Jack Whitehead's ontological commitments in self-study: A contribution to the AERA 2004 Symposium of the Self-Study in Teacher Education Practices, Special Interest Group on, The transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies for sustainable global educational networks of communication, in San Diego on the 16th April, 2004.
Jack Whitehead, University of Bath, Bath BA 2 7AY. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
As soon as I start to write about my ontological commitments I am conscious that my language is inadequate to express my meanings. So, I am going to start by focusing on my embodied expression of who I am and what I am doing, in the here and now of being with you. The camera is recording me because I want to reflect later on what I see myself doing in the time we are together. In my experience of human existence, every individual I meet is unique in the particular constellation of values that help to constitute and explain who they are and what they are doing. Within each individual I also see values that carry hope for the future of humanity and the potential to express values that do not carry this hope. In my own life I am seeking to live more fully those values that carry hope and to stem the influence of those that do not. Each individual I meet can tell me different stories about their relationships and experience that help me to understand their ontological commitments in the sense of the meaning and purpose they give to their lives. I am no exception and I aim to communicate the meanings of the embodied values I use, in the explanations I give for my own educational influence, and which constitute my ontology in a flow of life-affirming energy and enquiry:
Grounding my ontological recognition in a flow of life-affirming energy and pleasure.
How do I express the meaning of a loving warmth of humanity through a Father's death, a Son's birth and a Colleague's death.
How can my ontological commitment to living a productive life be expressed as an epistemological standard of judgment?
How can I communicate an ontological commitment to an inclusional way of being in my educational relationships with my students?
What do I mean by an ontological commitment to post-colonial practice in the spirit of Ubuntu?
My choice of experiences through which to communicate my meanings is not intended to make a point about my role as a Father, Husband, Son, Scholar, Educator. It is simply that most of the significant experiences through which I have clarified my values for myself have occurred in these relationships. You will have your own unique relationships, contexts and experiences through which you have clarified for yourselves your own ontological commitments. Understanding these differences in one of my great pleasures in life and education.
My ontological recognition of a flow of life-affirming energy and pleasure.
In being with you I experience a life-affirming energy and imagine that you are feeling the first of my ontological commitments to this energy through my expression of pleasure in being here with you. The flow of this life-affirming energy and pleasure carries my hope for the future of humanity.
If such an embodied value is to become a living and communicable standard of judgement in educational research then others, such as yourselves, will need to comprehend its meaning in a claim to educational knowledge. To demonstrate this possibility I want to show you a brief video-clip of Cheryl Black from May 2000, in a communication with one of her pupils, that carries this hope to me. You can play this clip with Quicktime 6.4 or above and its size is 1.1Mb (it took around 1 minute to download with my broadband connection)
Between 14-16 seconds into the clip I recognize a tangible expression of this life-affirming energy and pleasure. I associate this with the way Paul Tillich (1970) writes about the state of being grasped by the power of being itself and connects this to ontological security. I see this as a spiritual energy without any need for myself to connect it with any religion or God. I mention this because I can see the importance that many others give to ontological values that are connected with a power of submission to the will of a God. I think that I have replaced my early Church going (Christian) experience of power relations that supported this submission by this powerful flow of life-affirming energy and pleasure.
Having drawn attention to the ontological value of this flow of energy and pleasure I want to explain how I am connecting my contribution to the focus of this S-STEP Symposium on The transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies for sustainable global educational networks of communication. As what I am about to say about two of my beliefs is fundamental to my life's work I am open to your criticism because you might be able to show me that I am wasting my life-time because my beliefs are mistaken and I'd like to avoid this if at all possible!
I believe that the transformative potential of self studies can be experienced as one learns and sees the learning of others. Human existence can be understood as a process of both living and dying at the same time as learning is taking place. I have sustained my commitment to working in education over the last 37 years because it seems to me to be a worthwhile form of life. I am meaning this in the sense of contributing an educational influence in one's own learning, in the learning of others and in the education of social formations. I have explained my commitment to supporting educational enquiries of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?, with a focus on living values more fully through one's educational influence.
