Influences of Educational Action Research in the Internationalisation of Educational Development. How can we create collaborative and inclusional living educational theories at China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching?


Jack Whitehead, Visiting Professor at China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching, Guyuan, China and Lecturer in Education of the University of Bath.


17 NOVEMBER 2004





This self-study, visual narrative of the growth of my educational knowledge, is focused on the possibility of legitimating in the Academy, new values-based living standards of educational judgement. This multi-media account begins by drawing your attention to the use of video-clips in a process that relies on ostensive definition in communicating the meanings of ontological values in educational relationships. In this process the meanings of embodied values are both clarified and transformed into living epistemological standards of judgement. These can be used to evaluate the validity of claims to educational knowledge that are made from within a living educational theory perspective of action research.


Some possible educational influences of this living educational theory perspective, in the internationalization of educational development, are related to propositional, dialectical and inclusional theories of human existence and social evolution. The idea of making the possible, probable, is related to the development of collaborative living educational theories in a range of different economic, political, cultural, intellectual and educational contexts. 




(‘Please be aware that the video-clips referenced in this paper will take those with slow internet connection speeds many hours to download. the number before .mov in some of the live urls gives an indication of the size of the file in megabytes. the smallest one for you to try to download if you wish is of 17 megabytes with Dean Tian Fengjun. I have included the live urls in this text for those who have fast internet speeds and to demonstrate that the technology now exists for multi-media accounts to contribute to the expression, definition and communication of the meanings of embodied values in educational relationships and their transformation into living standards of judgement)




On the 13th October 2004 I received my Accreditation as Visiting Professor from President Chen of Guyuan Teachers College and on the 16th October I presented a keynote address at the First Annual International Conference of China’s Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Language Teaching. I will refer to this simple as the Center. This paper is intended as part of my on-going commitment to contribute to the Centre's research programmes. The mission statement of the Centre, which opened in December 2003 in the presence of Jean McNiff, a friend and colleague of many years, includes a commitment to improve the educational provision for all children in China through its principal focus on English-language teaching in Guyuan and beyond. The importance of English in educational provision in China now has been heightened by the use of English as an international language in economic globalisation, by the venue of Beijing for the Olympics in 2008, Deng Xiaoping's Open Door Policy and by emphasis on English in the implementation of the New Curriculum in China in 2004.


A question I was asked by a colleague in Guyuan startled me: ‘Why are you, a Lecturer in Education for some 31 years at the University of Bath, with an international reputation for having contributed to the world of action research with the original idea of living educational theories, responding so positively and with such hope to the possibility of an on-going collaborative relationship with colleagues at the Centre and Guyuan Teachers College?’ My response is that it is because of the hope, intellectual curiosity and passion for education and educational research I experienced with Dean Tian, Moira Laidlaw, Ma Jahong, Li Peidong, Ma Hong, Liu Hui and other staff and students during my visit.  It is because I experienced a quality of inclusionality in their collaborative relationships that I connect with the possibility of generating new forms of educational knowledge. I am thinking of the educational knowledge in collaborative living educational theories that can enhance the flow of values in worth-while forms of life and that carry hope for the future of humanity.  Hence the emphasis in my title on enhancing the influence of action research in the internationalisation of educational development.  


Using visual narratives to define meanings of embodied ontological values and transforming them into living epistemological standards of judgement.


I want to begin by making a creative break with traditional texts on educational research. I think this creative break is necessary in order to communicate the educational influence of values in educational relationships. I am thinking of the influence of relationally dynamic, embodied values in educational relationships and their transformation into living epistemological standards of judgment. These standards are important for evaluating the validity of living educational theories that can explain the educational development of individuals and social formations. By social formations here I am meaning the social order of the organizations in which we live and work. For example, I am part of the University of Bath and seek to influence the education of its social formation. In 1980 the regulations governing the social order of the University explicitly refused to permit the questioning of examiners' judgements of research degrees under any circumstances. By 1991, as a result of much campaigning by organisations such as the Campaign for Academic Freedom and Democracy, the regulations changed to permit questions to be asked on the grounds of bias, prejudice and inadequate assessment. I am taking such changes in a social formation to be educational in the sense that the organisation is learning to live more fully, in the fulfilment of what I identify as educational values.


I now want to focus your attention on visual images of educational practice. I am doing this because I believe the communication of meanings of living educational standards rests upon the communication of the meanings of embodied values. I have two ways of defining the meanings of the words I use. The first way is to define my words in terms of other words. For example, in a philosophy class I attended we  agreed to define punishment as the intentional infliction of pain by someone in authority on someone who has broken a rule. I think this definition is clear. It was a definition agreed between a group of individuals while acknowledging that it was open to question by others. My words are being defined by the meanings of other words in a process of what is known as 'lexical' definition. The second way is to define my words in relation to my experience in a process of 'pointing' to, where I am experiencing something and then connecting my words to the meanings of the experience. This process of defining meaning through pointing to expressions of experience is what I understand by 'ostensive' definition. The reason I am emphasising the importance of ostensive definition on the communication of meanings with the help of visual images is that I believe the process of communicating the meanings of our embodied values relies on this kind of definition.


I also believe that the meanings of embodied values can be transformed into living standards and that the process of ostensive definition can help to show and communicate these meanings as they emerge with the help of language in relation to visual records of practice.  The development of these new living epistemological standards at the Centre in collaborative living theories, could rest on such ostensive definitions of the meanings of embodied values as they are clarified in their emergence in practice.


Through this clarification of ostensive definitions involving language and the 'pointing' to the expression of meaning in visual images, I am claiming that the embodied values can be transformed into publicly communicable and living epistemological standards of judgement.


To show you what I mean I now want to break into this text with  three video-clips. The first is of Dean Tian Fenjgun in the opening address of the First International Annual Conference of the Centre at the point where he is talking about the dynamic and relational nature of human existence. Dean Tian is communicating the relational dynamic values embodied in his relationships, as he speaks.


 'Students today will be teachers tomorrow. A dean today will be a teacher tomorrow. A president today will be an ordinary man tomorrow.'  


 It is my claim that this video-clip shows the living expression of relationally dynamic, embodied values and their transformation, through the use of language ,  into living epistemological standards of judgement. By this I mean that Dean Tian has communicated his meanings so clearly, that they can be used to evaluate the validity of his living educational theory as he accounts for his own learning and educational influence.


(For those who cannot download the clip, I will include a transcript of the clip in an Appendix)


Here is the video-clip.


Here are some still images from Dean Tian's address to the conference.


The second video clip is the end of a lesson I video-taped at Guyuan Teachers College on the 15th October 2004. 


