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The Storyline method in Denmark

The philosophy on how children learn has gone through dramatically changes in last century. Today most teachers agree that it is not a question about giving the pupils as much information as possible. Steve bell uses the term Filling the empty bags with potatoes for this previously dominating teaching role. In other words, the child was an empty bag being filled with potatoes of knowledge by the teachers, hoping there would not be to many holes in the bag. In Denmark the majority of theorists do not believe in this philosophy either, Steen Larsen describes it as “Tankepasserpædagogik, and Paulo Freire uses the term “Sparekassepædagogik.”

The pedagogical theories in the 20th century led to several changes and adjustments in the Act on the Folkeskole and curriculum guidelines. The 1993 Act on the Folkeskole has often been described as a huge challenge for teachers. A few key words teachers had to take into account could be: holistic learning, pupil in the centre, co-operation and problem solving, active participation, cross-curriculum, and teaching differentiation. Steve Bell writes in a new book published in Danish about Storyline with the title Storylinebogen: En håndbog for undervisere that the Storyline fulfil all these aspects, which could be the reason why Denmark is now “The Storyline centre of Europe.”

The new 1993 Act on the Folkeskole was encouraging new thinking and innovation in the teaching environment. It turned out, as in Scotland in 1965, that there was a big gap between theory and practice. At first there was hardly any enthusiasm for the Storyline method among theorists in Denmark. The Storyline had its breakthrough in practice in different parts of Denmark. Ideas on different plots using the Storyline method continued to develop and today there are many Storyline guidelines with relevant topics to choose between. During this development in Denmark theorists started to show interest and could slowly see potentials in the Storyline method as a good tool to fulfil the Act on the Folkeskole.

One of the enthusiasts who have published many guidelines to Storyline plots is Finn W. Mosegaard. Many of the suggestions, which have been developed so far, have been cross-curriculum Storyline plots. Cecilie Falkenberg and Erik Håkonsson concludes in their new book Storylinebogen that the challenge is now developing new plots with the use of Storyline in subjects on the higher levels in the Folkeskole, which only have few lessons a week. They now believe that Denmark in this case could be a pioneer in this methodological approach of Storyline.

Having studied and compared Storyline plots developed in Scotland and in Denmark, I can conclude that the actual method of Storyline has not changed. The structure (frame) with: time, place, characters, investigation areas, modelling, etc. is still the same. The philosophy with key questions has also succeeded in most cases. What has changed and developed from the Storyline used in Scotland compared with Storylines in Denmark are: new plots, the time spent carrying out the Storylines, organization with cross-curriculum subjects and the teachers.

 In 1994/95 a survey was made in Denmark on how teachers were carrying out Storylines and what difficulties they might have had. 56 teachers described 127 Storyline plots they had carried out in the Folkeskole. I will only point out a few things from the results:

- The amount of lessons spent on a Storyline varied from a few lessons to more than 70 lessons, but the majority of teachers spent 4 to 6 lessons a week.

 - On the higher levels Storyline was mainly used in foreign language classes, were teachers found the method beneficial by including oral and writing tasks. A majority of the language teachers found it necessary to include conventional lessons for clarification of new terms, etc. during the Storyline plot.

The types of difficulties using Storyline were very few, for example:

- Only 5 teachers of 56 thought it was difficult paying attention to democracy and pupils’ participation right (elevmedbestemmele). Some teachers said it was hard to create key questions, others said that Storyline involved a long time to be spent on preparation, and others thought the classrooms were too small.*

* Further results of the survey can be found in Storylinebogen, chapter 19: Storylinemetodikkens aktuelle status I Danmark.    

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