I also believe that the world will become a better place through educating social formations to live more fully the values that carry hope for the future of humanity. I see this education as involving the enhancement of the flow of understanding of how to live these values more fully through developing sustainable, global networks of communication. The communications I have in mind are the accounts of learning of self-study researchers as we work within our local contexts and share our communications globally on how we are seeking to live our values as fully as we can in whatever life-time we have left. By being willing to share and learn from each others accounts in this way, I think we are showing for ourselves in this public way The transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies for sustainable global educational networks of communication.
I am also connecting these beliefs to what I see as a most significant contribution to educational knowledge in the creation of 'Professional Working Theories':
'We use the term 'Professional Working Theory' to symbolize professional understanding that evolves through the constant interplay of professional knowledge, practical experience, reflection, and ethical or moral principles. Explicit Professional Working Theory is developed through systematic and comprehensive critical reflection and collegial dialogue, and also contributes to the construction of professional identity, the creation of professional knowledge, and the development of collegial approaches to practice. The Professional Working theory process outlined below offers teachers (and academics) an opportunity to frame their reflection on the living theories implicit in their practice' (Dalmau & Gudj—nsd—ttir, 2002, p, 104)
Dalmau and Gudj—nsd—ttir stress the importance of ethical principles as explanatory principles that provide reasons for why we do what we do. In this presentation I will be making a distinction between the meanings of the embodied values I am expressing moment to moment in what I am doing and the ethical principles I form from these embodied values. I clarify the meanings of my ethical principles in the course of their emergence in what I am doing and use them as standards of judgment in my explanations of (claims to know) my educational influence. As I communicate the meanings of my educational standards of judgment, to which I hold myself accountable I am intending to make a contribution to our understandings of the standards that can be used to evaluate the validity of our professional working theories.
The connection of my embodied values to my
ontological commitments is that my values help to constitute who I am and
explain what I am doing. Because they help to constitute who I am and what
I do, they involve my personal responses to the certainty of my death, to
birth and to a productive life in between. I am seeking to establish a clear
connection between my personal ontology and a productive life in education
as I communicate the values to which I hold myself accountable in the construction
of my own Professional Working Theory. In my experience each individual
has constructed their own unique constellation of values to which they hold
themselves accountable. While we can use the same words to describe our values,
such as love, compassion, justice, respect, and care, the meanings of the
embodied values we are expressing are related to our unique personalities
In my experience each individual has constructed their own unique constellation of values to which they hold themselves accountable. While we can use the same words to describe our values, such as love, compassion, justice, respect, and care, the meanings of the embodied values we are expressing are related to our unique personalities and contexts.
Let me see if I can communicate the meanings of some of my ontological values as they became clear to me through the experience of birth and death, involving my wife, Joan, my daughter, Rebecca, my son , Jonathan, my Mother, Alice and my Father, Jack..I have chosen to clarify the meanings of an inclusional 'will to life' and 'will to knowledge' because I recognise the importance of these values in explaining who I am and what I do in education.
Joan gave birth to our daughter Rebecca on the 23rd December 1975. She was born 9 weeks prematurely and weighed one kilogramme. My first sight of her was in an intensive care incubator, looking still and frail but breathing. The nurse with me said that perhaps she should be Christened because she might not last the night. Not being a Christian caused me to pause and shake my head. The nurse left. Now, I have never focused my will to live and give (gift) life as I did in being with Rebecca. I have never forgotten focusing the power of my own life-affirming energy into an inclusional 'will to live' with Rebecca with the desire that she should live and find life worthwhile. I imagine that you can feel enough of my life-affirming energy to comprehend the nature of that focused will and the embodied value I am expressing.
I think that I bring this focused 'will to live' into my educational relationships as it is transformed and expressed as my 'will to knowledge'. I see my life in education as being concerned with enhancing the flow of values and knowledge that carry hope for humanity in the education of individuals and their social formations and with stemming the flow of values and knowledge that do not carry such hope.
I believe that my 'will to knowledge' is experienced by students I work with as a certainty that their embodied knowledges and values should live in the Academy as legitimated educational knowledge and as a belief that their originality of mind and critical judgements will enable them to bring this knowledge into the Academy.
