The Narrative Arch as Curriculum Design Tool

Course Planning Revisited

A brief touch base, now that the course ran its second iteration, with a full participation list initial post * . You might remember that we adapted Freytag’s narrative arch to develop a framework for curriculum planning–rather humorous since Freytag’s pyramid is considered particularly helpful when writing dramas. However, so far it seems a realistic representation of the learners’ journeys–maybe something to research? And maybe sometimes too realistic, when it comes to cognitive dissonance!

Narrative Arch and Digital Storytelling

Hence my note of caution be careful with just how much un-ballance you create at the beginning of the course. We just had a feedback round with our participants–now that the course assessment is over–and one of the points made was that we should introduce the whole theoretical framework from the onset instead of exploring it step by step. So this was definitely a bit too much friction.

Another aspect was that in the second year, we had the course fully booked, and I realised after having a coaching supervision myself that the course was at large planned on using coaching and mentoring techniques with our learners. If you have a full course however, there was no capacity to employ these individualised techniques. So this academic year, I will ask some course alumni to become mentors for a small peer-group and hopefully organise similar effects in a peer-learning situation. The mentorship should also help the former course participants to contribute to their own CPD and career development.


This course aims to engage you in a wide and diversified debate of learning and teaching theories, with the emphasis on translating active pedagogies into your learning and teaching practice. You will critically reflect on these pedagogies and their applicability in your discipline, initiating the development of a portfolio of active pedagogies.  

Part of our course description

We have achieved this. The participants stated that the link between theory and practice was strong. They also fed back that the course overall had a significant impact on their own academic practice from changed assessment and curriculum designs, to sharing ideas across their own faculties or institutions. But not only this feedback included that the course made participants brave to try out new things, and gave them the confidence to challenge established paradigms about learning and teaching. These kind of comments made me particularly happy. As we wanted to ensure our course participants would be able to make decisions about their pedagogies appropriate to their own practice, and independent from rigid structures. It seems as if the course participants at large embraced this learning at large.

So bottom line: our story made sense.

Using the narrative arch as guidance to develop the curriculum worked. I am interested in exploring the topic of storytelling in creative and active pedagogies further. And my quest to widen the understanding of active learning as not just PBL and team based learning is far from over! Neither is the translation of creative learning and teaching strategies into Higher Education.

There is of course more to this course than the narrative arch but this is for later reflections.


** FREYTAG, G. 1894. Freytag’s Technique of the Drama: An Exposition of Dramatic Composition and Art, translated and edited by Elias J. MacEwan [Online]. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company. Available: [Accessed 5 November 2018].

See also and ‘The four i of digital storytelling’

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