I made this video clip in a Year Three English Methodology Lesson. The clip is one minute in duration and as the lesson ended I turned the camera off. Then I saw the teacher, Moira Laidlaw, go to the door of the classroom and I turned the camera back on. I think this video clip shows the expression of an embodied value of relationship that can be transformed into a living standard of educational judgement in the creation of a distinctive educational epistemology from the Centre.  Much of the social validity of my own responses rest in your responses. By social validity I am following Habermas’ (1976) ideas in his work on communication and the evolution of society. That is, in seeking to understand each other we are making the social validity claims of being comprehensible, of providing evidence for our assertions, of sharing the normative background from which we are speaking and of being authentic in what we are saying. Hence I am seeking social validation for my own judgements when I ask: What do you see and experience as you view the non-verbal communications from Moira Laidlaw to her students?


I find my attention is gripped by the expression of delight and pleasure that flows through and from Moira to her students. I believe this to be the ontological expression of a relational flow of cosmic life-affirming energy that I describe as a loving warmth of humanity. By 'ontological' I am communicating my understanding of what gives meaning and purpose to our lives in the face of the certainty of death.


I also believe that such embodied expressions of our ontological values can be transformed into the living epistemological standards of critical judgement. I am thinking here of the critical judgements we use in accounting for our lives and in evaluating the validity of our claims to know our educational influences in what we are doing. I think this process of transformation is well understood in the living theory doctoral theses at:


In each thesis the individual action researcher has clarified the meanings of their embodied ontological values in the course of their emergence through their practice. This clarification includes both ostensive and lexical definitions of the kind I described above. In the course of the clarification and communication the experience and meanings of the embodied values can be transformed into the living epistemological standards that can be used to evaluate the validity of a claim to know.  For example, the meaning of an embodied  value, 'loving warmth of humanity', can be transformed, through its clarification, in a process of educational action research, into the kind of living epistemological standards of judgement that distinguish the educational influence of action researchers in the Centre in the internationalisation of educational development. If you have access to the technology to view this clip you can access it with the free download Quicktime, at: 


If you haven't the technology to play the clip you may be able to view some of the still images I took from the video of the class and the ending at:


In coming to a shared understanding of a living epistemological standard of judgement it will be important to communicate, share and question each other’s interpretations.  For example the meanings of the expressions flowing through and from Moira Laidlaw to her students are open to question. I am thinking of questions that focus on possible differences in meanings in the language I use in my claim that the clip shows the flow of a life affirming energy that I describe as 'loving warmth of humanity’ and Moira's own commentary on the still images uses a different language and includes:


Middle picture, middle row, I remember that moment, Jack, when the boy turned and smiled. I said good night to him specially, because during the lesson he had spoken and he's shy. He was so pleased and got that I was singling him out. That's why, I believe, he turned and smiled at me and with me. it was a lovely moment. One of those priceless, almost instantly-gone moments, which are not rare but they are infinitely precious, because they are  contact. I didn't turn the spotlight on him much and had already turned my gaze to the next student, but I knew he was there, and felt his smile. I really did. It reminds me of that anonymous poem saying that once the teacher's work is done, she turns with pride and fulfilment to the next student. Yes, I can really relate to that. It’s not personal and yet it is felt, I believe, as intensely personal, because it captures (I think) something of life itself and channels and focuses it. It's incredibly powerful precisely because it is the Life force. We all have it and recognise it. Healthy people turn towards it. Unhealthy people turn away. Look at those pictures, Jack. How healthy these people are!' ( Laidlaw – e-mail, 2 November, 2004)


 I think I am really beginning to see what you mean about your insights about the visual. Not being a naturally visual person myself, it's genuinely harder for me to grasp the significance of the visual...The photos themselves are powerful. I like in particular, the way the last one, with the girl at the door, shows what I interpret as being my desire to connect with HER and her values and her uniqueness. It's a look I saw from Zhang Jiangwei last night - that overriding sense of  the other, and not oneself as the focus. The dynamic between us perhaps, something transcending ego and reaching into community.' (Laidlaw – e-mail, 2 November, 2004)


I am connecting this 'look' of the teacher with Fukuyama's point that:


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)


By focusing attention on a 1 minute video-clip of a class with one teacher I do not want to give the impression that other teachers and students at Guyuan Teachers' College were not expressing their embodied knowledge and values in inclusional educational relationships that expressed both the recognition of the uniqueness of each individual and the recognition of the value of the collective community. I have video tapes of classes with Ma Hong and Liu Hui and more video-clips of the address by Dean Tian that carry to me similar embodied knowledges and values.


You can access still images of the classes with Ma Hong and Liu Hui that I think show their expression of their own life-affirming energy and pleasure of being with their classes at:


The following clip of a student in Liu Hui's class emphasises the importance given by staff at Guyuan Teachers College of enabling the students' voices to be heard.


The following clip shows Liu Hui at the end of the lesson continuing to express an embodied flow of life-affirming energy, together with a clear communication of the tasks she wants her students to carry out to enhance the quality of their English.


The following clip shows Ma Hong engaged in responding to her students as they work in groups.


By focusing attention on bringing forth, through the text, a visual record of the expression of embodied values and knowledge, I want to emphasise that this is a creative and critical break with traditional scholarship. I think multimedia accounts will be crucial for the development of a new epistemology for the new scholarship (Schon, 1995) at the Centre. When I say 'new epistemology' I am thinking of a distinctive contribution to educational knowledge being made by researchers associated with Centre who are researching the units of appraisal, the standards of judgement and the logics in claims to educational knowledge that are made from within a living educational theory perspective in educational action research. I will return to these points below to further clarify my meanings. To help with the communication of the significance for the development of a new epistemology of units of appraisal, standards of judgement and logics, I will again ask you to bring forth, through this text, a video-clip of a doctoral supervision session with Jackie Delong, a Superintendent of Schools in the Grand Erie District School Board of Ontario. Jackie was awarded her doctorate from the University of Bath in 2002 and you can access her Ph.D. at: 


I am including this clip because I want to be seen to be engaged in my own self-study as well as showing that I value 'spectator' theories of the kind I draw on below. Jackie Delong's thesis draws attention to the unit of appraisal in the creation of living educational theories and a new epistemology for the new scholarship. The unit of appraisal is the individual's account of their own learning as they ask, research and answer questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' There is still much work to be done in developing the unit of appraisal for a collaborative living educational theory in which the unit of appraisal is a collaborative living theory being created through enquiries of the kind, 'How do we improve what we are doing?'


