d) Generating knowledge with a living theory methodology

 

  

i)       The importance of forming good questions
As with improving practice, generating knowledge relies on asking, researching and answering good questions. At the present time there is much work to be done on establishing the appropriate epistemology for evaluating the quality of claims to educational knowledge from within a living theory perspective. So, I think good questions in the present can be focused on the expression, clarification, evolution and legitimation of living standards of judgment.

 

ii)      Using action reflection cycles in the generation of educational knowledge
The generation of educational knowledge includes knowledge of a living theory methodology. In the story of the growth of my educational knowledge my most recent contributions have focused on the explication of a living theory methodology for improving practice and generating knowledge (Whitehead, 2009). In my analysis of an individual’s educational development (Whitehead, 1985) I suggest that educational researchers adopt an action reflection form in generating a living form of theory:
The approach to educational theory I am suggesting we adopt, rests on a number of assumptions concerning both the idea of a 'living form of theory' and the personal and social criteria which can be used to criticize the theory. I use the term a 'living form of theory' to distinguish the suggested approach from the 'linguistic form' in which traditional theories are presented for criticism. In a living approach to educational theory I am suggesting that teacher action-researchers present their claims to know how and why they are attempting to overcome practical educational problems in this form:
I experience a problem when some of my educational values are negated in my practice.
I imagine a solution to my problem.
I act in the direction of my solution.
I evaluate the outcomes of my actions.
I modify my problems, ideas and actions in the light of my evaluations.
(p. 98)
In a living theory methodology the individual includes the unique constellation of values that are used to give meaning and purpose to their existence. In the course of the enquiry these values are expressed, clarified and evolved as explanatory principles in explanations of educational influences in learning. The values flow with a life-affirming energy and are expressed in the relational dynamics of educational relationships.
One of the tasks, for those interested in spreading the educational influence and academic legitimation of living educational theories and a living theory methodology, is to find appropriate ways of representing the flows of life-affirming energy with values as explanatory principles in narratives of educational influences in learning. It is to find appropriate ways of engaging in the boundaries of the power relations that are both resistant and supportive of the legitimation of living theories and living theory methodology. I have outlined above the tensions I experienced in my early studies of educational theory. The tensions arose because my practical principles were seen by adherents to the disciplines approach to educational theory as at best pragmatic maxims that had at best a crude and superficial justification in practice and which would be replaced in any rationally justified theory. Similar tensions continue because the majority of renowned and internationally recognized Journals of Educational Research continue to be text based rather than web‑based and eliminate multi-media representations from their contents. Hence my tension in seeing that visual representations of flows of life-affirming energy with values are being eliminated from Journals of Educational Research.

 