Expressing the meaning of a loving warmth of humanity through a Father's death, a Son's birth and a Colleague's death.
When my Father died in 1990, my son Jonathan, aged 10, was with us both and the experience was one of helping my Father let go of life while included in the love of his family, including his wife, Alice. Again, I imagine that those of you who have experienced the death of a parent, or have empathized with those experiencing the death of a parent, can bear witness to, rather than comprehending, the process of grieving through which one feeds life with death rather than feeds death with life (Rayner, 2003). Feeling a loving warmth of humanity emerging through grief does, in my experience, feed life with death rather than feeding death with life.
The loving warmth of humanity I experienced with my Father through his death and that emerged through the grief resonates closely with the loving warmth of humanity I experienced with my wife Joan and son Jonathan at Jonathan's birth in 1979. In this experience the loving wamth of humanity emerged through the pleasure of joy of Jonathan's birth.
I also experienced a loving warmth of humanity with Martin Dobson, a colleague I worked with for 20 years. Martin exuded this warmth wih a pleasure of recognition in our daily contact. I last saw him a few days of his death through cancer, after a long illness. Close to his death and knowing this with certainty, Martin held my gaze and asked me to 'Give my love to the Department'. Now, I am not sure why I found it difficult (and still feel a twinge of embarrassment) to publicly carry my expression of Martin's loving warmth of humanity, through my own, to others. Yet, I continue to try to bring this quality as a living standard of judgement into the Academy because I believe that such a loving warmth of humanity, if expressed more freely in the world, would help the world to become a better place to be.
Some of you will have received e-mails from me with the signature Love Jack.that seeks to carry this quality of loving relationship and hope for the future of humanity.
When Martin Dobson, a colleague, died in 2002 the last thing he said to me
was 'Give my Love to the Department'. In the 20 years I'd worked with
Martin it was his loving warmth of humanity that I recall with great life
affirming pleasure and I'm hoping that in Love Jack we can share this
value of common humanity.
I am identifying such a loving warmth of humanity with the values of a kind and judicious parent. In English Law teachers are held to be in 'loco parentis' which means in the place of a parent. In Canadian Law the phrase is in place of a 'kind and judicious parent'. Evidence for my belief that we will be able to transform the embodied values of a loving (kind and judicious) parent into living standards of educational judgement is beginning to emerge in the accounts of teacher-researchers. For example, Lisa Percy, a teacher at John Bentley School in Wiltshire England is enquiring into the meaning and educational influence of her value of 'in loco parentis' and you can access some of her writings on 'Should teachers be parents too?' at:
I am also aware that my ontological commitments to a life-affirming energy and a loving warmth of humanity are also accompanied by my ontological value of living a productive life in education. I think I do this through my educational relationships as a tutor and supervisor to practitioner-researchers on the continuing professional development and research degree programmes at the University of Bath. To include such a commitment in an explanation of educational influence, I need to show the transformation from the embodied value of a productive into an epistemological standard of judgement for testing the validity of my explanation.
How can an ontological commitment to living a productive life be expressed as an epistemological standard of judgement?
I recall the passion behind my decision in 1966 to become a teacher. Looking back, on my experiences of education in school and university, at the age of 22, I recognise that many of my teachers were well-meaning and enthusiastic about communicating their subject knowledge. What I felt that I lacked were educational relationships in which I was related to as an individual with his own embodied knowledge and values that were worthy of recognition. I also felt a lack of recognition of my capacities for creative and critical thought that could have been engaged with in a process of enquiry learning. Hence my valuing of the embodied knowledges and values of those I work with and my desire to legitimate this knowledge in the Academy.
In explaining my productive life in education I see as significant my ontological commitment to sustaining my passion for contributing to the legitimation in the Academy of the embodied knowledges and values of practitioner-researchers. This passion is grounded in the expression and legitimation of my own originality of mind and critical judgement in my educational knowledge-creation in the Academy. It was a source of great satisfaction in 2000 to be able to place my own living theory doctorate alongside those of the other researchers whose research programme I had helped to supervise. I imagine that the evidential base that shows my persistence in the expression of this ontological passion, and in the face of power relations that could have constrained the creative expression of this passion, is clear and strong in the successfully completed research programmes (http://www.actionresearch.net/living.shtml) for the living theory doctorates and other degrees awarded to practitioner-researchers by the University of Bath (Whitehead, 2004).
