Using Stories in PD to Promote Reflection

Using Stories for Professional Development: 35 Tales to Promote Reflection and Discussion in Schools
By James Dillon
(Routledge/Eye On Education, 2020 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Anne Anderson

James Dillon’s Using Stories for Professional Development: 35 Tales to Promote Reflection and Discussion in Schools takes a unique approach to professional development. There are no charts, tables or graphs in this 196-page book. No data to compare. No research to wade through on how to improve test scores. No magic initiatives to turn a school around.

What readers will find instead is a collection of stories about teaching and learning gathered by an educator with 40+ years’ experience. Take your time and take notes when reading the first two chapters. They hold the keys to making this fresh idea work!

Chapter 1, Why This Book?, sets the stage: “stories to hear, think about and discuss with colleagues.” (p. 8) Pay close attention to Dillon’s ideas and suggestions if you want to bring about change in your building.

In Chapter 2, How to Use This Book, Dillon deals with the questions and concerns district leaders, building administrators, and school leaders will have about using stories for professional development. Topics addressed include:

  • How to Introduce the Idea of Using These Tales for Professional Development.
  • When to Use These 35 Tales?
  • How to Present the Tales?
  • How Should the Listening/Discussion be Structured?

The author encourages educators to have some fun with this innovative approach to professional development! It is his belief that when educators have the time to talk and to reflect, positive changes can occur in a building. The tales can be reproduced and distributed to the group; however, the author suggests it is much more effective for the audience to hear the tale read aloud.

Tales of students, teachers, administrators and parents

The tales are grouped into four categories: Student Tales, Teacher Tales, Administrator Tales, and Parent Tales. A veteran educator will be able to identify with many, if not most, of these scenarios. Dillon includes stories from both elementary and secondary schools. Each tale has suggested questions plus comments that may be useful in providing closure to the activity.

The nine Student Tales address a variety of topics including bullying, competition, positive behavior management, and revenge. The Teacher Tales may strike close to home as Dillon addresses teaching a student you don’t like or getting a new principal.

The Administrator Tales and the Parent Tales address problems educators encounter daily.

A “safe and gentle mirror”

The stories found in this book are powerful. The author suggests that these stories provide a “safe and gentle mirror.” (p.12) Taking time to reflect and discuss them will lead to deeper understandings of teaching and learning in today’s world.

If you are looking for a new approach to professional development, check out Using Stories for Professional Development: 35 Tales to Promote Reflection and Discussion in Schools by James Dillon. If you work with preservice or new teachers, this will be an excellent resource.

Anne Anderson is a retired middle school teacher living in Shreveport, LA. Now she shares her expertise as an educational consultant providing educators with practical solutions to teaching and learning problems. Contact her at


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