Faculty of Education and Social Work


About the Network

The Narrative and Metaphor Network links scholars and practitioners around the world working on narrative and metaphor in education.

Scope of the Network

The Narrative and Metaphor Network has set itself the task of promoting dialogue and collaborative research among exponents of the two perspectives, both within New Zealand and internationally. We arrange regular seminars and research conversations in Auckland and have already convened a successful symposium.

We shall be distributing a Newsletter several times a year, through which members of the Network will be invited to keep us all informed of future events in the field, and recent and forthcoming publications.

Why Narrative and Metaphor in Education?

In the last thirty years or so, research in educational theory and practice has been greatly influenced by the claims of scholars such as Jerome Bruner and Hayden White concerning the fundamental role of narrative as an instrument by which human beings make sense of the world. Key approaches taken by researchers in education include:

  • Identification and critique of grand social narratives with implications for education
  • Description of children’s capacity to comprehend and generate stories
  • The notion that, because our personal and collective identity is constructed largely in narrative form, the interaction of teachers and students should be understood primarily in narrative terms.
  • The proposal that narrative should be employed as an organising principle in education.

Over much the same period, another team of researchers in education has applied the insights of George Lakoff, Mark Johnson and others about the extent to which our thoughts and actions are framed by metaphor to their discipline. Key approaches employed include:

  • Viewing the philosophy of education as an array of competing conceptual metaphors (‘teaching as lighting a flame, rather than filling a vessel,’ ‘education as horticulture,’ ‘learning as a lifelong journey,’ etc)
  • Proposing startling new metaphors to critique and modify the education system (‘school as social sorting machines,’ ‘education as initiation,’ etc)
  • Examination of children’s developing capacity to interpret and generate metaphors and its role in creativity
  • The use of metaphors for explaining concepts in mathematics and physical sciences.

Just as very few philosophers have explored the relationship between narrative and metaphor in broad terms (Paul Ricoeur is the major exception), so few scholars in education (and, here, Kieran Egan is the prime exception) have employed the narrative and metaphor perspectives in combination.

The Organisation of the Network

The Narrative and Metaphor Network is co-ordinated by four co-directors at The University of Auckland:

Colleagues in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Auckland who are currently serving as Advisors to the co-directors are:

  • Professor Alison Jones (Te Puna Wananga, School of Maori Education)
  • Professor Saville Kushner (School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice)
  • Associate Professor Toni Bruce (School of Critical Studies in Education)

Colleagues from many departments of The University of Auckland, including Applied Language Studies and Linguistics, Dance, Geography, Mathematics, and Psychology have joined the Network, as well as scholars from Auckland University of Technology, University of Canterbury, Manukau Institute of Technology, Massey University, Otago University, UNITEC, and Victoria University of Wellington.

International Advisory Board

A number of outstanding scholars around the world are members of the Network and have agreed to contribute to our discussions and planning for future events.

Our sponsors

We are grateful for support from:

  • The North Shore Teachers College Trust who provided the funding for our international speaker and conference administration at our inaugural symposium, 5 December 2011.
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