Back to start page

How did it all begin?

In 1965 the Scottish Office Education Department (SOED) published new holistic areas of the curriculum that should include integrated studies e.g. environmental studies, and expressive arts. Environmental studies could not be a subject because it was made up of several subjects: history, geography, science, technology, and health. Not only the content was changing but also the views of how the curriculum was to be taught were changing. The following quotation from the primary curriculum in 1965 shows one aspect of the new philosophy: “How the child learns is educationally no less important than what he learns.” Expressive arts (craft activities, drama and music play) were suggested to be part of this approach.

The Curriculum was strong on principles but weak on practical advice. The attempt to integrate those areas of the curriculum therefore led to the creation of an In-service Staff Tutor Team in Jordanhill College of Education, Glasgow in 1967. The idea was to work with the teachers to help and to develop strategies on how to integrate those aspects of the curriculum. The team, Steve Bell, Fred Rendell, and Sallie Coverly Harkness, who are associated with the Storyline initiative, developed over the following years a new strategy, originally called Topic Work.

The team’s main goals were to develop strategies on how to integrate the different aspects of the curriculum, introduce child-centred approaches, active and discovery learning, and to encourage differentiated group work.

After many workshops and topic work experiments over a long period of time the development of the Storyline method began to take place. During the 70s workshop courses on Storyline were established for Scottish teachers and became very popular. Many teachers and head teachers in west Scotland helped to refine and develop this methodology and in the 80s the fame of the Storyline method began to spread. During the period the Storyline was developed new pedagogical movements seemed to match the philosophy of the Storyline method, e.g. Reggio Emilia, Constructivism, Whole language, and Howard Gardner’s theory about all the intelligence in the classroom.

As the Jordanhill tutors travelled abroad Storyline became known in Germany, Denmark, Iceland, and the Netherlands. In 1986, at a chance meeting of supporters of the Storyline method, it was suggested to make an international association and that led to the creation of The European Association for Educational Design. The organisation has had nine meetings since then, and the tenth anniversary was held in Denmark in November 2000. The organization is still expanding, even with members from countries outside Europe, e.g. Hong Kong and Australia among others. The Storyline has also reached the U.S. where teachers have practised the Storyline method for years with great success.

Back to start page