Here is the brief video clip of the supervision session with Jackie Delong:


(Be aware - this took me 1hour 15 minutes to download – just leaving it downloading - using a broadband connection external to the University)


In this doctoral supervision meeting with Jackie Delong I am responding to a draft abstract of her thesis in what I take to be an engaged and appreciative response (D'Arcy, 1998) to her writings. Forty Five seconds into the clip there is the expression of life-affirming energy through humour as Jackie points out that I used the word wisdom in relation to another student and didn't appear to be using this in relation to her own work! My purpose in showing this clip is to emphasise the importance of expressing, communicating and transforming such embodied ontological values, that flow with hope, meaning and purpose, into living and communicable, epistemological standards of judgement. I am using 'ontological values' in the sense of the embodied values that I consciously affirm as giving hope, meaning and purpose to my life. There is not the space here to give a more detailed analysis of the collaborative self-study grounded in an analysis of our educational relationships but this is available (Whitehead & Delong, 2003)


I also want to acknowledge a mystery at the heart of my existence and life-affirming ontological values. The mystery is that I do not understand the grounds of the flow of life-affirming energy that I experience and which motivates me to act and to ask, research and answer questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?' However, what I can do is ostensively to define my expression of this life-affirming energy and affirm my awareness of the hope I feel with the expression of this energy. I believe the Chinese expression of such energy is referred to as Qi. I recall that my most intense experience of the cosmic flow of this energy was at the age of 23 when, on a sunny day in a park in Newcastle, England,  I felt part of this flow. I experience this flow of energy as life-affirming and feel this flow through the relationships and visual images on the video-clips above with Dean Tian Fengjun, Moira Laidlaw, Ma Hong, Liu Rui and Jackie Delong. I do not comprehend the source of this energy, but I affirm its significance in my feelings of hope that life is worth-while and purposeful.


When I think of the purpose I give to my life, I think there is much less of a mystery here because I am aware of making choices related to the meaning and purpose I give to my life. I owe some of my ability of articulate these conscious choices to the work of Erich Fromm, when in the Fear of Freedom (1941) he explained that those human beings who can face the truth without panic will realise that there is no purpose to life other than that which they give to their lives through their own loving relationships and productive work. In this paper I am focusing on my productive work in education, with the recognition that what I do is influenced greatly by the fact that I love what I do. Sometimes, love and other passions can help to motivate me to act. Sometimes I need to be careful that my passions do not get in the way of careful reflection on my assumptions and possible mistakes. Hence I now want to be as open and as clear as I can about my assumptions so that you can help me with my enquiries by affirming what you agree with me or showing me where I might be mistaken in my productive life.


The way I see my productive life in education is influenced by cultural, political, economic and scholarly assumptions and biases. For example my life has been influenced by my being a white, middle class male, who has worked for most of his productive life as a Lecturer in Education at the University of Bath in England. Given such biases, here is what I am taking to be a fundamental assumption in the choices I have made. I am assuming that what makes my productive life in education so worthwhile is my educational influence in the learning of my students, myself, my peers and our social formations. I have chosen to focus my influence on the development of accounts of  educational influence in learning that can be accredited by Universities as contributions to educational knowledge.  As a knowledge-creator myself I came to the University of Bath in 1973 with the primary aim of contributing to the reconstruction of educational theory. I wanted to see a reconstruction in educational theory because it seemed to me that the then dominant view of educational theory was mistaken.  The dominant view was that educational theory was constituted by the philosophy, psychology, sociology and history of education. I thought that this view was mistaken because when I applied the explanations from these disciplines, either separately or in any combination, to an explanation of my own educational influence in my own learning or in the learning of my students, there was always something vital missing in terms of the influence of the expression of my own embodied values in my educational relationships.


Because of what I perceived as a fundamental limitation in this view of educational theory, I came to the University of Bath to explore the possibility that individuals could create their own educational theories in the explanations that they constructed for their own learning in educational enquiries of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?'  If you would like to follow the development of my research programme you can access my writings from 1976-2004 at http://www.actionresearch/writings.shtml .  The initial report which can act as the benchmark for evaluating the growth of my educational knowledge is the 1976 report on 'Improving Learning for 11-14 Year Olds in Mixed Ability Science Groups' (Whitehead, 1976) at:


You can also access what I think is my most widely read paper on living educational theory on Creating Living Educational Theories from Questions of the Kind, 'How do I improve my practice?', from:


In evaluating the growth of my educational knowledge I want to emphasise the importance of relationships in conversations with others and their ideas. For illustration consider my relationship, conversations and shared publications with Jean McNiff (2004) as described by Jean in the booklet to celebrate our 21 years of friendship and working together at:


Without Jean’s originality of mind, critical judgement and passion for writing (see I know that my own ideas would not have developed in the way that they have or been communicated as widely or as well. Without the ideas of others to enrich my own I would not have been enabled to extend the cognitive range and concerns in my educational development.


Much of my belief that I am living a productive life is based on the assumption that the creation and sharing of each others' living educational theories will enhance the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity as well as enhancing the flow of life-affirming energy, hope and pleasure through being the creator of a living educational theory. What I am meaning by this is that I think the stories that we tell each other that connect with what we feel most deeply about in life, carry the hope that I associate with the future of humanity. The stories need not be complex. Indeed much social cohesion and hope is carried through the stories we tell each other about our everyday experiences with our families, friends, colleagues and other members of our communities.


The stories I have in mind from educational action researchers can be clearly distinguished as research because their units of appraisal, their standards of judgement and their logics can be identified in the contributions the stories are making to the knowledge-base of education.


Units of appraisal, standards of judgement and logics


The units of appraisal are important in knowledge-creation and testing because we need to be clear what it is that we are judging.   Because action researchers in living educational theory accounts study their own learning in enquiries of the kind, How do I improve what I am doing?/How do we improve what we are doing?, the units of appraisal are easy to see. They are the individual and collective accounts of learning. You can see these units of appraisal in the accounts of practitioner-researchers at:


The standards of judgement are more difficult to see, because they are part of the clarification of embodied values which occurs through the practice of the action enquiry itself. In my book on the growth of educational knowledge (Whitehead, 1993 - accessible at I clarified the meanings of my ontological values, including academic freedom, authenticity, truth and productive life in the course of their emergence in practice. The process of clarifying and communicating the meaning of embodied values transforms them into living epistemological standards of judgement that can be used to evaluate the validity of a contribution to educational knowledge.


I want to emphasise the importance of expressing the meanings of the ontological values that human beings use to give meaning and purpose to their existence. These could be particularly important in the creation of a distinctive epistemological contribution to educational research by colleagues in the Centre.  I am thinking particularly of the development of relationally dynamic, epistemological standards of judgement. For example, in the video-clip of Dean Tian you will hear him emphasise the importance of the dynamic and relational nature of human existence.  An original contribution to educational knowledge could be made by Dean Tian and his colleagues at the Centre, by bringing into public knowledge, dynamic and relational standards of judgement. I think that such a research programme is consistent with current views on the need to develop inclusional forms of relational dynamic awareness of boundaries and space (Rayner, 2004) and supports the commitment to collaborative ways of working and researching in the Centre.