iii)    Using multi-media representations to clarify and share meanings of the flows of energy in embodied values and their expressions in explanations of educational influence in learning.
I am suggesting that we are all living with the capacity to express and develop a relationally-dynamic awareness of space and boundaries with life-affirming energy and value. However, I am also claiming that the dominating forms of representation used in Universities for explaining educational practices and influences in learning, remove valid expressions of this energy with values from the explanations. I am claiming that the forms of representation that dominate printed text-based media cannot express adequately, in the standards of judgment and explanatory principles of academic texts, the embodied values we use to give meaning and purpose to our lives in education.
I believe that the reason for this removal lies in the continuing tendency of academic theories to replace the practical principles used by individuals to explain their lives, by principles with justifications in abstract rationality. What I am saying we should be creating are educational theories from a perspective of inclusionality developed by Rayner and Lumley:
At the heart of inclusionality… is a simple shift in the way we frame reality, from absolutely fixed to relationally dynamic. This shift arises from perceiving space and boundaries as connective, reflective and co-creative, rather than severing, in their vital role of producing heterogeneous form and local identity…
To make this shift does not depend on new scientific knowledge or conjecture about supernatural forces, extraterrestrial life or whatever. All it requires is awareness and assimilation into understanding of the spatial possibility that permeates within, around and through natural features from sub-atomic to Universal in scale. We can then see through the illusion of ‘solidity’ that has made us prone to regard ‘matter’ as ‘everything’ and ‘space’ as ‘nothing’, and hence get caught in the conceptual addiction and affliction of ‘either/or’ ‘dualism’. An addiction that so powerfully and insidiously restricts our philosophical horizons and undermines our compassionate human spirit and creativity.
(Rayner, 2004)
I want to highlight the importance of understanding that, from a perspective of inclusionality, we are all included in the dynamics of a common living-space that flows with life-affirming energy. As Ted Lumley, one of the originators of the idea of inclusionality, points out about the importance of recognizing a ‘pooling-of-consciousness’.
...an inspiring pooling-of-consciousness that seems to include and connect all within all in unifying dynamical communion.... The concreteness of 'local object being'... allows us to understand the dynamics of the common living-space in which we are all ineluctably included participants. (Lumley, 2008, p. 3)
Working with such a relationally-dynamic awareness of space and boundaries does not mean that everything is to be included in an undifferentiated mush. The living boundaries of cultures in resistance sometimes include the need for protection against damaging influences, especially those involving a lack of recognition (Whitehead, 2008c). 
In learning how to combine our voices as practitioner-researchers in the generation and testing of living educational theories I am aware of the importance of including narrative wreckage in the story of a life well-lived. I am thinking of the kind of narrative wreckage that involves a lack of recognition. A smooth story of self might initially feel comfortable to a listener, but without the acknowledgment of what has been involved in persisting in the face of pressure, a story can lack authenticity (Whitehead & Delong, 2008).
In my experience most lives involve some form of narrative wreckage in which difficulties have been encountered that require some effort in re‑chanelling destructive emotions into a flow of life affirming energy. I am thinking particularly of re‑chanelling destructive responses to a lack of appropriate recognition. I am thinking of the development of protective boundaries, in the face of such violations, that can continue to be open to the flow of life-affirming energy and values that carry hope for the future of humanity:
Human beings seek recognition of their own worth, or of the people, things, or principles that they invest with worth. The desire for recognition, and the accompanying emotions of anger, shame and pride, are parts of the human personality critical to political life. According to Hegel, they are what drives the whole historical process. (Fukuyama, 1992, p. xvii)
In overcoming and circumventing obstacles to the flows of energy with values of humanity I feel that two affirmations have been most significant in my practitioner‑research:
The first affirmation is the experience of an energy that I feel is flowing through the cosmos. This energy is life-affirming for me and I associate this energy with the state of being affirmed by the power of being itself. When I read these words in Paul Tillich’s work in The Courage To Be (1962, p. 168), I understood that this affirmation referred to a theistic experience in a relationship with God. Having no theistic desires myself I use the words ‘state of being affirmed by the power of being itself’ to communicate my experience of a flow of life-affirming energy that when combined with my values provides me with explanatory principles to explain why I do what I do. I believe that a similar energy is informing an Ubuntu way of being as this is expressed by Nelson Mandela and brought into the Academy by Eden Charles (2007) as a living standard of judgment in his doctoral thesis. I also identify this energy with Joan Walton’s living standard of judgment in her doctoral thesis of ‘spiritual resilience gained through connection with a loving dynamic energy’ (Walton, 2008, Abstract).
The second affirmation is in relationships with others when mutual recognition evokes a flow of life-affirming energy. One event in which I experienced this affirmation was on the evening of Jacqueline Delong’s graduation day on 18 December, 2002, when Peter Mellett led a celebration for Jacqueline in the Department of Education of the University of Bath. I believe that you will feel this affirmation 32 seconds into the video-clip when the laughter bursts out (Video 1).
 
Peter Mellett celebrating on Jacqueline Delong's Graduation
 
To communicate my meanings of the importance of a life-affirming energy and values such as academic freedom, pleasure, humour, love and justice in explanations of educational influence I shall use two multi-media representations. The first is a video of a keynote to the International Conference of Teacher Research in New York in March 2008 on Combining Voices In Living Educational Theories That Are Freely Given In Teacher Research (Whitehead, 2008b; 2008c). In presenting the keynote I felt that I was loving what I was doing. Such keynotes offer the opportunity to communicate ideas from my research programme that are directly related to what it has meant to me to live a loving a productive life in education. The following video-clip shows me using multi-media to explain the importance of visual representations to communicate flows of life-affirming energy and loving recognition in explanations of educational influences in learning (Video 2).
 
