Narrative as a Pedagogical Approach to Teaching Leadership and Engineering

  • Penny Kinnear University of Toronto
  • Annie Simpson


Making the link between theory and practice remains one of the most challenging tasks in engineering education. Leadership, as one of the desired educational outcomes, presents the same challenge: how to move from theory to practice or how to leverage theory and practice to develop leadership skills and attitudes.
Simply learning about leadership does not guarantee a student can act as a leader effectively in a variety of situations. “The Power of Story: Discovering Your Leadership Narrative” uses narrative to link theory and practice. Narrative provides opportunities for students to learn about relational and authentic leadership as they examine, reflect on personal experiences and learn about themselves as leaders. Narrative is used both as a source of information about leadership and leadership practices,
and as a tool for reflecting on and making meaning from experience, [2], and finally, as a means of sharing those meanings with others.
This paper examines the design and development of a course grounded in narrative as both process and product of learning. Pedagogical decision made in the design of the course will be discussed. These include  decisions made to foster the trust and commitment to the class necessary to establish a safe space for personal exploration, the tension between the need to evaluate student subject knowledge and evaluating personal growth, the challenge moving students from learning as product to learning as process and product.