Working within the epistemologies of living educational theories with their inclusional and collaborative values means that action researchers should clarify, through their accounts of their learnings, the meanings of the embodied values they use to give meaning and purpose to their lives. These include the economic values that can be related to a labour theory of value. I will write more about this below. What distinguishes this process of learning as research-based is that the action researcher consciously transforms her or his ontological values, in the process of their clarification, into epistemological standards. I am thinking here of the standards we use to evaluate the validity of our claims to know our own learning and educational influence in the learning of others and in the education of the social formations in which we live and work. In producing the accounts which contain such claims to know our learning it is important to recognise the importance of producing a comprehensible narrative, in the sense that the logic of the narrative can be understood by a reader.


Logic is at the heart of epistemology. It is the form that reason takes in understanding the real as rational. In saying this I know that I need to say more about my meaning of rational. I am meaning rational in the sense that something is comprehensible. Without some kind of logical form I find it difficult to understand how a communication from one person to another could be comprehended. I do not want to be misunderstood in the meaning I am giving to 'rational'. I am including the logics of the flow of life-affirming energies with their associated affective, psychological and sociological processes. From what I have said I hope my use of 'rational' appeals strongly to women's ways of knowing with their emphasis on relationally dynamic, caring and compassionate values (Hartog, 2004; Naidoo, 2004; Farren, 2004).  I recognize that there are those who believe that ‘women’s ways of knowing’ represents a gendered perspective that denies the inclusive principle that ‘women’s ways of knowing’ is supposed to establish. I am simply affirming here that I feel included within Hartog’s (2004) creative and critical evaluation of ‘women’s ways of knowing’.


I am aware of using three very different logics in my living theory approach to educational research.


The first is associated with Aristotelean Logic which claims to eliminate contradictions between statements in ‘correct’ thought. Perhaps the clearest expression of this Logic is in Popper's analysis of 'What is dialectic' in which he uses Laws of Logic Inference from the work of Aristotle to claim that dialectical forms of theorising, because they contain contradictions, are entirely useless as theories and without foundation (Popper, 1963, pp. 316-317). I use propositional logic in my comprehension of the meanings of most present day theorists whose theories conform to this logic.


The second is the dialectical logic I associate with Socrates and The Phaedrus with its embrace of the experience of living contradictions in coming to know. My understanding of dialectical logic was enhanced by Ilyenkov's thinking (1977) with his question, 'If an object exists as a living contradiction what must the thought be (ie; statement about the object) that expresses it?' This question, and Ilyenkov's lack of an answer before he died, focused my attention on the question as to whether or not his decision to 'Write Logic' rather than 'Living Logic' might have limited the possibilities for answering his question. I am suggesting that the relatively wide availability of digital technologies, with their capacity to integrate visual records of living relationships in explanations of educational influence, offer new possibilities for understanding how to engage in dialectical or living theorising with within? a living logic of educational enquiry grounded in the experience of living contradictions. 


The third is the inclusional logic of love (Lohr, 2004). Moira Laidlaw describes this above as 'a turning towards the light, harnessing it and recreating it in generative ways. I call that love.'   I see and feel Moira's expression of her love for her students, education and life in the above video-clip at the end of the lesson. 


In this paper, with its opportunity to access visual records of the educational relationships in classrooms, I am emphasising  the importance of making a break with text that is structured solely through the logics of propositional and dialectical discourses in order to participate in an inclusional and collaborative educational discourse. I think that I have shown above, with the help of the video-clips above,  the importance of ostensive definition in communicating the meanings of inclusional educational relationships.


I think I have also shown that an analytic commentary can be connected, through ostensive definition , to these visual records. For example, when Moira Laidlaw comments, 'It's a look I saw from Zhang Jiangwei last night - that overriding sense of the other, and not oneself as the focus. The dynamic between us perhaps, something transcending ego and reaching into community', she is pointing to the expression of a dynamic, inclusional educational relationship, that is intimately related to her embodied, ontological values.  It is my claim that such commentaries can become living educational theories as explanations for learning which integrate insights from propositional theories as such ontological values are transformed into epistemological standards of judgement. By connecting the meanings of such units of appraisal with living standards of judgement and logics I am claiming that they are contributing to a new epistemology for the new scholarship in the following contexts.


Political, economic, cultural and educational contexts


The political, economic, cultural and educational contexts of the Centre are related dynamically to their connections with China's politics, economics and culture and other international influences. In saying this I am identifying with the five principles of peaceful coexistence for international order identified by Premier Zhou Enlai in 1953 and supported by the present Chinese Government. I am thinking here of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence. In 1988, Deng Xiaoping explicitly pointed out that it was imperative to build both a new international economic order and a new international political order, with the aim of putting an end to hegemony and carrying out the five principles of peaceful coexistence (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2000).


As I write these words I am aware of the feeling of being a living contradiction in identifying myself with these principles of international order. As an Englishman, a member of the Labour Party and a Labour voter, I am a living contradiction in the sense of holding these values of international order and at the same time recognising that my government was misled by our Prime Minister Tony Blair, on the 18th March 2003, into believing that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened Britain.


When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for: 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, possibly more than ten times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; an entire Scud missile programme.


 We are now seriously asked to accept that in the last few years, contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence, he decided unilaterally to destroy the weapons. Such a claim is palpably absurd. (Blair, 2003)


The illegal invasion of Iraq was premised on the falsehood of Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction that threatened Britain.  The invasion violates the above five principles of international order. I make this point about existing as a living contradiction because of the importance of recognising oneself as such a contradiction in a living educational theory approach to action research. In creating our own living educational theories we offer explanatory accounts of our own learning, of our educational influences with each other, in our students' learning and for our influence in the education of our social formations. I also make this point to emphasise how much I value the academic freedom to voice such criticisms as I demonstrated in The Growth of Educational Knowledge (Whitehead, 1993). I wrote to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair urging them to give the weapons inspectors more time before invading Iraq. This act of writing was insignificant in relation to the power and vested interests mobilised for the invasion. The significance of my experience of this violation in relation to my own educational theorising has been to move me more explicitly towards the development of postcolonial living educational theories (Whitehead, 2004; Murray, 2004) and towards enhancing their influence in the internationalisation of educational development.  


