Letter from Jack, 9th April 2003: The Future of Educational Research in the Department of Education.

Dear Colleagues,

As a contribution to our on-going conversations about the future of educational research in our Department of Education, I want to draw your attention to some evidence that I think will support my advocacy of a central role for the creation and testing of living educational theories in the future of educational research in the Department.

I am thinking of the ideas of Colin Smith on the importance of developing shared living theories in relation to educational policy formation and improving educational practice. Colin has explained his ideas in his 'Supporting Teacher and School Development: learning and teaching policies, shared living theories and teacher-research partnerships'. This has been published in Teacher Development, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 157- 179, 2002.

I am thinking of Mark Pott's educational enquiry on: How can I live out my democratic values in practice more fully by using formative assessment techniques to influence my own learning and the learning of others?. Mark shows how a number of our research interests in policy formation, networking learning communities and assessment can be connected in the creation and testing of living educational theories.

The details of the invitational seminar at the University of Limerick below, show how living educational theories can become embodied within the habitus of the academy.

Love Jack.








You are invited to the first of a series of research seminars, organised by the Department of Education and Professional Studies, University of Limerick. The aim of the seminars is to engage with emergent issues in educational action research, and to raise awareness of their implications for professional and organisational change. The seminars will present the most up-to-date thinking in critical areas, especially in terms of how the living educational theories of practitioner researchers can inform future policy and practice within a variety of education settings. It is hoped to arrange seminars on a twice-yearly basis. The first seminar will take place June 5-7, 2003.



Date: Thursday 5th - Saturday 7th June 2003

Venue: University of Limerick

This seminar promises to be a unique experience that brings together some of the leading researchers in the world of educational action research to talk about their ideas and use them to generate new debates.

Key speakers

Marion Dadds, University College of St. Mark’s

Margaret Farren, Dublin City University

Rachel Deitcher, David Yellin Teachers College, Jerusalem

Revital Heimann, David Yellin, Teachers College, Jerusalem

Chris James, University of Glamorgan

Ruth Leith, Queens University, Belfast

Diarmuid Leonard, University of Limerick

Mary McAteer, University of Ulster

Oliver McGarr, University of Limerick

Tim McMahon, University College Dublin

Gerry McNamara, Dublin City University

Victoria Perselli, Kingston University

Terry Phillips, University of East Anglia

Ron Ritchie, University of the West of England

Jack Whitehead, University of Bath

Richard Winter, Anglia Polytechnic University

Organisers Tom Geary and Jean McNiff

The seminar will be interactive and take the form of lively debates. Participants will be able to speak personally with presenters throughout. There will be multiple opportunities for discussing critical issues in action research. Key speakers will present their views on the issues and test their views against the living theories of practitioner researchers who are pursuing their doctoral studies at the University of Limerick. Participants from the world of professional education, educational research and educational policy will be able to listen to the debates and will also have opportunities to take part and make their contributions. The whole seminar will take the form of critical engagement about what people see as emergent issues in action research, and how these issues might be developed in practical settings.


Action research and ICT

How do we make judgements about the impact of ICT on the quality of learning in schools? Can an action research approach help? What are the potential implications for the professional education of teachers?

What is the location for action research?

Where should action research be located? Schools / workplaces or universities, or both? What are the relationships between workplaces and higher education? What kind of pedagogical relationships need to be developed to support sustainable relationships?

Action research for organisational change

What are the potentials of action research to impact on organisational change? Are there any necessary conditions? What about the politics of practitioner research for organisational change?

Identity, voice and representation

In whose voice do we speak our research — our own, our participants, others who share our views, others with alternative perspectives? How do we facilitate the voices of others (if this is an aim of our research) and empower those less privileged than ourselves to speak? How do we represent our research in ways that startle us into new understandings?

Forms of theory in action research

What form of theory is most appropriate for doing action research and for generating action research accounts? How do we show the value of different forms of theory? How do we legitimate them? Who makes decisions about these things?

Validity and legitimacy

How do we validate action research accounts? How do we legitimate them in the public domain? What do we need to learn about processes of validating and legitimating?

A lively, participative and exciting opportunity for professional learning!