Jack Whitehead’s Keynote ICTR 08 clip 1
Video 2. Jack Whitehead’s Keynote ICTR 08 clip 1 (Whitehead, 2008e)
 
I am using the following video-clip (see Video 3) from the keynote to show a form of spiritual resilience gained through connection with a loving dynamic energy (Walton, 2008). The video shows me, to myself, responding to the living memories of most difficult experiences of my working life. In these responses I am hopeful that you experience the flow of loving energy with pleasure, humour and a passion for knowledge-creation that I feel distinguish my educational relationships and explanations of educational influence.
 
Jack Whitehead’s keynote ICTR 08 clip 2
 
As I watch this video-clip I see myself expressing a loving energy, pleasure, humour and understanding as I describe judgments from the University that generated the most difficult experiences of my working life. My purpose in including them in my accounts of my educational journey and knowledge-creation is to avoid presenting a smooth story of self that contains no narrative wreckage. In my experience of listening to many life-histories, everyone has encountered difficulties that have required spiritual resilience and a connection with a loving energy to move beyond the difficulties. Scholes-Rhodes has expressed her experience of spiritual belonging as a sense of ‘exquisite connectivity’. She creates an ‘intricate patterning of personal stories and dialogical inquiry process in forming a sense of coherence from the juxtaposition of emotional images with the clarity of a reflective and cognitive dialogue’(Abstract, 2002). The coherence I am seeking is one which includes emotional difficulties as ‘exquisite connectivity’ is broken, denied and re-established.
With the exception of the experience of 2006 described below I have documented most of the difficulties experienced over the 30 years between 1976‑2006 in previous publications (Whitehead, 1993; 2004). They include a 1976 judgment by the University that I had exhibited forms of behaviour that had harmed the good order and morale of the School of Education. They include the 1980 and 1982 judgments that I could not question the judgments of examiners of my two doctoral submissions under any circumstances. They include the 1987 judgment that my activities and writings were a challenge to the present and proper order of the university and not consistent with the duties the University wished me to pursue.
In 1990, based on this judgment about my activities and writings, as evidence of a prima facie breach of my academic freedom, Senate established a working party on a matter of academic freedom. They reported in 1991: ‘The working party did not find that... his academic freedom had actually been breached. This was however, because of Mr. Whitehead's persistence in the face of pressure; a less determined individual might well have been discouraged and therefore constrained.’
 
