‘Once there was a learning developer…’: the potential of parables to stimulate critique.

Steve Rooney


This article builds on a workshop that took place at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) annual conference in April 2019. It explores the role of the parable in provoking and stimulating debate and critical reflection. Beginning with a discussion of the parable as a form, the article then explores how the oft-cited parables that appear in the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew and Luke help to reveal the subversive pedagogical potential of parables. Returning to the terrain of contemporary higher education, it is argued that the parable is an apt form for encouraging education practitioners to explore more deeply and more critically some of the assumptions and practices they encounter in their working lives. All this serves as a prelude to the presentation of a selection of parables, which are accompanied by some guidance to help structure and support engagement. The article ‘concludes’, at the risk of infuriating readers, with yet another parable.


Learning Development; reflective practice; criticality; creative writing

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ISSN: 1759-667X