Margaret Farren, Department of Education Studies, Dublin City University.

Jack Whitehead, Department of Education, University of Bath.

A paper and video-conference presentation at the Diverse Conference 2005 5 July, 2005





In this presentation, we intend to show, through the use of digital video, our understanding of ontological values of a web of betweenness and pedagogy of the unique (Farren, 2004) as they are lived in practice with students, in this case, practitioner-researchers on award bearing programmes. We both work with a sense of research-based professionalism in which we are seeking to improve our educational practice with our students in action reserach enquiries 'how do I improve what I am doing?'

The visual narratives, in the form of digital video clips, of our educational practice, include our engagement with practitioner-researchers as we seek to understand our educational influences in their learning so that we can "influence the education of social formation" (Whitehead, 2004a & b). This relates to the idea of social formations as defined by Bourdieu (1990) and points to the way people organise their interactions according to a set of regulatory values that can take the form of rules. In studying our own education practice, with the help of digital video, we hope to infuence the education of social formations so that others will begin to question their underlying values, assumptions and epistemologies that inform their practice. The first video clip shows Margaret witha group of her masters students in a validation group meeting, the second set of video clip shows Jack in a supervision with a PhD student.

A validation group is a group of peers convened to help strengthen the validity of an account of learning and to help with suggestions about how an enquiry might move forward. Through digital video clips of validation meetings, Margaret hopes to show how a web of betweenness, in the validation meeting, is characterised by a process of democratic evaluation where the unforced force of reasonable response holds sway in the conversation. The pedagogy of the unique is characteristed in the recognition that each individual has a particular and different constellation of values that motivate the enquiry and a different context from within which the enquiry is developing. The video clips show the relational dynamic of the different contributions to the validation discourse in the web of betweenness and the engaged and appreciative responses of each individual to the others' contribution.


In this paper, we intend to show, through use of digital video, our understanding of a spiritual and ontological values of a web of betweenness and pedagogy of the unique (Farren, 2004), as they are lived in practice with students. 'Pedagogy of the unique' refers to the unique contribution that each participant makes to a knowledge base of practice.  Each participant has a unique contribution to make to an 'epistemology of practice' (Schon, 1995).  The Web of Betweenness' refers to our belief that we learn in relation to one another.  The 'Web of Betweenness' and 'Pedagogy of the unique' both complement each other in that they connect the individual and social dimensions of learning.  This is what characterises the relationship between all participants in the learning process.  The metaphor of a 'Web of Betweenness' in the context of ICT is a useful metaphor in that it also relates to the possibility that the internet offers us the facility to share our research based professionalism with others. It offers two dimensions, one philosophical and one technological. The technological dimension understands how ICT complements this process by allowing us to provide visual narratives which can be shared online.  We both work with a sense of research-based professionalism in which we are seeking to improve our educational practice with our students in action research enquiries 'how do I improve what I am doing?'  These self-studies include our educational engagements with our students as we seek to understand our educational influences in our students learning so that we can enhance this influence.  We also work with the assumption that a characteristic of human existence is that we are learners.  Our vocations in education and education research focus on our educational influence in the learning of our students, of ourselves, of each other and in the education of social formations in which we live and work.  The purpose of this paper is to communicate to a wider audience and network with other higher education educators through visual narratives of our work in higher education. There is a lack of research in how educators in higher education are influencing the education of their students. This area of research is one which we develop through this paper.


How the paper is organised – here we refer to the context and each of the video clips that will be shown and discussed.


We start by showing you what we do in our educational relationships and by showing that we share our understandings of a spiritual and ontological value of a web of betweenness and a pedagogy of the unique (Farren, 2004) through our collaborative ostensive definitions of our meanings with the help of video-clips with Margaret and her students, with Jack in a doctoral supervision with Jackie Delong, with Peter Mellett and a group of practitioner-researchers celebrating Jackie Delong's doctoral graduation, with Moira Laidlaw and her students. Moira is another teacher in higher education, who is a full-time voluntary service overseas advisor to China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching at Guyuan Teacher's College (Laidlaw, 2004). We recognise that beginning with images and video-clips requires the use of the very technology our paper is addressing and that this limits the communication of our meanings to those with access to the technology. As we are claiming that the use of this technology can transform understandings of the nature of educational standards of judgement, this is unavoidable! You will need Real Player to view the clip of the validation group with Marian and Quicktime to view the other clips. (.rm at the end of the ulr shows that you need RealPlayer; .mov shows that you need Quicktime)


The first video-clip shows Margaret at work in a validation group with a group of her students on a masters programme in information and communications technology at Dublin City University.