As I contribute such accounts to the interconnecting and branching networks of communication, made possible by the internet, I believe that I am producing something of value as a human being in the ontological sense described by Marx in his early writings:
Suppose we had produced things as human beings: in his production each of us would have twice affirmed himself and the other.
In my production I would have objectified my individuality and its particularity, and in the course of the activity I would have enjoyed an individual life, in viewing the object I would have experienced the individual joy of knowing my personality as an objective, sensuously perceptible, and indubitable power.
In your satisfaction and your use of my product I would have had the direct and conscious satisfaction that my work satisfied a human need, that it objectified human nature, and that it created an object appropriate to the need of another human being.
I would have been the mediator between you and the species and you would have experienced me as a redintegration of your own nature and a necessary part of yourself; I would have been affirmed in your thought as well as your love.
In my individual life I would have directly created your life, in my individual activity I would have immediately confirmed and realized my true human nature. (Bernstein, p. 48, 1971)
So, in being accountable to my ontological commitment to living a productive life it is affirming to see that others find that my ideas and educational influence have use-value within their own form of life. It is also important to me because of this view of living a productive life, that I openly acknowledge the influence that others have had in the creation of my own form of life.
Given that I don't seem to avoid learning through enquiry (Although I am sure Joan would provide evidence of my seeming inability to learn her basic standards of domestic order in the home, kitchen and more particularly the garden!) I also recognise my embrace of enquiry learning as an ontological commitment.
By an ontological commitment to enquiry learning I mean that I create and come to understand myself through a process of question and answer. My ontological questions include 'Who am I?' 'What am I doing' 'Why am I doing what I am doing? and 'How am I improving what I am doing?'
As I come to a better understanding of who I am, I see more clearly the embodied values to which I hold myself accountable for living as fully as I can. These values are a source of my experience of myself as a living contradiction as I find myself working in relationships and contexts where some of my values are negated in what I am doing. As I clarify my values, in the course of their emergence in my practice of enquiry learning, they are transformed, through this process of clarification, into the living standards of judgment I use to test the validity of my knowledge-claims. In other words the values in my ontological commitment provide the source for my epistemological standards of judgment. This is such an important connection for me because my sense of identity includes my sense of living a productive life by extending the influence of values that carry hope for the future of humanity, through education and knowledge-creation.
How can I communicate an ontological commitment to an inclusional way of being in my educational relationships with my students?
Perhaps one of my clearest expressions of this process is the story of my enquiry learning and the growth of my educational knowledge at the University of Bath between 1973-1993 (Whitehead, 1993). I clarified my ontological commitment to an inclusional form of freedom in the course of its emergence in my practice of enquiry as I persisted in the face of pressures that according to the University might have constrained a less determined individual! I have been fortunate to work with Judi Marshall and Peter Reason in the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice at the University of Bath as they have done so much to live their own lives of inquiry (Marshall, 1997) and hold open a creative space for individual and collaborative enquiries.
My passion for enquiry learning with others is connected with my experience, understandings and ontological commitment to the inclusionality of I-You and We-I relationships. Given that the title of this Symposium is The transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies for sustainable global educational networks of communication, I want to communicate the nature of my ontological commitments to inclusionality and collaboration before I connect these commitments to the transformative potential of the internet for supporting the development of sustainable global educational networks of communication.
Inclusionality is an awareness that space, far from passively surrounding and isolating discrete, massy objects, is a vital, dynamic inclusion within, around and permeating natural form across all scales of organization, allowing diverse possibilities for movement and communication. This awareness radically affects the way we interpret all kinds of irreversible dynamic processes. (Rayner, p.1, 2004)
I owe a debt to Martin Buber's work for helping me to express through language a most significant ontological and inclusional commitment in my work to I-You relations. I am thinking of I-You relations in the poetic sense communicated by Martin Buber through his text I and Thou.
