Narrative Learning

Using History of Sukma Bangsa School as 

Narrative Learning to Enhance Teacher – Student Agency 

Susan Sovia 

Teacher at Sukma Bangsa School 


Learning history produces an awareness of events in the past with a large impact on social change, culture, economics and politics in society. History teaches us experiences and values of human life. We can find out mistakes or successes, weaknesses or deficiencies in the past, therefore we can take the lessons in the future. But today, the curriculum history in the educational system of Indonesia is still considered less important than other subjects. Students only know the history of the past without needing to know the value and the meaning behind the circumstances. 

History deemed to have no correlation to what we do today and as part of future plans. Students are not interested in learning history because the way teacher in delivering teaching activity is monotonous, just explaining the subject and using a minimal of media. Thus, students become passive and what they learnt does not impact for their daily activity, such as becaming independent, good citezen, problem solver, and give contribution for developing society. Students and teachers cannot motivate and affect themselves and others to be more creative to find a way out in dealing with the problems which they face. They must be aware of the importance of change and find solutions together. When a student faces the problem in learning, teacher and students help to escape from these problems. They work together to develop the agency. 

Agency as the, “individual or collective subject’s possibility and willingness to impact (and eventually transform) the activity in the realization of which it is engaged” (cf. Hofmann & Rainio, 2006). We can define agency as “the capability of individual human beings to make choices and act on these choices in a way that makes a difference in their lives” (Martin, 2004, p. 135).

This essay discusses the possibility that could be done to build a teacher- student agency using the method of narrative in the history subject. As a social teacher in the Sukma Bangsa School, I started teaching history that is closest to the lives of teachers and students, which are the history of the Sukma Bangsa School, a place where teachers and students interact, learn and share. The class has developed its own set of daily activities that apply the ideas of play pedagogy and narrative learning (Hakkarainen, 2004, 2006) based on the cultural-historical theories of children’s play and its role in development (El’konin, 2005; Vygotsky, 1978, 2004).

Narrative Learning in School 

Ropo, E. (2009)  argued that narrative teaching can denote, first, use of narratives or arrangement of teaching materials in the form of narratives in classrooms, and, second, a method of teaching with a view to enhancing narrative learning results and narrative learning processes. Narrative learning results can be, for instance, individual and community-related narratives or narratives linked to particular national cultures which are created by pupils when they try to understand and organize things and phenomena. The narratives are invariably constructed in autobiographical processes along with processes related to particular communities and cultures. 

Joanna Szurmak and Mindy Thuna (2013) states that narrative is a powerful tool for teaching and learning for many reasons. The power of narrative lies in the fact that it harnesses the strategies the brain already uses for learning.  The following elements of narrative in teaching are particularly resonant:

a. Narrative makes something abstract more concrete/immediate.

b. Narrative contextualizes information by creating the framework for students to place the new knowledge into (and thus improve their retention and understanding).

c. Narrative allows students to have more immediate emotional experiences that they can relate to (and therefore remember). 

Rainio (2008) claimed that the idea in narrative learning and play pedagogy is to use play and drama to make classroom learning more personal and meaningful to the participants. It also has a potential to lessen the need for teacher control and order so typical in classrooms. Therefore, I prefer to use narrative method in learning. Students and teachers explore different topics and phenomena by taking on the role of characters from a history. We can learn different things from abstract concept or emotions to practical issues. What I want to do is to extend the ideas how to used narrative learning about using History of Sukma Bangsa School as narrative learning to enhance teachers – students agency.  I will illustrate the process of using History of Sukma Bangsa in narrative learning. 

Enhance Teacher – Student Agency through History of Sukma Bangsa School

By the end of 2004, Aceh suffered the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Thousands of school buildings were destroyed; about two thousand and five hundred (2,500) teachers were dead (Media Indonesia, January 7, 2005). Syiah Kuala University - one of the leading universities in Aceh reported that about one hundred and three (103) lecturers died and ninety-two (92) were lost (Media Indonesia, January 11, 2005).

The great disaster devastate physical facilities, infrastructure and exterminate educational resources have enormous influence on the life of Aceh People. Most children in Aceh lost education. It is crucial to create better future generations. Therefore, the reconstruction of the education sector is one of the fundamental aspects. Education is the basis of culture and civilization. The importance of education for the next generations is to create a character of human being better. It is determine need to achieve a high quality education system that is open, in favor of local culture, justify Islamic and Indonesian principles, and humanity as well as oriented to quality improvement of Aceh Children. Based on the present, Sukma Foundation took the initiative to establish the Sukma Bangsa School. On July 14, 2006 Sukma Bangsa School was launch by president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and began to implement the learning process.  

Teachers and students should know the history of their school because it is one of identity inherent in them. When they write autobiographies, they will list the place where they work or interact during their lifetime. Many values can be learned from the history of the Sukma Bangsa School, but gradually the history was lost because the changing of teachers and students each year. Previously, the school communities apply a school culture consistently, but now they became weak gradually. I think, one of the factor is we forget the history that has been growing up with us to become people who have a strong personality. Teachers and students work together, find out the solutions, think critically, and provide the motivation to be an agency.  Every student should participate and agency in a joint narrative classroom practice. 

To deliver a message for students about the part of this history, students and teachers explore different topics and phenomena by taking on the role of characters from a history. We can learn different things from abstract concept or emotions to practical issues. For example when teachers and student simulate to avoid the earthquake disaster and tsunami, the students and teachers involved how to save their self and help each others. That's where they not only learn a sense of empathy but also about living on earth. They can influences the other people to save the earth, protecting the environment and being an ambassador for cleanliness. On the other part of the history, when teachers and students doing an interview with the victim of tsunami, whose family died and lost, they can learn about sadness and struggle. They learn how to be grateful and appreciate what they have. Many values obtained from the history of the Sukma Bangsa School help students not only to know and to memorize every fact but also to develop deep inside historical concept, such as cause and effect. Therefore, narrative methods is the way to deliver the message of history of Sukma Bangsa School which is a powerful learning tool in the classroom to bring abstract concept to the life stories.  


This essay introduces History of Sukma Bangsa School in narrative learning. It can help student and teacher to improve their comprehension and to construct their mastery concept. They are able to think about everyting that they do and (what the effect) consequences in the future.  Teacher can  preserve it by using case study, role play, interview, and simulation. History of Sukma Bangsa School provides many values which can be learnt by others. Teachers and student are able to increase responsibility in learning. They have the power to act and influence the other to respect their own life. 


El’konin, D. B. (2005). The psychology of play. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 43(1), 11-21.

Hakkarainen, P. (2004). Narrative learning in the fifth dimension. Outlines. Critical Social Studies, 2004(1), 1-20.

Hakkarainen, P. (2006). Learning and development in play. In J. Einarsdottir, & J. T. Wagner (Eds.), Nordic childhoods and early education. Philosophy, research, policy and practice in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden (pp. 183-222). Connecticut:

Information Age Publishing.

Hofmann, R., & Rainio, A. P. (2006). “It doesn’t matter what part you play, it just matters that you’re there” Analysing the formation of shared agency in pupil talk and activity in school paper presented at the Language in Action. 

Joanna. S & Thuna, M (20013). “Tell Me a Story: The Use of Narrative as a Tool for Instruction” Indianapolis, IN

Ropo, E. (2009). Identity and values in education.  European Dimension in Education and Teaching, Vol.2 Schneider Verlag Hohengehren GmbH. (pp. 20-34)

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of the higher psychological processes. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7-97.


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