The context of the clip is that of a 'validation meeting' within the web of betweenness of the action research process that Margaret uses as part of her understanding of a pedagogy of the unique. We will explain our meanings of a pedagogy of the unique in some detail later and connect this to our meanings of a living web of betweenness.  We both work with a sense of research-based professionalism in which we are seeking to improve our educational practices with our students in our action research enquiries, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' These self-studies include our educational engagements with our students as we seek to understand our educational influences in our students' learning so that we can enhance this influence. We also work with the assumption that a characteristic of human existence is that we learn. Our vocations in education are focused on our educational influences in the learning of our students, of ourselves, or each other and in the education of the social formations in which we live and work. 


The second video-clip shows Jack at work in a doctoral supervision with Jackie Delong, a Superintendent of Schools in the Grand Erie District School Board in Ontario.



The purpose of showing this clip is to emphasise the importance, in the web of betweenness of educational relationships, in the expression of life-affirming energy through laughter.


The third video-clip shows Peter Mellett talking with a group of practitioner-researchers who have been invited to celebrate Jackie Delong's graduation for her Doctorate at the University of Bath on the 18th December 2002.


Peter is seeking to communicate the importance of music in the communication of achievement between Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt in their improvisation 'Minor Swing'. We believe that Peter is expressing a flow of love and understanding consistent with his Father's influence (see below for further details of this influence). The 'eruption' of humour towards the end of the clip shows the flow of life-affirming energy through the boundaries of the relationships into a community celebration that is focused on Jackie Delong's achievement. The purpose of this clip is to emphasise the importance of expressing pleasure, through laughter, in both our webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique in our communities of practice.

The fourth video-clip shows Moira Laidlaw at the end of a Year 3 English Methodology Class at Guyuan Teachers College expressing a loving flow of life-affirming energy through the boundaries of her relationships with her students as they move past her out of the room.

This interpretation of Moira's expression of her ontological values has been agreed with her.


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


We will be saying more about how we are seeing the living boundaries of her educational relationships, and our own, as connective, reflexive and co-creative as we draw insights from Alan Rayner's (2004) ideas on inclusionality.


We also wish to emphasise how much we agree with Colin Smith's ideas on the significance of sharing living educational theories when he writes:


"A practitioner's living theory can make valid contributions to educational knowledge (Whitehead, 1989). However, in Whitehead's original conception living theories are largely individual products.  A contribution is made to the debate on facilitating teaching-research partnerships by suggesting that the staff and pupils in a school can share a living theory as a form of learning and teaching policy. How a school staff came to develop such a policy is described. The policy is compared with features of living theories to substantiate this claim. The testing of the shared living theory takes place through the normal development processes of the school. A model is also presented showing how this may facilitate closer, two-way relations between academic theory and practitioner theory. Using this model facilitates cooperation between teachers and researchers in working together to support teacher and school development while also sharing the task of increasing educational knowledge." (Smith, 2003, p. 157)


We will be drawing on the living educational theories of individuals as they account for their enquiry learning. We will also be emphasizing the importance of sharing living educational theories in the education of social formations and each other in our webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique. We value both our unique identities and our sense of being connected with others. In our pedagogies of the unique we connect with the distinct qualities (but not discrete) that characterize each individual as unique. In our webs of betweenness we feel the flow of values and energy that characterize both our shared humanity and our unique constellations of values and beliefs.

Defining webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique.

Before we focus on the living meanings of our webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique it might be helpful as a preliminary to the ostensive definitions using a visual narrative to focus on the expression of our meanings through the languages of others.