Responding to matters of power and academic freedom
 
Here is my re-enactment of a meeting with the working party where I had been invited to respond to a draft report in which the conclusion was that my academic freedom had not been breached; a conclusion I agreed with. What I did not agree with was that there was no recognition of the pressure to which I had been subjected to while sustaining my academic freedom. In the clip I think you may feel a disturbing shock in the recognition of the power of my anger in the expression of energy and my passion for academic freedom and academic responsibility. Following my meeting with the working party the report that went to Senate acknowledged that the reason my academic freedom had not been breached was because of my persistence in the face of pressure. This phrase, ‘persistence in the face of pressure’ is a phrase I continue to use in comprehending my meaning of Walton’s standard of judgment of spiritual resilience gained through connection with a loving dynamic energy (Walton, 2008).
I have included this video-clip on the grounds of authenticity. To understand the educational significance of the video of my keynote of March 2008, in my explanations of educational influence, requires an understanding of the significance of the rechanneling of the energy in the anger in the above video. I expressed this rechanneling in the keynote. This rechanneling was related to a persistence in the face of pressure. This persistence was possible through remaining open to the flows of loving dynamic energy in the passion for improving practice and contributing to educational knowledge. 
Whilst much valuable learning can take place in response to difficulties I do want to emphasise the importance of the affirmations of those I have worked with in generating their own living educational theories, in sustaining my own passion for education. These affirmations, expressed most delightfully by Spiro in the story epilogue of her thesis Learning and teacher as fellow travellers: a story tribute to Jack Whitehead (Spiro, 2008, p. xv). This flows with a loving recognition, respectful connectedness and educational responsibility (Huxtable, 2008). These help to sustain my own loving relations and productive life in education.
One of the greatest difficulties I have experienced in remaining open to a flow of loving energy for education is in responding to a lack of recognition of my contributions to educational knowledge. This lack of recognition has been sustained over the 30 years 1976‑2006 in judgments made about these contributions in the University. The latest judgment was in 2006 with the rejection of my application for a Readership on the grounds that I needed to develop my case further by focusing on producing articles which can be disseminated via established and renowned international refereed journals. Bruce Ferguson (2008), Whitehead (2008a), Laidlaw (2008), and Adler-Collins (2008) have all made a case in the British Educational Research Association Publication, Research Intelligence, to explain why the forms of representation in established and renowned international refereed journals need extending to include the new forms of educational knowledge being communicated through EJOLTS. EJOLTS is being established because the existing established and renowned international refereed journals are not providing appropriate forms of representation for the communication of living educational theories. Laidlaw’s (2008) contribution is particularly significant in communicating meanings of living standards of judgment because she includes live urls, in the e-version of Research Intelligence. These take readers directly to the work of Branko Bognar (2008a; 2008b) with teachers and pupils in classrooms in Croatia, as well as to educational relationships with Moira Laidlaw’s students in China.
We can all help each other, whatever age, to create our own living educational theories in which we account to ourselves for living our values and understandings as fully as we can. You can see at http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/mastermod.shtml and at http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/living.shtml the living theories of master and doctor educators that have been freely given for sharing through the internet, in the hope that they will contribute ideas that may be of value in the generation of your living theories as we combine our voices in enhancing our educational influences in improving our local and global contexts.
As I write I am feeling the pleasure of anticipation that this contribution will be accepted for publication in EJOLTS and hence become publically available. I am sharing these ideas with you in the hope that you will find something of value for yourself that resonates with your own life‑affirming energy, values and understandings.
In conclusion I want to briefly focus attention on the importance of acting locally and publishing our ideas globally in ways that can support national and international collaborations.
 