In writing this paper I am also taking account of the political, economic, cultural and educational implications of the ideas expressed by Wen Jiabao (2004) in his capacity as Premier of the State Council, at a reception celebrating the 55th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China when he said that China is a developing country with 1.3 billion people and which will remain in the primary stage of socialism for a long time. Wen Jiabao believes that China must follow the path of independently building socialism with Chinese characteristics under the firm leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, basing itself on its own national conditions and getting along with the trends of development in the world. He says that the Communist Party of China is a Marxist party that has weathered numerous tests and kept abreast of the times while enhancing and improving the leadership of the Party is the fundamental guarantee for a successful building of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Here are some extracts from his speech that focus on the political, economic, cultural and educational contexts of China:


We must always take economic development as our central task and try to solve the problems we face through development. We need to come up with new ideas on development (p.3)…..We must open still wider to the outside world, adapt better to the changing world of economic globalization and technological revolution, and draw on all the useful achievements of human civilizations. A country, or a people, will make progress only when it is an open one (p.4)…..We must promote cultural development. Our culture is the symbol of our national spirit. Its power is deeply rooted in our national vitality, creativity and togetherness. We must grasp the trend of advanced culture, vigorously carry forward and promote the national spirit, develop education, science and technology, enhance the moral and ethical building of the population, add new splendor to the Chinese culture, and inspire our people with a powerful motivation and intellectual support as they march into the future. (p. 5).....We must carry out the fight against corruption in a more intensive manner and severely punish those guilty of corruption. We must address both the symptoms and the root causes of corruption, and take a comprehensive approach to prevent the problem from happening (pp.5-6)…..We must consolidate and expand the unity of all our ethnic groups…… We must strengthen our ethnic unity (p.6)


Because of the economic, political, cultural and educational differences between the workplaces of the University of Bath and Guyuan Teachers' College I want to clarify some of my assumptions and biases – the ones I am aware of, and on which I think rests the validity of ideas in this paper. I am aware that an understanding of the significance of the following ideas may only appeal to those readers who have a background in ideas from dialectical materialist thinking and who see the significance of the interconnecting relationships in educational enquiries in explorations of the influence of action research in the internationalisation of educational development.  I am hoping that I communicate below both the scholarly significance of ideas from propositional theories for my own educational development and for their connection to my present enquiry.


My economic, political, cultural, educational and theoretical assumptions and biases 


In my visit to the Centre in October 2004, I felt that I was invited to participate in an inclusive culture of community of the kind that Habermas describes in terms of an inclusive community and communicative action:


But how can the transition to a post-traditional morality as such be justified? Traditionally established obligations rooted in communicative action do not of themselves reach beyond the limits of the family, the tribe, the city, or the nation. However, the reflexive form of communicative action behaves differently: argumentation of its very nature points beyond all particular forms of life... the practice of deliberation is extended to an inclusive community that does not in principle exclude any subject capable of speech and action who can make relevant contributions. …The bottom line is that the participants have all already entered into the cooperative enterprise of rational discourse.  (Habermas 2002, pp 40-41)


I felt that I was being invited to share in a process of learning in Guyuan, from our research, in a way that is consistent with Habermas' points about the importance, for the evolution of society and the development of an inclusive community, of focusing on learning processes. He makes this point towards the end of his monumental text on The Theory of Communicative Action:


... I have attempted to free historical materialism from its philosophical ballast. Two abstractions are required for this: I) abstracting the development of the cognitive structures from the historical dynamic of events, and ii) abstracting the evolution of society from the historical concretion of forms of life. Both help in getting beyond the confusion of basic categories to which the philosophy of history owes its existence.


A theory developed in this way can no longer start by examining concrete ideals immanent in traditional forms of life. It must orient itself to the range of learning processes that is opened up at a given time by a historically attained level of learning. It must refrain from critically evaluating and normatively ordering totalities, forms of life and cultures, and life-contexts and epochs as a whole. And yet it can take up some of the intentions for which the interdisciplinary research program of earlier critical theory remains instructive. 


Coming at the end of a complicated study of the main features of a theory of communicative action, this suggestion cannot count even as a 'promissory note.' It is less a promise than a conjecture.' (Habermas, 1987, p. 383)


I also feel that the inclusional values I experienced at Guyuan resonate strongly with the powerful conclusion to Skidmore's text on inclusion as he analyses the dynamics of school improvement:


Marx's dictum that, in a truly democratic society, 'the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all' (Marx and Engels 1848/1965: 105) could serve as a useful guiding principle for the struggle to create a unified system of comprehensive education, reminding us that the end of education is not to reduce human difference but to allow individuality to flower. However, the socio-cultural theory of mind suggests that a dialectical inversion of Marx's formation is also necessary. The work of Vygotsky and his followers suggests that the growth of the individual personality depends on our experience of meaningful social interaction with others as participants in a common culture. From this point of view, institutionalized patterns of selection between schools, and of differentiation within them, impoverish and distort the individual development of every student, for they diminish our understanding of human difference. Participation in a diverse learning community is a prerequisite for the growth of each individual's subjectivity in all its richness; the combined development of all is the condition for the full development of each.   (Skidmore, 2003, p. 127)


So, in terms of my cultural assumptions and biases, I think that it will be possible, with colleagues at Guyuan, to develop an inclusive approach to the internationalisation of educational development through the development of a collaborative and communicative living theory approach to educational action research.


But what of the apparent differences in politics and economics between China and the UK and my assumptions and biases on these matters which prevent the development of a full mutuality of relationship? It would help in the development of this mutuality if you help me to reduce my biases in an inclusional process that will enable me to come closer to the people I wish to work with in China. China is led by a Communist Party - an avowedly Marxist Party. The social order within which I work at the University of Bath is held within Britain's social economy with its emphasis on the market economics of capitalist social formations in the policies of the present Labour Government. The way I make relational sense of these differences is with the help of Amartya Sen's economic theory of human capability. I see that Sen's theory of human capability extends economic theories of human capital and could be a valid response to the need for new ideas on development highlighted by Wen Jiabao (2004, p3).


The writings of Sen (1999), winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science, have helped me to articulate the assumptions of my economic theory as consistent with his economic theory of human capability. He distinguishes his economic theory of human capability from theories of human capital. As he says, in contemporary economic analysis the emphasis has, to a considerable extent, shifted from seeing capital accumulation in primarily physical terms to viewing it as a process in which the productive quality of human beings is integrally involved. He gives the example that, through education, learning, and skill formation, people can become much more productive over time, and this contributes greatly to the process of economic expansion. Through the emphasis on learning English, which is an international language, the Centre has these connections to the economy. Yet, for me it is the human potential here in Guyuan, in relation to the geographical and material conditions, which render Guyuan so rich in humanity and full of hope. It is because of the importance of Sen’s focus on human capability that I find it so attractive.


According to Sen's economic theory, as a person becomes more efficient in commodity production, through education, then this is clearly an enhancement of human capital. This can add to the value of production in the economy and also to the income of the person who has been educated. In distinguishing his theory of human capability from a theory of human capital he points out that with the same level of income, a person may benefit from education, in reading, communicating, arguing, in being able to choose in a more informed way, in being taken more seriously by others and so on. Hence, says Sen, the benefits of education exceed its role as human capital in commodity production. His broader human-capability perspective notes and values these additional roles as well. In Sen's view the two perspectives are, thus, closely related but distinct.