We recognise differences in the expression of the spiritual energy that characterises our contributions to our webs of betweenness. Margaret is influenced by a Celtic spirituality of the quality described by the Irish theologian John O Donohue as a 'web of betweenness':


In the intuitive world-view of the Celtic Imagination, the web of belonging sill continued to hold a person, especially when times were bleak. In Catholic theology, there is a teaching reminiscent of this. It has to do with the validity and wholesomeness of the sacraments. In a case where the minister of the sacrament is unworthy, the sacrament still continues to be real and effective because the community of believes supplies the deficit. It is called the ex-opere-operato principle. From the adjacent abundance of grace, the Church fills out what is absent in the unworthiness of the celebrant. Within the embrace of folk culture, the web of belonging supplied similar secrete psychic and spiritual shelter to the individual. This is one of the deepest poverties in our times. That whole 'web of 'betweenness' seems to be unravelling. It is rarely acknowledged any more, but that does not mean that it has ceased to exist. The 'web of betweenness' is still there but in order to become a presence again, it needs to be invoked. As in the rainforest. A dazzling diversity of life-forms complement and sustain each other. There is secret oxygen with which we unknowingly sustain one another. True community is not produced. It is invoked and awakened. True community is an ideal where the full identities of awakened and realized individuals challenge and complement each other. In this sense individuality and originality enrich self and others. (Donohue, 2003, pp. 132-133)


Jack feels the flow of a life-affirming energy that he experiences as flowing from the cosmos. He is also influenced in his contribution to our web of betweenness by his recognition of a desire in himself and others to live values that carry a loving hope for each others' humanity. He associates this loving hope of relationship with Martin Buber's poetic communication of the meaning of 'I-You' relationship. Jack understands Martin Buber's monotheistic connection of 'I-You' relationships with the relationship with God in 'I-Thou' relationships, but being resistant to the submission implicit in theistic relationships, mono or poly, Jack values the humanistic qualities in the flow of loving hope in 'I-You' relations in our web of betweenness:


Those who pronounce the severed I, wallowing in the capital letter, uncover the shame of the world spirit that has been debased to mere spirituality.


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, p. 117, 1970)


Through the influence of Paulus Murray's insights into the 'we-i' relationships of the African Cosmology of Ubuntu, Jack sees Margaret's relationships, more so than his own, as expressing the qualities of 'we-i' relationships in our web of betweenness:


"In my educational enquiries I am seeking to support the enhancement of the flow of the values of Ubuntu from the ground of living my postcolonial spiritual values in my educational relationships. However, I do understand Paulus Murray's point about my 'I' feeling very Western and European while to get closer to the values of Ubuntu I will need to understand a sense of self that is closer to African and Arab cultural expressions of 'i in we'.


'I live within an extended Arab/Omani/British family where 'we' is used only when 'I' see's the other in Ubuntu, in extended family connection, in a solidary space where we feel at one in terms of identity and integrity. This feels so very different to your formulary above.  For this 'we' to happen there has to be an eastern/southern "solidary logic" at work which is fundamentally communicative, rather than a Western/northern "atomistic logic" at work that is fundamentally ex-communicative.' (Murray, 23/08/04, e-mail).


For Murray the practical spirit of Ubuntu flows from a sense of ethno-community where 'we' comes into existence when my 'I' alongside lots of other 'I''s is subordinated to 'we-i'. The moment 'we' happens is when my 'i' fully understands (and values, appreciates and accepts) the responsibilities for how my identity and integrity is embraced within the 'we' of the extended family, and this is the first step in an ethno-community held in Ubuntu or similar cosmology. Murray believes that the 'i' in eastern and southern cultures is an 'i' that is 'we-i'. He says that the Western and European 'I' has to learn how to let go of 'I' as a procedure to be satisfied before making the move to 'we', which usually entails agonising over one's space, one's autonomy, one's sense of identity. In eastern/southern indigenous cultures the movement in 'we-i' space is seamless.