iv)    Developing national and international collaborations for improving practice and generating educational knowledge
My experiences of action researchers from different countries include action research workshops and presentations in China, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, The Republic of Ireland, South Africa, UK, USA and Canada. The workshops and presentations have helped me to recognise the importance of understanding the normative backgrounds of different cultures (Whitehead, 2008, c, f, g, h). I recognise that the emphasis placed on collective identities in China and Japan is different to the emphasis placed on individual identity in Australia, Ireland, UK, USA and Canada. Western views of democracy, which influence my own identity, have been questioned by Islamic scholars:
There exists in Islam a mechanism for consulting the believers, the Shura, which is an integral part of Islam. However, the system in Western democracy whereby the majority decides what is lawful and what is not, can never be acceptable in Islam, where the laws and framework of society are revealed by Allah and are unchangeable. (Abdul-Rahman, 1982, p. 35)
Whatever our socio-cultural history I believe that educators around the world have a responsibility to enhance the flow of values and understandings that carry hope for the future of humanity. This involves sharing our different understandings of what constitutes a good social formation and which values and understandings carry hope for the future of humanity.
For example, Jane Spiro (2008) in her research into knowledge-transformation engages with her own creativity as a creative writer, educator, manager and educational researcher. She holds herself to account in her thesis and research programme in relation to the values and understandings that she believes carry hope for the future of humanity. By making public her thesis with these values and understandings, in the flow of communications through web-space, Spiro is fulfilling one of the fundamental responsibilities of an educational researcher. I am thinking of the responsibility to engage in systematic enquiry that is made public. In her thesis, produced locally, through her research at Oxford Brookes University, Spiro explains how the embodied knowledge of a writer, educator, manager and researcher can be made public, in a distinct academic approach that includes the exercise of creativity and narrative enquiry in the generation of a living educational theory. This thesis is now available through the international communication channels of the internet (http://www.actionresearch.net/janespirophd.shtml). It is my belief that the insights in this thesis, about how to make public the embodied knowledge of a practitioner-researcher, will travel across cultural boundaries to captivate the imaginations and practices of others.
You can see how this kind of communication has already moved across cultural and national boundaries in the work of Dean Tian Fengjun and Professor Moira Laidlaw (Fengjun & Laidlaw, 2006) with their Colleagues, in China’s Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching, at Ningxia Teacher’s University. The action researchers at Ningxia Teachers University are developing a collaborative approach to living theory action research with Chinese characteristics. You can access the living theories of teachers and students about their learning and implementation of the New Curriculum at Ningxia Teachers University from http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/moira.shtml. You can also access some of my suggestions for international collaborations in the development of collaborative living educational theory action research in China from http://www.jackwhitehead.com/jack/jwkeynotechina8june08.pdf.
Dr. Margaret Farren and her colleague Yvonne Crotty at Dublin City University are evolving a living theory action research approach for improving practice and generating knowledge with information and communications technology.Dr. Farren is a lecturer in e-learning at Dublin City University who is working to support international collaboration with the Action Research Collaboratory and the e-Life Connecting People Project.
Professor Jean McNiff has been most influential through books, workshops and conference presentations in spreading the influence of a living theory action research approach. This influence can be seen particularly through her work in South Africa (Wood, Morar & Mostert, 2007), in Ireland, Iceland, Canada and in the UK.
I want to end with references to two photographs from graduation ceremonies in 2008 from Limerick University and the University of Bath to symbolize the spreading global influence of the living theories of individuals produced in their local contexts.
In a picture taken in January 2008 (University of Limerick, 2008) Jean McNiff is in her doctoral robes from the University of Bath celebrating the success of Margaret Cahill and Mary Roche on their graduations with their living theories doctorates[1] from the University of Limerick. The symbolism of the robes in relation to ideas travelling through national boundaries is that ideas generated by McNiff in her doctoral research programme at the University of Bath have been integrated in the living theory doctorates of Cahill and Roche at the University of Limerick.
Jean McNiff has supervised three other living theory doctorates (Glenn, 2006; Sullivan, 2006; McDonagh, 2007), to successful completion at the University of Limerick with graduations in 2006 and 2007 and more are on the way. The explicit embrace of enhancing the expression of the values of social justice and holistic educational practice, in the theses, provide evidence of an educational engagement with issues of power and privilege in society.
Image 1 below shows myself on the left, with Jane Spiro and Je Kan Adler Collins on their graduation with their doctorates on the 25 June 2008. We three are alumni of the University of Bath. Ideas from my research programme have been integrated within the theses of Spiro and Adler-Collins as they generated their own original living educational theories. Adler-Collins’ research programme involved the development, implementation and evaluation of a curriculum for the healing nurse in a Japanese University. Spiro’s research programme includes family history from Poland where in Chapter 4 of her thesis on Writing as finding a voice: From Finchley to Lithuania. She writes: ‘This chapter explores my novel-writing process, the struggle to understand the actual life stories/histories of those I grew up with, and to honour this specificity, at the same time as transforming it symbolically into a larger, and “universal” story (Spiro 2008, p. 82).
 
Jack Whitehead, with Jane Spiro and Je Kan Adler Collins on Graduation Day
Image 1. Jack Whitehead, with Jane Spiro and Je Kan Adler Collins on Graduation Day
 
The image brings back the memory of the expression of life-affirming energy, pleasure, hope and friendship between us. The supervision relationship has now changed to one of doctoral colleagues in our three universities who are supporting each other in our post‑doctoral research. The process of researching our actions locally and publishing our research globally continues with the extending interconnecting and branching channels of our communications. I do hope that you will feel moved to contribute your own living educational theory to our educational journeys in our shared living space.


[1]              Margaret Cahill's (2007) thesis is on My Living Educational Theory Of Inclusional Practice, and Mary Roche's (2007) thesis is on Towards A Living Theory Of Caring Pedagogy: Interrogating My Practice To Nurture A Critical, Emancipatory And Just Community Of Enquiry.