emerge again due to habituation effects. Nevertheless, such behavior might still be infrequent and
deterred by the students themselves, due to the meaning and pride students take in their storied classrooms, creating relatively self-
correcting classrooms.
6. Limitations and future research
While the selected school was particularly unique for the exceptionally holistic implementation of storication, and was studied
from different vantage points, it remains a singular case study. Nonetheless, this study provides a point of departure for more research
on storication that it is now becoming increasingly adopted in educational institutions. The studied school was rather small, which
could explain some aspects of, for example, the social atmosphere at school. As the data gathering period was relatively short, some
ndings may be difcult to discern, for example, we cannot fully discern which aspects of pedagogy emerged as results of storication
and which were in place due to different teaching styles or teacherspersonality. However, as this research is of a qualitative nature,
authentic and common experiences reported by the teachers strengthen results reliability.
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The ethnographic eldwork was conducted by one researcher. While this may have reinforced trustful and respectful relations
between the researcher and participants (Christensen, 2004; Herron, 2019), it may contribute to researcher bias. This was taken into
account on different stages of the research through discussions, the research, and sharing of anonymized interview transcripts, after
necessary clearances, with experienced co-authors. Results and observations were actively presented in research lectures and seminars
for larger reections.
We encourage future researchers to conduct longitudinal examination of change in studentsbehavior and in teacherspedagogical
thinking before and after storication, perhaps through quantitative as well as qualitative methods. Additionally, research around the
digitization of storied, immersive in-class learning environments as studied in this research is needed, possibly through VR, AR and
other technological applications. Overall, storication as an emerging trend in education requires more research on its imple-
mentation, impact and customization, in order to put its benets into full effect.
Funding
This work was supported by the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland under Grant 20190182; the Finnish Cultural
Foundation under Grant 00190298 and the Centre of Excellence on GameCulture Studies (GameCult).
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors report no declarations of interest.
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... With a few exceptions, these affordances were implemented together, facilitating a holistic experience of, for example, immersing oneself into the role of a mayor of a fictitious city. Roleplaying and story aspects in games have been emphasized in research before [66], since they often provide a variety of experiences of collaborative negotiations, networking and examining society and citizenship through multiple viewpoints [18,23,25]. Noteworthily, the classic implementation examples of gamification; points, badges and leaderboards, were relatively absent in the reviewed studies, indicating a growing emphasis on the aim of providing a deeper understanding of civic matters through role taking, storytelling and social interactions. ...
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Gameful approaches to learning have gradually been established as the go-to rhetoric when attempting to increase engagement with learning. This has especially been the case in educational activities that have long-term missions or teach abstract concepts, such as life skills, communal tolerance, or civic education at large, where there exist several pedagogical challenges in making the context meaningful to the youth. However, currently there is no clear overall view on what kind of gameful affordances are utilized in teaching these subjects and what are their reported impacts. To investigate the state-of-the-art of this corpus, 36 empirical papers were identified and systematically reviewed. The current literature, overall, draws quite an optimistic image of the benefits of game-based approaches in civic education. Most of the reported gamification designs included characters and roleplay, social aspects such as coop and chat functions, as well as 3D worlds and game maps for students to navigate in. Furthermore, the corpus reported positive impact of gamification on learning in the context of civic education as well as positive impact on cognitive, emotional, motivational and social experiences and motivation. However, the lack of detailed descriptions of the exact attributes that facilitated these favorable shifts indicates a need for more systematic research to identify the long-term and transferable influence game-based approaches have on formal civic education and students' civic skills.
... Previous literature has highlighted the potential of games for cognitive, afective, behavioral, and sociocultural engagement through elements such as mechanics, content, visual aesthetics, narratives, and musical score [123]. Arguments commonly given for using games to yield outcomes beyond entertainment include (1) visual worlds which facilitate climate change communication [139] and enhance clarity and conceptual understanding [53]; (2) interactivity in safe spaces [123] that allow players to learn through experience and inquiry and construct their knowledge, mechanisms that have been hailed as promising for climate change education [105], and gain knowledge of systems, other actors, and themselves [39]; (3) social interaction in multiplayer systems, considered an efective strategy in game-based learning [161] and climate change education in particular [105]; (4) emotional engagement through narratives that support character attachment [23], role-taking and other features that can engage learners [12] and promote empathy [13,17,22,152]; (5) adaptability to player performance, providing scafolding and facilitating experiences of fow by maintaining an adequate challenge level [123]; and (6) motivation through incentive structures such as rewards or activities that players fnd intrinsically rewarding [123]. ...
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