 For the evidence in the living theory section of to show that such values have been legitimated in the knowledge-base of the Academy in the form of living epistemological standards of judgement, I am sure that I will have to address the problem that the values in a Western 'I' do not migrate easily across cultural borders, east and south, and that the values of Ubuntu or similar cosmologies that hold the values of 'i in we' do not migrate easily across cultural borders, north and west.  My belief in the educational possibility of the generativity of bringing these  values alongside (Pound, 2003) each other in speaking 'cross-culturally'  is grounded in the evidence provided in the doctoral thesis of Ram Punia (2004) and in Marian Naidoo's (2004) writings from her doctoral enquiry 'I am because we are. How can I improve my practice? The emergence of a living theory of responsive practice'. My belief in the generativity of bringing these values alongside each other is also grounded in the scholarship of educational enquiry of Peggy Leong, the Manager of the Academy of Best Learning in Education (ABLE) in Singapore. Leong's dissertation on The Art of an Educational Enquirer (Leong, 1991) remains one of the most inspiring texts I have read from a practitioner-researcher who understands and can live values of inclusionality while engaging with tensions and conflicts between different cultural contexts." (Whitehead, 2004)

We now want to focus on our shared meanings of a pedagogy of the unique, that have emerged from Margaret's doctoral enquiries.

A pedagogy of the unique

Margaret has focussed on the development of her meanings of a pedagogy of the unique in her doctoral research programmes and writes about this in the Abstract to her draft doctoral thesis:

This thesis explores how I, as a higher education educator, develop my practice in a social interactive dialogue with learners (teachers from primary, post-primary, higher education and training) on a Masters degree in Computer Applications for Education. I show my originality of mind and critical judgment in developing a pedagogy of the unique by engaging with learners, as each of us develops our own educational practice through mutual collaboration and dialogue. My pedagogy involves a dual role: myself as a learner, as I enquire into my own learning, and myself in relation to others, as I endeavour to engage them in a process of reflection and enquiry into their own educational practice using Information and communication technology. This is my pedagogy of the unique.


 The first enquiry explores my role as teacher on the Masters degree in Computer Applications for Education as I engage learners in a process of developing their own multimedia curriculum artifacts that were underpinned by their own educational values, as opposed to others' learning theories. Although the learners related to other educational theories, I enabled each one to discover and create his/her own 'living' educational theory. The second enquiry involves me in online dialogue with teachers as they reflect on their own emerging educational values. The third enquiry involves me in the role of supervisor as a teacher-researcher explores how he can use an online learning environment to complement his classroom based teaching.


 This process of enquiry involves me in writing online learning journals of reflections, engaging in dialogue, using synchronous and asynchronous online discussion forums, videoconferencing, face-to-face discussions, conference presentations, journal articles, as I design, develop, integrate and evaluate ICT in the context of a Masters programme. The learners is involved in a similar process.


 The journey has a context and a purpose, however, when I started I did not have a preset destination. The journey involved risk, courage and challenge, but I have learned that in creating my pedagogy of the unique, I can learn and grow in mutual dialogue and collaboration with others. (Farren, 2004)

In defining pedagogy, we use Basil Bernstein's language:

Pedagogy is a sustained process whereby somebody(s) acquires new forms or develops existing forms of conduct, knowledge, practice and criteria from somebody(s) or something deemed to be an appropriate provider and evaluator - appropriate either from the point of view of the acquirer or by some other body(s) or both (Bernstein, 2000, p.78).


We also use his distinction between explicit, implicit and tacit pedagogic relations:


When I talk about pedagogy, I am referring to pedagogic relations that shape pedagogic communications and their relevant contexts. Three basic forms of pedagogic relation may be distinguished, explicit, implicit and tacit. Explicit and implicit refer to a progressive in time pedagogic relation where there is a purposeful intention to initiate, modify, develop or change knowledge, conduct or practice by someone or something which already possesses, or has access to, the necessary resources and the means of evaluating the acquisition. The acquirer may or may not define the relation as legitimate, or accept as otherwise, what is to be acquired. Explicit or implicit refers to the visibility of the transmitter's intention as to what is to be acquired from the point of view of the acquirer. In the case of explicit pedagogy the intention is highly visible, whereas in the case of implicit pedagogy the intention from the point of view of the acquirer is invisible. The tacit is a pegagogic  relation where initiation, modification, development of change of knowledge, conduct or practice occurs, where neither of the members may be aware of it. Here the meanings are non-linguistic, condensed and context dependent;  a pure restricted code relay. An example would be modelling, perhaps the basic pedagogic mode; primary in the sense of time and primary in the sense of durability. The primary modelling where both transmitter and acquirer are unaware of a pedagogic relation must be distinguished from secondary modelling which is a deliberate and purpose relation only for the acquirer.

