Course of Action


By Ryan Morreale

A Course of Action

You turn to understand where you exist in PSE (post-secondary education) (Canadian Council on Learning, 2010) and how and realize you have been manipulated by their policies over the years. “Not all institutions have to look the same [and] the system we have now is a model for diminished quality and mediocrity” (Tamburri, 2011, p. 4).  You all are part of this PSE system that exists with poor superiority and ordinariness yet we all want more, something existing of change, something better than what we have. Perhaps a single umbrella approach, meaning that the whole cluster of universities be under the mission and mandate of province-wide policy rather than institutional motivation and local pride. (Clark et al, 2011, p. 3). What about a collective pride and motivation?

“It is not too late for Ontario to create… student-focused education that provides more options for a diverse student population at a cost that is more affordable than the traditional model” (Clark et al, 2011, p. 7).   Perhaps this new plan by the Ontario Liberal Party allowing, money to be “available upfront, before tuition bills are due, for families earning less than $50,000” (Rushowy, 2016).  With this new legislation, perhaps education has shifted in favour of you, you know, in favour of a “willingness of government and the public to support a public higher education system [that] is motivated by its understood contribution to a better quality of life and healthier economy” (HEQCO, 2012, p.9).  You can always sit back and wait for something different, something to change, yet “if we waited for the pedagogical and proverbial path to be mapped out for us, we’d miss unlimited opportunities for teaching and learning” (Zak, 2014, p.1). This is scary – your own path of education – isn’t it easier to go with the system rather than transgress it? “It is like embarking on an adventure without a map instead of opting for the highway and a GPS; both roads lead to the same destination, but the trip is very different” (Zak, 2014, p.3).


Different is also something that scares you. On that note, “there is a strong view that a postsecondary education should produce engaged citizens” (HEQCO, 2012, p.12). Share, collaborate, engage with something on the move. “Narrative is on the move…[and]…Of course, using stories to teach has always been part of the practice of adult educators” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p.1). Yet this is just chaos you say! I want substance, I want quality, I want – not stories! Just be rational now. “Coherence creates sense out of chaos by establishing connections between and among these experiences” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 62). So sharing your experience, your path of PSE, with debates and assumptions you have with the whole ‘system of things’ is something of academic and societal rigor that “falls under the larger category of constructivist learning theory, which understands learning as construction of meaning from experience” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 63).

You as students, as educators, as researchers, as just another student number, you – as you and/or just another person in the chaos of PSE – are something (not even someone) as such – like an object. Mapping your unique path, your stories, your research “informs narrative learning; experience is the object of the meaning making” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 63). You want to be an object going through a system? Who really does? What about moving someone as to transform them, without that industrialized system, such as a machine, rather someone who is delighted to stir the hearts and shape minds (Riddell, 2015, p.1)? Stories of ourselves in this huge spectrum of PSE – some may say – this messy, messy business, “draws us out, lead us beyond ourselves…[and] functions as a powerful medium of learning, development and transformation” (Rossiter, 2002, p. 2).

Now what?

Run away fast – get outta here! You want to: listen to your story, engage in your experience or understand your PSE map. What about the others?  This current state of PSE “could promote academic freedom and remind us that high-quality education cannot be achieved without institutional commitment to good working conditions” (Stewart, 2010, p. 2). Working conditions that promote, celebrate, and support all areas of education – for the sake of this discussion – even the area of narrative stories of you and your education. You “may be too close to the action to see it clearly…[and the]…view from afar may afford them a fuller picture” (Evans & Tress, 2009, p. 8).  Both sets of lenses fit the whole picture, your whole picture of PSE or perhaps the others’ whole picture of PSE.

What do you want out of your PSE? “It ought to produce critical thinkers, scientifically and culturally literate people who can access evidence, connect the dots and communicate with clarity -the key skills, that, in a fast-changing economy, prepare people for the jobs that haven’t been invented yet” (n.a., 2011). PSE must educate people to connect the dots regarding a fast-changing scientific and culturally diverse populace. Higher education – your ideal form of it, creates spaces for you and the other and to connect the exploration between knowledge, experience and your vivid imagination. (Riddell, 2015, p.2) This is pretty bold, yet “Many universities leaders know it. …Universities have lost their ‘foundational narrative thread’ (n.a., 2011).  Narrative stories allow PSE to educate a populace in a welcoming, rigorous, and academic manner while you connect knowledge, experience and imagination. “We ask one another and ourselves how we know the world and how we can live delightfully, courageously and responsibly within it” (Riddell, 2015).