But how beautiful and legitimate the vivid and emphatic I of Socrates sounds! It is the I of infinite conversation, and the air of conversation is present on all its ways, even before his judges, even in the final hour in prison. This I lived in that relation to man which is embodied in conversation. It believed in the actuality of men and went out toward them. Thus it stood together with them in actuality and is never severed from it. Even solitude cannot spell forsakenness, and when the human world falls silent for him, he hears his daimonion say You.
How beautiful and legitimate the full I of Goethe sounds! It is the I of pure intercourse with nature. Nature yields to it and speaks ceaselessly with it; she reveals here mysteries to it and yet does not betray her mystery. It believes in her and says to the rose: "So it is You" - and at once shares the same actuality with the rose. Hence, when it returns to itself, the spirit of actuality stays with it; the vision of the sun clings to the blessed eye that recalls its own likeness to the sun, and the friendship of the elements accompanies man into the calm of dying and rebirth.
Thus the "adequate, true, and pure" I-saying of the representatives of association, the Socratic and the Goethean persons, resounds through the ages. (Buber, 1970, p. 117)
I also recognise the importance of the point Buber makes about a relationship between an educator and a student not achieving the full mutuality of I-You relationships because of the special humility of the educator in subordinating his or her own hierarchical view of the world to the particular being of the student. Buber says that with the experience of full mutuality the educative relationship breaks asunder or changes into friendship.
Because I agree with Buber' point about mutuality in an educative relationship, I describe my ontological commitment in my educative relationships, as a tutor or supervisor, as a commitment to the inclusionality of We-I relationships. I think that there is a quality of inclusionality in these We-I relationships because I accept a responsibility to enable those I work with to bring their embodied knowledge and values into the Academy as legitimate knowledge.
Now, here is a most important tension in my educational relationships. Because of my enthusiasm to live my values I may be experienced as imposing a colonising and potentially damaging relationship on those I teach, tutor or supervise. I think that all those I work with understand that I see my primary professional responsibility being expressed in a We-I relationship which is focused on enabling the other to bring their embodied knowledge into the Academy. In doing this I think that I am doing something that those who seek my supervision want me to do. Yet, there is always the danger that my intuitions about what is in the interest of the other's learning may be mistaken. Hence my commitment to enquiry learning and to learning that I am mistaken. Viewing video-tapes of myself in my professional contexts is a useful reminder of the fallibility of intuition and self-evaluation.
In my educative relationships I am conscious that my own I-knowledge is subordinate in the inclusionality of We-I relationships in my expression of faith in the other's embodied knowledge. I am thinking here of the inclusionality of We-I relationships in which I express my ontological commitment to the other in my faith in their expression of their originality of mind and critical judgement in bringing their embodied knowledges and values into the public domain of the Academy. I am thinking of the educational influence of the expression of my ontological commitment to support the construction of a thesis by a practitioner-researcher. I am thinking of this influence in relation to the embodied values of the other as these have been clarified in the course of their emergence in their enquiry learning and so transformed into communicable and living standards of judgement. The qualities of inclusionality I have in mind are perhaps best expressed in Maggie Farren's research into her pedagogy of the unique at Dublin City University ( http://webpages.dcu.ie/~farrenm/)
and in the presentation of her ontological commitments to self-study in this Symposium.
I also feel an ontological commitment to Peter Reason's and John Heron's inclusional ideas of cooperative enquiry (http://www.bath.ac.uk/carpp/layguide.htm). It is my understanding of these enquiries that individuals work together in helping each other to form and develop their own enquiries. We do this with a willingness to account for ourselves and to others in terms of what we care about or, in my terms, our embodied values. I associate the Monday evening educational conversations at the University of Bath as a forum for such collaborative enquiries. I can be seen, in the video-clip below expressing my inclusional way of being in such a conversation on the 12th January 2004, as a member of the group responding to Je Kan Adler-Collins as he prepared for a transfer seminar on the 14th January to justify his transfer from a Masters research programme to a Doctoral research programme.