For Sen there is a crucial valuational difference between the human capital should this focus and the concentration on human capabilities. It is a difference he relates to the distinction between means and ends. He says that the acknowledgment of the role of human qualities in promoting and sustaining economic growth - momentous as it is - tells us nothing about why economic growth is sought in the first place. While Guyuan is one of the smallest and minimally resourced cities in China I witnessed an energy of initiative, hope and passion for education that can answer the question as to why economic growth is being sought to enhance the well-being of all.


Sen believes that by focusing on the expansion of human freedom to live the kind of lives that people have reason to value, then the role of economic growth in expanding these opportunities has to be integrated into that more foundational understanding of the process of development as the expansion of human capability to lead more worthwhile and more free lives.  


He says that this distinction has a significant practical bearing on public policy:


While economic prosperity helps people to have wider options and to lead more fulfilling lives, so do more education, better health care, finer medical attention, and other factors that causally influence the effective freedoms that people actually enjoy. These "social developments" must directly count as "developmental," since they help us to lead longer, freer and more fruitful lives, in addition to the role they have in promoting productivity or economic growth or individual incomes. The use of the concept of "human capital," which concentrates only on one part of the picture (an important part, related to broadening the account of "productive resources"), is certainly an enriching move. But it does need supplementation. This is because human beings are not merely means of production, but also the end of the exercise' (Sen 1999, pp. 295-296)


 Sen believes that despite the usefulness of the concept of human capital, it is important to see human beings in a broader perspective by going beyond  the notion of human capital, after acknowledging its relevance and reach. He stresses that the broadening that is needed is additional and inclusive, rather than, in any sense, an alternative  to the "human capital" perspective.


In looking for a fuller understanding of the role of human capabilities, Sen says that we have to take note of:


i) their direct relevance to the well-being and freedom of people;


ii) their indirect role through influencing  social change; and


iii) their indirect role through influencing  economic production. (Sen, 1999, p. 296)


He believes that the relevance of the capability perspective incorporates each of these contributions and says that in contrast, in the standard literature human capital is seen primarily in terms of the third of the three roles. Even with their clear overlap of coverage he claims there is a strong need to go well beyond that rather limited and circumscribed role of human capital in understanding development as freedom. 


The economic assumptions and biases in my living theory approach to educational action research are consistent with Sen's economic theory of human capability. I am thinking here of the distinction he draws between theories of human capital and a theory of human capability and the need to go well beyond a theory of human capital in understanding development as freedom. Sen's understanding of development as freedom is con sistent with many of the action research accounts from Guyuan. See for example Ling Yiwen's (2004) account of her enquiry, 'How can I improve the students' self-confidence in classroom activities in order to enhance their learning?' , where she says:


How do we understand the centrality of the idea of freedom, which is related to each human-being's innate character? I know from this research, we shouldn't bind it up, shackle this freedom to our insights. In this way, creativity, interests, initiative and imagination are stymied which results in hindering the improvement of learning, the development of society, and the development of human beings. The only thing we can do is to make full use of this human creativity and enable it to benefit human beings.


 (Retrieved 11 November 2004 from


I now want to consider the political assumptions and biases that I am aware of in my writings. I want to emphasise the importance of this awareness because there will be others of which I am unaware. You may be able to see some of these that will help me not to persist in error. I also have evidence that I have a tendency to lose the attention of those I am seeking to communicate with because I become too preoccupied with the complex abstractions in my language, rather than the pedagogy of my communications!


Respondents to a previous draft of this paper tell me that I must take particular care to keep my readers in mind as I communicate the next set of ideas related to my dialectics. My reason for including the following points in this paper is that the study of dialectics by colleagues at Guyuan is an important part of the growth of their educational knowledge and in their scholarship of educational enquiry. In the development of collaborative and inclusional living educational theories in Guyuan I believe that it will be necessary to engage with propositional and dialectical theories of development. I am conscious that understanding what follows is likely to require more than an introduction to dialectics.


 In writing this paper as a visiting professor of Guyuan Teachers College in China I am most aware of the influence of Marxist Theory in the Leadership of the Communist Party and I want to be as explicit as I can about the influences of Marxist Theory in my own research while acknowledging that I am a member of the Labour Party in Britain, not the Communist Party. As I have already emphasised, but I think it bears repeating,  I want to do this so that my own biases and other errors in my assumptions may be easier to detect and correct. I included the following ideas in my doctoral thesis (Whitehead, 1999 ).


The two greatest influences in my understanding of dialectical materialism are Ilyenkov's (1977) Dialectical Logic and Seve's (1978) Man in Marxist Theory and the psychology of personality. I have already pointed to my belief in the importance of living logics in answering Ilyenkov's question, 'If an object exists as a living contradiction, what must the thought be that expresses it?' Ilyenkov's problem was that thoughts are expressed in statements and the law of contradiction prevents two mutually exclusive statements from being seen as true simultaneously.   I have also explained what I perceive as a limitation in Ilyenkov's ideas in believing that such a question can be answered by 'Writing Logic'. My own research can be understood as an exploration of the possibility that the question can be answered in 'Living Logics'. In this exploration I also draw on Kosok's (1976) insight on the process of systematizing and linearizing a non-linear dialectical process in studies of development and change  (Whitehead, 1999). 


Seve's writings on dialectical materialism influenced me through my fascination with the following distinctions between the meanings of concepts when understood dialectically and when they are understood from within propositional forms of abstraction:


According to Seve (1978), the task of conceptual thought is to express the logic of the essential processes through which the development of the object is brought about. Doing which , he says, the concepts absolutely do not tell us how the singular concrete is in general but in general how the singular concrete is produced. He says that in this way the essence can then be reached in its concrete reality, the singular grasped in the generality of the concept.


The importance for me in moving from the view that a concept such as ‘person’ could hold the meanings of the singular 'I' was highlighted in my earlier studies of philosophy where the 'I' in questions of the kind, 'What ought I to do?' immediately focused on the concept ‘person’ and eliminated the content of any particular 'I' from the discourse! In other words the concept 'person' served to eliminate attention from taking seriously the content-in-itself of the particular 'I' of a concrete individual asking questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?'


 The crucial distinction I accept from Seve is where he says that, in dialectical forms of abstraction, as distinct from propositional forms of abstraction, the essence is not what appears common to the object and to others which are compared to it. It is the necessary internal movement of the object grasped in itself. The generality of the concept is not constituted by eliminating the singular but by raising the singular to the level of its internal logic (i.e. it constitutes the 'specific logic of the specific object') (Seve, 1978, p. 265). I also see the living logics in the construction of living educational theories by individuals, in these terms.  Perhaps in these terms the living educational theories of individuals can raise the singular to the level of its internal logic and constitute the specific logic of the specific object.


