Storytelling by Adults Diagnosed with Terminal Illness: Narrative Identifying through Dialogical Research

Open Access
Sauer, Michael Paul
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 23, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Jo Tyler, Committee Member
  • Rebecca Marie Lafountain, Committee Member
  • Dialogical Research
  • Storytelling
  • adult education
  • Listening
  • terminal illness
  • terminal diagnosis
  • narrative
  • narrative identifying
  • narrative learning
  • narrative medicine
  • dialogism
  • meaning in life
  • end stage
  • good death
  • worldview construction
  • lifestory
  • unfinalizable
ABSTRACT The purpose of this dialogical qualitative research study was to gain insight into the process of storytelling with adults diagnosed with terminal illness as a way of making meaning of their experiences and lives. The study was informed by the conceptual frameworks of story, storytelling, and story listening which are grounded in the theory of dialogism. The concept of narrative learning emphasized another aim of the study which was to explore the way in which participants continue to identify themselves narratively through their stories. Conversational and semi-structured interviews designed to elicit stories were utilized with four male adult participants diagnosed with terminal illness. The verbal stories of the participants were presented in their entirety in the study and interpretation of the stories took place through the dialogical process. The stories were viewed from multiple perspectives and the multiple voices heard in the utterances of the participants were revealed. The findings of the study indicate that there is value in the use of storytelling in order to make meaning of the life experiences of adults with terminal illness. This value lies not only in any meanings co-constructed, but also in the process of storytelling. Both the participants and the researcher continue to gain knowledge about themselves and their worldviews as the stories of the individuals are given space to interact and are allowed to affect the individuals. Viewing the study and findings dialogically, there is no final meaning found in the stories, rather meaning making and narrative identifying were found to be continual processes. Based on the findings of the study, suggestions are offered for further research and specifically for the use of dialogical research. The study added to the development of the conceptual frameworks that supported this research. Implications for the use of storytelling in adult education are also offered.