(Bernstein, 2000, p. 200)


Creating and sharing our living educational theories through our webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique.


The 'our' in 'our living educational theories' is more extensive that the living educational theories of Margaret and Jack. It includes the living educational theories of those whose research we have supervised and whose living theories have been legitimated in the Academy. We have provided access to these theories through the internet (Farren, 2004; Whitehead, 2004b)


The accounts of learning that constitute the living educational theories all refer to the use and development of an action research methodology in which individuals express their concerns when their values are not being lived as fully as they desire. A possible way forward is imagined in an action plan, data is gathered in the action and evaluations made of the effectiveness of the actions in living the values more fully. Concerns, plans and actions are modified in the light of the evaluations. An account of the learning is produced that is submitted to a validation group in order to strengthen the validity of the account and to benefit from the ideas of others on ways in which the enquiry could move forward.


This use of action reflection cycles and validation groups is part of a process of clarifying the meanings of the embodied values that form explanatory principles in the account of learning. In the process of clarifying the values in the course of their emergence in practice, they are transformed into living epistemological standards of judgement that can be used to evaluate the validity of the account of the learning. Understanding these transformations, from the experience and clarification of the ontological values, that give meaning and purpose to one's productive life, into living and communicable standards of educational judgement, is fundamental to the creation of a new epistemology of educational knowledge.  The multi-media accounts of educational practice enable visual narratives to create new meanings of living educational standards of judgement through the action research processes outlined above.


Perhaps one of the most convincing pieces of evidence we have seen to support this view is Eleanor Lohr's (2004) prologue to her draft Ph.D. 'Love at Work'.

In her visual narrative of her relationship and discourse with her husband Paul, Eleanor communicates what she is meaning by her expression of love at work. The visual record of the verbal and non-verbal communications is necessary to the communication of her meanings. Without the visual record, significant meanings cannot be communicated through text alone.

Extending our webs of betweenness, pedagogies of the unique and living educational theories through the flow of our communications in the labyrinthine channels of communication of the internet.


In placing this presentation in our web-spaces we are aware that our meanings can flow through the multiple channels of communications offered by the labyrinth of the internet. They can connect with your own meanings, just as yours can do with ours and through the mediation of our originalities of mind and critical judgments they can influence our learning. Our understandings of these multiple channels of communication has been influenced by the biological concept of anastomosis in the sense of the natural connection between two tubular structures. Karen Teeson a doctoral researcher at the University of Bath, introduced this idea in a presentation on her research. We are working with an image of the second diagram below which shows the transformation from connecting tubular structures into interconnecting and branching channels of communication through which our ideas can flow through the internet.


We are seeing the labyrinthine channels of communication offered by the internet as an unprecedented opportunity to share our values, hopes and ideas and to learn from each other.

In our webs of betweenness we are working with a commitment to inclusionality. By this we mean, following Alan Rayner (2004a), that we are working with a relational dynamic awareness of space and boundaries that are connective, reflexive and co-creative. We see the boundaries of our webs of betweenness as carrying a flow of communications that can evoke and resonate with your own loving hope and life affirming energy as we express our own with their flow through space. We are also working with Rayner's (2004b) idea of a complex self in the sense of a fully contextualized understanding of 'self-identity', based on the reciprocally  coupling of our distinct but not discrete inner and outer spatial aspects through our 'dynamic self boundaries'. We are aware that a metaphor such as 'web of betweenness' may unfortunately lead to an overemphasis on a 'threads of connectivity' visualization in recipients minds, rather than stressing the importance of  the feeling for labyrinthine connective space. We see both our connecting threads and our feelings for labyrinthine connective space as necessary in communicating the inclusional idea that it is space that connects, through its relationally dynamic intermediating boundaries.

Enhancing the flow of life-affirming energy and living educational theories in the education of individuals and their social formations.

