Story-Based Learning: The Beginning

So many discoveries start with a simple question. ‘What if…?’ 

It began for me many years ago. 

My second son was born with a variety of health problems and his first year of life was extremely difficult. There were hospital visits and nights of screaming. We tried everything we could. It wasn’t enough. Eventually he was diagnosed with a hernia and underwent surgery very soon afterwards. Instantly he was like a different child. But there was a cost. 

That first year had passed by and my son’s inability to focus on much other than his own pain made it difficult for him to pick up the cues he needed to make later connections for learning. We went through assessments and he received funding under the NDIS for a global developmental delay. With regular speech pathology and OT-related assistance, he gradually began to catch up on the links he had missed. 

But it got me thinking. 

The education system isn’t designed for all types of kids. My son, who was bright and clever in his own way, but unable to check the boxes that the forms required of him, was going to struggle. 

And I wanted to help. 

It began a process of soul-searching, a journey of examining everything. What if education could be different? What if we start with the student instead of the system? What if we saw each student as the agent of their own story? What if the development of character was seen as equally important to the impartation of information? 

There were many other sparks along the way – my wife and I ran a microchurch for almost a decade, which was greatly challenging and opened our eyes to the difficulties of witnessing any form of true change in a volunteer-based organisation that only meets once a month. My eyes were opened to the incredible power that can be found within a school community – a group of families who gather in a physical location day after day, with a shared vision and passion to see their children flourish. 

Story-Based Learning is a passion project of mine. A weaving together of all of the threads that I believe can create a beautiful story in the lives of each of our students – no matter what type of learner they are. In a story, we just have to turn the next page, write the next chapter, and decide how we want the adventure to end. 

Over the next few weeks, we are going to unpack a little of what Story-Based Learning means. I’m so excited to share this with you because I believe it is an incredibly transformative framework that has the power to change the way we think about learning. Drawing from the lived example of the greatest Teacher of all and forging greater connections between teachers, students and parents; I see Story-Based Learning as a way forward – an answer to what our hurting world desperately needs more of. 

A life-giving story of hope. 

Dave Hughes is the Head of Learning and Innovation at Belgrave Heights Christian School. He is passionate about the intersection of philosophy, theology and education; and is forever in pursuit of better ways to do education in the 21st century.

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