You can access my analysis of this meeting and judge my inclusional way of being at:
by scrolling down to the nine photographs you can click on any one of the these to see the video clips of each contribution. You can see me expressing my values in my educational relationships at:
I wouldn't try to access the 27 minute video without the fast transfer speeds of a University network but the nine clips of individual contributions are accessible through broadband connections. The individual contributions to the conversation, including my own, communicate to me the quality of inclusionality I am associating with We-I relationships in which the transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies was seen by Alan Rayner and myself in the transfer seminar with Je Kan Adler-Collins where he communicated his ideas from the ground of his own inclusional way of being.
My ontological commitment to inclusionality, in the education of social formations, is connected with my actions in contributing to sustainable global educational networks of communication. Here is an example of what I mean by the education of a social formation. Before 1991 the Regulations of the University of Bath refused to permit the questioning of examiners' judgments of research degrees under any circumstances. In 1988 Legislation in England and Wales protected academic freedom under the law to question received wisdom. The change in the University Regulations in 1991 to permit questions to be raised on the grounds of bias, prejudice or inadequate assessment on the part of the examiners is the kind of process I am referring to when I write about the education of social formations. I am meaning that the regulatory principles of a social formation move to support more fully the values that carry hope for the future of humanity.
It may sound strange to link my ontological commitments to technology, but I have found that who I am and what I do is intimately linked to my use of technology. I mean this in the sense that the tools I am able to use, help me to define who I am and what I do. For example, in relation to sustainable global educational networks of communication, I spend much time using the web-technology at http://www.actionresearch.net to add to the living educational theory resources produced by self-study researchers. I do this because I believe that the accounts of learning produced by these researchers, as they seek to live their values more fully in their practice, carry hope for the future of humanity. Each researcher I have worked with has contributed to my well-being and productive life. None more so that Jean McNiff whose sustained and sustaining companionship in our generative and transformatory enquiries over the past 23 years was marked in 2001 in Jean's words as she placed the third edition of Action Research for Professional Practice on the Web:
I am placing the work here in celebration of two special events. The first event is that I have (finally!) succeeded in establishing a web site. The second event is that this year marks the twenty-first anniversary of my learning partnership with Jack Whitehead.
I trust that you can feel and see the influence of Jean's creative spirit in our commitment to contribute to the development of sustainable global educational networks of communication through our face-to-face communications and our resources on the web. I think you will also feel and see the influence of other self-study researchers in sustaining and extending our global educational networks of communication. For example, in the Values section of http://www.actionresearch.net you will find:
Jackie Delong's keynote address on, Action Research Implemented in The Grand Erie DistrictSchool Board: Impact on Teacher Development, Improvement and the Support System. to the Japanese Association of Educators for Human Development on the 29th February, 2004 at:
Jill Burton's keynote address - Seeking the Standard - presented at Chulalongkorn University Language Institute's 5th international conference in Bangkok, December, 2003, at:
Developing Educational Methodologies through a Living Theory Approach to Action Research.Moira Laidlaw's inaugural address (Laidlaw, 2004a) to China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching. Presented at the Londong Institute, 20 March 2004. at:
Some Appropriate Standards of Judgement for our Action Research Enquiries
in China. Dr. Moira Laidlaw's Second Lecture (Laidlaw, 2004b) for The Londong Institute, Gansu
Province, 20 March, 2004, at:
Developing Some Appropriate Standards of Judgement for our Action Research Enquiries in China. Dr. Moira Laidlaw's Second Lecture (Laidlaw, 2004b) for The Londong Institute, Gansu Province, 20 March, 2004, at:
Jean McNiff's paper for an invitational seminar at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, on 10th November 2003 - How do we develop a twenty-first Century knowledge base for the teaching profession in South Africa? How do we communicate our passion for learning? at:
Joan Whitehead's Keynote address to the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers Annual Conference 3rd-4th October 2003, Dunchurch. The Future of Teaching and Teaching in the Future: a vision of the future of the profession of teaching - Making the Possible Probable, at:
As part of a continuing enquiry into The transformative potential of individuals' collaborative self-studies for sustainable global educational networks of communication I also want to draw your attention to the BERA e-Seminar/Workshop of the Practitioner-Researcher Special Interest Group 5th February Ð 19th June which you can join at:
sharing our self-study research and contributing to the conversations on the
development of ontologically-based and living standards of judgement in s-step research I believe that we are
in a process of spreading the influence of the educational knowledge and the
values that carry hope for the future of humanity. Amongst these values
I recognise a commitment to post-colonial practices. I associate such practices
with my resistance to the experience of power being used to undermine my identity
and sense of integrity. I understand the spirit of Ubuntu in the sense of
'a person is a person because of other people' to be a way of relating that
stems the flow of power and values that do not carry hope for the future of
Amongst these values I recognise a commitment to post-colonial practices. I associate such practices with my resistance to the experience of power being used to undermine my identity and sense of integrity. I understand the spirit of Ubuntu in the sense of 'a person is a person because of other people' to be a way of relating that stems the flow of power and values that do not carry hope for the future of humanity.