By placing our ideas into the flow of the communication channels and boundaries of the internet we are seeking to contribute to the enhancement of the flow of life-affirming energy and living educational theories that characterise the educational development of individuals and their social formations. In doing this we want our living educational theories to be as fully contextualised as possible in the flow of economic, political and cultural influences. We see the value of accounting for our lives and learning to ourselves and to others not only in terms of the pleasure of feeling the interest of others in ourselves and our interest in their lives. We see the value of accounting for our learning in a process of democratic evaluation as offering the opportunity of enhancing the validity of our accounts by not persisting in error, and by sharing a range of possibilities for moving our own enquiries forward as we seek to live our values as fully as we can.

Evaluating the validity of each others' accounts and helping to move enquiries forward

The first video-clips shows Margaret with a group of her masters students in a validation group. A validation group is a group of peers convened to help to evaluate the validity of an account of learning and to help with suggestions about how the enquiry might move forward. The web of betweenness in this validation meeting is characterised by a process of democratic evaluation where the unforced force of reasonable response holds sway in the conversation. The pedagogy of the unique is characterised in the recognition that each individual has a particular and different constellation of values  that motivate the enquiry and a different context from within which the enquiry is developing. The clip shows the relational dynamic of the different contributions to the validation discourse in the web of betweenness and the engaged and appreciative responses of each individual to the others' contributions.

The second clip shows Jack with Jackie Delong in a supervision session during 2001 before the submission of the doctorate in 2002. The clip was made at the end of a week during which both Jack and Jackie had experienced some tensions in dealing with Jack's criticism of an earlier draft of the thesis Abstract. Space doesn't permit here a detailed analysis of the responses to the criticism and the resolutions at the end of the week, expressed in the shared laughter in this second clip. A more detailed analysis can be found in the multi-media account: "How Valid Are Multi-Media Communications Of My Embodied Values In Living Theories And Standards Of Educational Judgement And Practice?"

at . This account is also included in Action Research Expeditions of October 2004 in Part 11 of the multi-media presentation 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 at: (Whitehead, 2004b)


Expressing, defining and communicating a loving flow of life-affirming energy in educational relationships.

Video-clip 3 was one of those fortunate occurrences. Jack had switched his camera off at what he thought was the end of the lesson as the students were about the leave Moira's lesson. He then saw Moira going over to the door and he turned the camera back on. We both feel that the clip shows something about Moira's relationships with her students that is educationally significant. In the flow of the relationships as the students stream past Moira, we see Moira communicating with her students in a way that resonates with our understandings of our webs of betweenness and pedagogies of the unique. Moira signals for Tian Fang to join her right at the end of the clip and congratulates her on her participation in the lesson. Moira's response is unique to Tian Fang and is an expression of what we are meaning by a pedagogy of the unique. We have agreed with Moira that we can define the qualities she is expressing in her educational relationships in this clip in terms of a loving flow of life-affirming energy. We are affirming such loving flows of life-affirming energy as one of our own ontological values and living educational standards of judgement. 


Here is an extract from an essay by Guo Yanyan, a student in the class writing about the significance of Moira smiling in her class. We do not want to reduce Guo Yanyan's meanings to the phrase 'loving flow of life-affirming energy', yet we do want to connect such meanings to the living flow of life-affirming energy that we experience Moira expressing as both an embodied value and living standard of judgement in her educational relationships:


I love your smile. It lights me up. Because of your smile I have the courage to teach a class. I am so happy with my achievement because I never did it before. I greeted my 'students' with a smile because you did that for us and it has changed my life. There was a happy and relaxed atmosphere in the class. Thanks to your smile I overcame my nervousness and taught. One of my 'students', Ma Qiang (name changed), who has studied with us for almost three years but has never spoken much to us, I smiled at him and called on him to answer. I believed he knew the answer and he did. Afterwards he said to me: You are a good teacher with a big smile. I didn't feel nervous although I usually hate speaking in front of anyone. With your smile we feel the warmth of spring.' This was the longest speech I ever heard him say to a woman. Li Fanghong said to me after my class: 'You had a successful class today. Smiling made your students feel relaxed. I did. So they really enjoyed themselves. So did I!'...


I am not a confident woman, but I am still successful. I know it has something to do with your smile, my dear teacher. They were able to express their ideas and their thoughts, just as I can express my ideas and thoughts to you now...