I distinguish my materialist use of the term 'concept' from its purely linguistic use by contrasting ‘having a concept’ in the linguistic sense with ‘being a concept’ in a materialist sense. As Peters and Hirst (1970) say, in the linguistic sense we can look upon understanding what it is to have a concept in the sense of grasping a principle and the ability to use words correctly. In my materialist view, understanding what it is to be a concept involves a reflection upon the process through which one's own concrete singularity is being produced and the struggle to live a good and productive life. In other words we can contrast: 


Š  ‘Having a concept’ with ‘Being a concept’.


Š  Grasping a principle with a reflection upon the process through which one's own concrete singularity is being produced.


Š  The ability to use words correctly with the struggle to live a good and productive life. 


The point about my dialectical view of 'I' and 'We' as materialist concepts is that I am attempting to show how in general the concrete singular is produced in enquiries of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' while at the same time contributing to the education of social formations through the creation of collaborative living educational theories with 'We' questions of the kind, 'How do we improve what we are doing?' I am not accepting Hegel's point that 'I' is the existence of a wholly abstract universality, a principle of abstract freedom. I am taking 'I' to be a concrete singular, which is also a principle of concrete freedom. In this I think that I am being consistent with Marx's inversion of Hegel's dialectic and Sen's ideas on development as freedom.


I would also distinguish my materialist 'I' from the 'I' of Hegel at the point where Hegel says;


'And when the individual 'I', or in other words personality is under discussion (of a personality in its own nature universal) such a personality is a thought and falls within the province of thought only.'


When I use 'I', I am using the word to mean my personality, in the sense of myself, as a singular concrete person with actual corporeal existence as a thinking body.


I am raising the issue of 'I' as  a materialist concept, as a problem to be worked through in the course of my analysis. I am conscious that in a linguistic form of conceptual analysis, such as the ones carried out by Peters (1966) in exploring enquiries of the form, 'What ought I to do?',  my 'I' would be treated as inessential to the analysis as it would be subsumed under the linguistic concept 'person' or 'teacher'. These concepts would be used in a propositional form of discourse which would conform to the Law of Contradiction.  


In my dialectical enquiry, 'I' is a concept which exists as a living contradiction in the sense that it is constituted by mutually opposite determinations. In my work the 'I' becomes a materialist concept in the sense that it is raised to the level of its internal logic and shows how in general the concrete singular is produced.' (Whitehead, 1982, pp. 29-32)


I think this last idea is particularly significant for the development of living standards of judgement from the ground of embodied values. In the construction of collaborative and living educational theories I believe that the dialectical process of showing the internal logic through which our lives and learning are developing will be part of the transformation of embodied values into the living standards that will distinguish the contribution of the Centre to educational knowledge and practice.


In making these points I do not want to be understood as dismissing the value of 'spectator' or 'propositional' theories. I still value highly my learning from my early initiation into these theories with philosophers, psychologists, sociologists and historians during my studies for the Academic Diploma in the philosophy and psychology of education and for my Masters Degree at the Institute of Education of the University of London and I like the way Marcel distinguishes between 'spectator' truth and 'living' truth:


Existentialists such as Gabriel Marcel (cf. Keen, 1966) distinguish between "spectator" truth and "living" truth.  The former is generated by disciplines (e.g., experimental science, psychology, sociology) which rationalise reality and impose on it a framework which helps them to understand it but at the expense of oversimplifying it.  Such general explanations can be achieved only by standing back from and "spectating" the human condition from a distance, as it were, and by concentrating on generalities and ignoring particularities which do not fit the picture.  Whilst such a process is very valuable, it is also very limited because it is one step removed from reality.  The "living" "authentic" truth of a situation can be fully understood only from within the situation though the picture that emerges will never be as clear-cut as that provided by "spectator" truth.'

(Burke, 1992, p.222).


I am however focusing attention on limitations in such 'spectator' theories as a foundation on which to create one's own living educational theory. I am seeking to make explicit the assumptions and biases in my claim that these limitations can be overcome in the creation of living educational theories which draw insights from the 'spectator' theories.


I now want to relate to a point made by Wen Jiabao about hegemony and connect this idea to some possible biases in my research related to my race and gender, being a white, male scholar who is seeking to enhance the quality of evaluation of his productive life by explicitly including postcolonial values in this evaluation. Wen Jiabao's point is that:


 China will never seek hegemony. It will join all peace-loving forces in the world in opposing hegemony, power politics and terrorism in all forms and manifestations. (Jiabao, 2004, p. 7).


The emphasis I am now placing in my exploring of the influence of action research in the internationalisation of educational development is focused on the educational influence of collaborative living educational theories in the education of social formations. In seeking to live my postcolonial values more fully in my practice I am conscious of existing as the living contradiction described by Paulus Murray, a postcolonial scholar, friend and educator as I live with and hold together my valuing of being British together with the legitimacy of expressing the following views. I have worked with Paulus to reduce our tendencies to ‘scarify’ through the passionate critiques in our language. By ‘scarification’ I am meaning the laceration of emotions through harsh or brutal criticism in a way that tends to close down the possibilities for open and educational discourse. The following views are not intended to ‘scarify’ the reader but they do deal with the harsh and brutal realities of the invasion of Iraq:


With Britain and America's alongsideness in the crime against humanity in Fallujah, I am reminded of Sartre's iconic depiction of 'bad faith'. He writes in Colonialism, Neocolonialism (2001, Routledge) that on VE Day in Europe, French citizens  were celebrating the liberation of their self-determination from Nazi German occupation as their self-determining government was authorizing the destruction of the town of Setif in Algeria to destroy anti-colonial freedom fighters whose only crime was their "equality of desire" for the same values of humanity for self-determination expressed by their French colonial masters. The embodied ontological values of a passion for choice and self-determination, central to anti-colonialism, inform and mediate my values as postcolonialist in my educative practice in active and living ways. I hold these values in antithesis of the 'bad faith' values of (in-)humanity expressed by the French government in 1945, and British and American governments in Iraq today. The 'bad faith' of celebrating your own liberation while bombing to death freedom fighters of a country

you are simultaneously colonizing carries poignant resonances over sixty years, speaking to contemporary American and British colonialism: "We come to democratise, shoot to kill". In Fallujah we are witnessing the desecration of values that carry hope for the future of humanity, values that inform my postcolonialist educational choices and actions. I agree with my doctoral colleague, Nceku Nyathi (Leicester University Management Centre) in suggesting that postcolonialism is a decolonizing practice and epistemology and what's happening in Fallujah is the (Iraqi) post-colonial condition in the face of Empire." (Murray, e-mail correspondence, 9/11/04 & 10/11/04)


If you return to the values embodied and expressed in the video-clips above, these contain the values that carry my hope for the future of humanity. Watching the bombs fall on Fallujah, with the deaths of the citizens of Iraq being caused with the active support of the government of my country and its troops, makes me aware of the vital nature of the contradiction of  holding these values together with their negation. My hope is that by enhancing the flow of  the life-affirming values as shown in the video-clips, in the education of social formations through living collaborative educational theories with postcolonial values, we will help to stem the flow of values that negate this hope.