What do I mean by an ontological commitment to post-colonial practice in the spirit of Ubuntu?
want to draw attention to the significance of the collaborative self-studies
of Paulus Murray and Pip Bruce-Ferguson for my educational enquiry. In seeing
my educational practices through an ontological commitment to post-colonial
practices and theorising I have been influenced by the spirit of Ubuntu (Murray,
2004) that flows through Paulus Murray and which he expresses through his
relationships and writings. In an earlier presentation to an AERA S-STEP seminar
Paulus and I analysed our 'White and Black with
White Identities in Self-studies of Teacher-educator Practices (Murray &
Whitehead, 2000). Some more recent understandings are in a multi-media
account of my living logics of educational enquiry through which I express
my meanings of Ubuntu and post-colonial practice. I do this by pointing towards
some limitations in both a propositional logic of domination and a linguistic
logic of dialectical enquiry (Whitehead, 2004a) and showing how I transcend
these limitations through a living logic in an explanation of my educational
influence. In my post-colonial intentions, practices and theorising I
am including my ontological commitment to resist a range of different forms
of colonising. One of these is the imposition of a logic of domination on
my ways of understanding my experience and the world in which I live.
In my post-colonial intentions, practices and theorising I am including my ontological commitment to resist a range of different forms of colonising. One of these is the imposition of a logic of domination on my ways of understanding my experience and the world in which I live.
What I have in mind here is the logic of domination used by Paul Hirst and Richard Peters (1970) in their Logic of Education which led them to impose a structure on practical decisions, impose wholeness on separate entities and impose the 'stamp' of this logic on the curriculum (Hirst & Peters, 1970, p. 17). This logic supports the view that the practical principles, or embodied values, I use to explain my educational influences are at best pragmatic maxims that have a first crude and superficial justification in practice that in any rationally developed theory would be replaced by principles with more theoretical justification (Hirst, 1983, p.18).
I began this paper by saying that as soon as I start to write about my ontological commitments I am conscious that my language is inadequate to express my meanings. Hence my interest in multi-media accounts for the representation of the learning of s-step researchers and my emphasis on the importance of the evidence of this learning in the contributions of our s-step community for transforming the knowledge-base of education (Whitehead, 2004b). I want to end this paper in the spirit of enquiry embodied in the life of enquiry of Pip Ferguson as she begins the March 2004 conversation of the e-Seminar/Workshop of the Practitioner-Researcher Special Interest Group of the British Educational Research Association. I leave you with some of the implications for the politics of educational knowledge in Pip Bruce-Ferguson's questions and an invitation to join in the on-going conversation at:
is asking her questions as a practitioner-researcher in a Maori University.
Pip's questions resonate with my post-colonial intentions:
Pip's questions resonate with my post-colonial intentions:
i) Why, oh why, does the traditional Western system have to INSIST on written expression as its highest pinnacle?
ii) Should we, and if so how can we, cast off the mantle of privileging writing as our main form of evidence of quality research?
and perhaps the most challenging question of all:
iii) How can we open up our practice to the richness of other cultures, and learn to value their ways of being equally with our own?