Ordinariness narrative stories wanted – apply within! You should apply! Are you afraid of your story being judged? Enjoy the path it takes you. Don’t be afraid. “Academics tend to be afraid of storytelling as a teaching device. Being seen as ‘storytellers’ rather than rigorous scholars makes professors queasy” (Pacheco-Vega, 2016). You should all be ordinary researchers and educators. You “could be both a storyteller and qualitative researcher and maybe stories are just data with a soul” ( Pacheco-Vega, 2016). Narrative Policy Growth is what you call it? PSE and especially you and your story deserves to be researched, taught, and enjoyed.


Canadian Council on Learning (2010). Navigating post-secondary education in Canada: The challenge of a changing landscape. Ottawa, ON: Author. Online at

Clark, M., & Rossiter, M. (2008). Narrative learning in adulthood. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, 61-70.

Clark, I.,  Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2011). Book excerpt: Time to consider a new type of university. University Affairs, online at

Evans, L., & Bertani Tress, M. (2009). What drives research-focused university academics to want to teach effectively? Examining achievement, self-efficacy and self-esteem. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 3(2).

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2012). Performance indicators for the public postsecondary system in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Author.

Canadian universities must reform or perish (2011). The Globe and Mail Editorial. Online at

Pacheco-Vega, R. (2016). Syllabus-writing as story telling. University Affairs. Online at

Riddell, J. (2015). The importance of delight in the learning process. University Affairs. Online at

Rossiter, M. (2002). Narrative and stories in adult teaching and learning. Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education – ERIC Digest, 24, 1-2.

Rushowy, K. (Feb 2016). Free tuition for college or university promised to students from low-income families. The Star.

Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Online at

Tamburri, R. (2011). New kid on the block. University Affairs, 22-25.

Zak, R. (2014) I got my PhD by making YouTube videos -and so can you. University Affairs. Online at














5 thoughts on “Course of Action

  1. Change in PSE. Heralded, prophesied, and lauded as the way of the future. And yet, we avoid change. Each one of us does. And PSE is made of people just like you and I; people who want a new path, who see that they can’t go backwards, but who will be ever foraging forward into the blindness of the future. Perhaps Trudeau’s plan to alter the budget will be the solution, or perhaps it will be the beginning of the road to free access to higher education for all. Whatever the future holds for PSE, I do believe the road will be paved with good intentions. But, like you say in your blog, we are all different, and we all have ventured a different path to make it to the place we are at today.

    • We do avoid change and let’s be honest –not knowing the future is scary, and well –change is scary!

      We all want more. When entered into PSE, we all want this new path of life, this ‘better’ life. It makes me think of this old saying – a university education is your ticket to the new and better world!

      This path, this work, this engagement of being a stakeholder of PSE, is navigating yourself through an unknown path – no GPS for assistance. As you said Gen, it is the beginning and route of a road that is paved with good intentions.

      There are millions of different paths to take, create one that is designed for you, enjoyed by you and one that engages motivation and passion by you. Use the GPS of mapping and reflecting your narrative educational experience. Share the path with others through narrative mind mapping.

      Enjoy and love the paved road that has good intentions!

  2. Are we manipulated by policies? Or… is there an option for taking a stance? It makes me wonder about what better options might be created for those who want to move forward in life/work-but aren’t finding a philosophical fit within the existing postsecondary system.

  3. I am inspired by your passion for the narrative. I have often found storytelling to be a powerful way to engage my students in the moral/ethical decision-making process. I think it is an important way to connect knowledge to lived experience. My favourite mathematics professor became my favourite because he told a story about calculus. I think it might be about connection. Even in that lecture of 100, I felt connected to the professor and the content.

  4. Yes, I believe we in PSE are influenced by policies – from various levels, stakeholders and players especially in the field of higher education. As some may argue – PSE/high education is a civil liberal right therefore naturally we do have an option to take a stance. Who will hear our stance, who will care about our stance, what will happen if ‘others’ hear our stance? To transgress against the norm of a system is difficult. Yes, the wonderment of not transgressing the system (just going with the ‘flow’) sounds nicer –and fuzzier! What do ‘these people’ do if their philosophical view does not fit the existing PSE? A wise, wise woman once told me…if you start something, never give up, never quit!”

    There is something natural, motivating and engaging when narrative stories are imbedded in education. At times, even just to receive a connection from learners in PSE is all it takes for them to connect the dots, to realize the content in a different perspective, to critically think and to engage in a different way. I think we have lost our way to encourage stories – you know having stories engage education such like tension releases a spring. As was mentioned – power.

    Thanks for the comments/dialogue/perspectives!

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