I want to conclude with a reference to some evidence that I think emphasises the importance of including feminist values in the creation of living educational theories and with a reference to the growth of educational knowledge through the Internet. I am connecting feminist values to those that can enhance the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity and can help to stem the flow of the above values of colonialism that do not carry this hope.  In my Presidential Address to the British Educational Research Association in 1988 I made the point: 


'I think we would all agree with Sara's point (Delamont, 1983) that woman's place in education is one of equality and that we must face up to the implications of understanding that this can only be achieved when man's place in the house becomes one of equality too. As Sara said, woman's place in education will be nearer when 'mothercare' is renamed 'parentcare,' just as it will be nearer when BERA elects its 10th woman president in 1994. Unless John Elliott has some urgent treatment the score in 1989 will be Women 2, Men 14. BERA is however better than Bath, statistically speaking, because in my own school of education the score is one woman member of academic staff to 18 men.' (Whitehead, 1989, p. 15)


The ratio of male and female academics in the Department of Education at Bath has now equalised but with 6 male professors and no female professors, there are still issues of differential and gendered power to be faced in a process of educational transformation that values social justice, even though Bath is one of the few British Universities with a female Vice-Chancellor!


In valuing insights from feminist scholarship I have learnt to integrate within my enquiry insights into the significance of interconnecting relationships. I think the living theory resources at also demonstrate a desire for equality in representing the knowledge-creating capacities of both male and female practitioner-researchers. I also acknowledge the particular value of Mary Hartog's engagement with Women's Ways of Knowing in her doctoral thesis and seek to extend the influence of these ideas in the learning of others, as in this communication (Hartog, 2004).


My final point is a reference to the influence of the interconnecting and branching networks of communication channels of the internet. I do hope that you will access my multi-media account in Action Research Expeditions on, Do action researchers' expeditions carry hope for the future of humanity? How do we know? An enquiry into reconstructing educational theory and educating social formations (Whitehead, 2004). This is a story of the growth of my educational knowledge through my action research between 1973-2004 which is being extended through my engagement with the internationalisation of educational development through action research. (see )


By creating and sharing our living theories and other resources for learning through the internet I believe that we will enhance the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity and help to stem the flow of values that do not carry this hope. I am identifying the processes of enhancing the flow of these values with our living educational theories with the education of social formations and I am working with colleagues from the Centre on our question, ‘How can we create collaborative and inclusional living educational theories at China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching?’


In this spirit of linking action research professional practitioners around the globe, through their living theories, a colleague of mine from Edith Cowan University, Australia, Mark Williams, and I are working on an initiative which following Mark’s ideas, we call the VisionPlace Gatherings.



This picture of Mark was taken on the 15th November 2004 in a Monday evening educational conversation in the Department of Education of the University of Bath with Alan Rayner, Margarida Dolan, Alon Serper, Jack Whitehead, James Payn and Ceri Williams. These Monday evening conversations in the UK may provide a relational connection to you and your communities as we account for ourselves and develop our enquiries. As in the video-clips earlier in the paper, at the moment this clip was taken we (Mark and Jack) felt the flow of life-affirming energy being expressed through Mark’s inclusional way of being. Peter Taylor, a Professor of Transformative Education at Curtin University, supervised Mark’s doctoral thesis, and Peter’s ideas on Transformative Pedagogy for Intercultural Research (Taylor, 2004) have influenced Mark’s own supervisions of his doctoral students in the creation of their own living theories (Williams & Dick, 2004).


The following points outline our concept of VisionPlace:


1.     Our major goals are: To maintain an inclusively energising vision for our professional and personal lives:

2.     be part of the expansion of action research professional practice from the heartland of Education into Management, Business Studies, Information Systems, Electronic Business, Law, Defence, Politics, Public Management, and the other professional disciplines.:

3.     discover new ways to become more efficient, more effective, and more empowered within our organisational, professional, communal, citizenship, and personal lives.

4.     The VisionPlace Network promotes renewal gatherings ranging from informal chats through to workshops within international conferences,

5.     These gatherings, face-to-face through to virtual, allow us to share rigorous accounts of our value-embodying practice and learning, all accountable to rich living theories open to inclusive inquiry.

6.     Part of this sharing can involve accounts of how we use reflective practitioner research, professional action research, and professional knowledge communication research, to reflect with action on our practice.

7.     During conference workshops we contribute by presenting fully referred academic or professional papers, listening, conversing, sharing art or music or poetry, or though ceremonies, etc.

8.     In order to maintain strength to continue, renewed motivation, hope, inspiration, etc,  we begin our gathering by relaxing together into be-ing, in ourselves and with others, through local ceremonies.

9.     For example; at Australian VisionPlace gatherings we learn from the Australian Aboriginal Dream Time art and music with teachings of 'jiva or guruwari, a seed power deposited in the earth' ( at Chinese VisionTime gatherings we learn from the lunar ceremony; in Japan from the tea ceremony; in Britain from country rambles, etc.

10.  We expect the main communication medium for VisionPlace to be the Internet, increasingly with artificially intelligent agents joining in the communicative action with discourse ethics in which the 'the unforced force of the better argument prevails' (Habermas, see )

11.  Thus we are committed to join with each other with artistic expression to strengthen our spirit; physical exercise and activity to strengthen our bodies; rigorous scholarship to enhance our credibility; inclusive conversation to strengthen our minds; social fun times to strengthen our fellowship; all within our common humanity to strengthen our soul.

12.  Our major Internet communication forum is accessed by joining the Living Action Research List. To do this go to, go down to the bottom of the "What's New" section and click on details of "How to Join the Living Action Forum".

13.  The major forum for news and information is via Dr Jack Whitehead's email group newsletter at and his home page at



There is now a VisionPlace Australia.  It is possible that a VisionTime China will result from the work of colleagues at the Centre and we already see the work of Je Kan Adler-Collins as contributing to a Living Action Research VisionPlace Japan (see ) We believe that the collaborative research programmes currently underway with educational researchers working in China's Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching, including this paper, are part of the process of enhancing the influence of action research in the internationalisation of educational development. We are identifying these research programmes with the flow of values that carry humanity's hope.





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