If we carry our ontological commitments into our practical explorations of the implications of these questions we cannot avoid an engagement with the power relations that legitimate what counts as educational knowledge in the Academy. I have taken to heart Donald Schön's (1995) point that the problem of introducing and legitimizing in the university the kinds of action research associated with the new scholarship is one not only of the institution but of the scholars themselves (p.33).
Presentations at AERA and BERA provide public forums in which I submit my accounts of my learning for evaluation by my peers so that you may show me where I am mistaken and stimulate my imagination to see how I might enhance my effectiveness. I am holding myself accountable both to living my ontological commitments as fully as I can in influencing the legitimation of the embodied knowledge of professional educators and in communicating living theory accounts through global and interconnecting networks of communication. I can be seen to be doing this in the presentation on How do I live more fully the values that continue to energise my life-long learning and influence in the education of myself, others and social formations?
Through the video-clip in this visual narrative I believe that I am doing this by enhancing the communicability of Alan Rayner's ontological commitment and scholarly enquiry into inclusional ways of being. The narrative contains three further video involving Gordon Trafford, a deputy headteacher and Nick Stanton, a colleague of Gordon's at John Bentley School in England where we work together in supporting a group of teacher-researchers. In the second video-clip I can be seen explaining some of the limitations of permitting the educational enquiries of s-step researchers to be contrained by the assumptions of social science methodologies. The second and third clips show teachers learning from their students as they create a school's mission statement about values into practice, using the student's insights and language.
If you access Is this a valid explanation of my use of inclusional, dialectical and propositional logics in my living theory of my educational influence in my learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations? Do my values carry the hope of Ubuntu for the future of humanity?
you can view the video-clip of a 27 minute Monday evening conversation at the University of Bath on the 12 January 2004 when the group are helping Je Kan Adler-Collins, a doctoral researcher and assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at Fukuoka University in Japan, prepare for his transfer seminar from his M.Phil. to his Ph.D. programme on the 14 January (Successful). The second set of 9 short clips focus on the contributions of individuals to the conversation. The aim of the presentation is to communicate something of the nature of the living logics I use in explanations of my educational influence.
To conclude in recognition of Schön's contribution to the development of my understanding of a scholarship of educational enquiry I leave you with his point:
Hence, introducing the new scholarship into institutions of higher education means becoming involved in an epistemological battle. It is a battle of snails, proceeding so slowly that you have to look very carefully in order to see it going on. But it is happening nonetheless. (Schön, 1995, p. 32)
and the expression of hope in seeing that our combined contributions have speeded up the process!
I think the most impressive evidence of the influence of our s-step movement has been gathered and edited by many members of S-STEP including John Loughran and Tom Russell (2004) in The International Handbook of Self-Study of Teaching Practice. The evidence shows clearly our s-step influences in the education of our Academies and other social formations as our ontological values are transformed into living standards of judgement. The evidence also shows that we are bringing our living knowledge of our educational relationships into the Academy as we learn with and from each other and with and from our students and as they do with us.
Marian Naidoo is one such doctoral researcher of the University of Bath who is close to submission. In a presentation to a Monday evening conversation in the Department of Education, Marian gave a multi-media presentation that included the following:.
"This chapter opens with a video-clip of me explaining to Shaun (Marian's partner) the reasons behind my choice of clips, which is being influenced by the importance I place on my embodied values of inclusional relationship, responsive practice, trust,love and respect for self and for others and the importance of living life creatively."
moved my colleague Alan Rayner to respond:
the presentation moved my colleague Alan Rayner to respond:
felt your 'love and respect' for (inner) self was evident in the radiance
of your performance, that allowed you fully to express and enjoy your empathy
with those you were portraying.
I felt your 'love and respect' for (inner) self was evident in the radiance of your performance, that allowed you fully to express and enjoy your empathy with those you were portraying.
Of all the ontological values that carry hope for the future of humanity I am following Marian Naidoo in suggesting that enhanching the flow of love and respect for self and for others, in the education of ourselves and the social formations in which we work and live, would do much to ensure that we leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. I imagine that many of us could live with this epitaph!
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