You not only smile at us, but you smile for your country and for your dreams. You never look down on us because our knowledge is less than yours. You want to know what we know. You smile all the time to encourage us to believe in ourselves. You encouraged the shyest girl, Tian Fang, to give us a class and even Liu Aijun in Class six with your wonderful smile...


...Your smile didn't only encourage my studies and help me to understand people better and what they need, it also encouraged a kind of morality from me. I never saw a teacher coming into the classroom before the students before. Always. To greet us with a smile. I never saw a teacher saying hello or Good morning to all the students one by one as they come in the door. I never saw a teacher saying, 'goodbye', or 'see you' to her students until they all left. How much patience and love does it need? I think you don't think about it, you just do it. I think that's wonderful and I want to be like that: loving my students because they are my students. It's simple, not difficult. Your smile made me feel precious and loved and noticed. Although it is a big class you really love me and I know it. The love makes me strong. I will help my students to be strong and have courage in the future. If I can teach a class, I can smile at my students. (Guo Yanyan, English Methodology Essay, December 2004)       

We feel the ontological expression of loving affirmation in Moira's way of being with her students. We now want to turn to the expression of affirmation in producing something of value as a human being.

Expressing affirmation with Peter Mellett and Jackie Delong on the legitimation by the University of Bath of Jackie Delong's Living Educational Theory for her Doctorate.

Video-clip 4 shows Peter Mellett's explaining his use of the music of Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt in their 'Minor Swing' and their expression of affirmation in their own achievement at the end of the piece, to evoke his feelings of affirmation for Jackie Delong's achievement in her doctorate. The feeling of sharing the pleasure in this celebration of Jackie's achievement may be experienced at the moment of the laughter when Peter explains to the group that they should listen attentively for the last note and Margarida asks how she will know it is the last note if she hasn't heard the piece before!  In our affirmation of Jackie Delong's achievement we believe that we are sharing in a double sense of affirmation of the kind that Marx described in his earlier writing as distinguishing a productive life in what it means to produce something as a human being:

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, 1971, p. 41)

Jackie summarised the achievement of her thesis in her Abstract:

How can I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools and create my own living educational theory?


 One of the basic tenets of my philosophy is that the development of a culture for improving learning rests upon supporting the knowledge-creating capacity in each individual in the system. Thus, I start with my own. This thesis sets out a claim to know my own learning in my educational inquiry, 'How can I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools?'


 Out of this philosophy emerges my belief that the professional development of each teacher rests in their own knowledge-creating capacities as they examine their own practice in helping their students to improve their learning. In creating my own educational theory and supporting teachers in creating theirs, we engage with and use insights from the theories of others in the process of improving student learning.


 The originality of the contribution of this thesis to the academic and professional knowledge-base of education is in the systematic way I transform my embodied educational values into educational standards of practice and judgement in the creation of my living educational theory. In the thesis I demonstrate how these values and standards can be used critically both to test the validity of my knowledge-claims and to be a powerful motivator in my living educational inquiry.


 The values and standards are defined in terms of valuing the other in my professional practice, building a culture of inquiry, reflection and scholarship and creating knowledge. (Delong, 2002)


In the quote from the early writings of Marx, our only point of difference is where he says that in producing something as a human being, one individual can directly create the life of another. In our educational philosophy we see that the originality of mind and critical judgement of individuals must mediate between what we do and what the others learn. So, our influence does not directly create the life of another. Our educational influence in the learning of another is mediated by their originality of mind and critical judgement for us to recognise our influence as educational.

Jackie's achievement includes the evidence of her own web of betweenness and pedagogy of the unique as she supports the educational enquiries of the teachers in the Grand Erie District School Board. She adds significantly to these ideas in her thesis with her political and economic understandings, of the educational significance of the development of a culture of inquiry with teachers and students in the processes of improving learning, contexualised within educational administration and leadership of a District School Board. Evidence of the influence of this culture of inquiry in teachers' accounts of their own learning can be seen in the volumes of Passion in Professional Practice.

Volume 1 -

Volume 11 -

Volume III -

Volume 1V -

In watching the video-clip as Peter contributes to the celebration of Jackie's achievement, we are both aware that Peter is expressing qualities of love and understanding that his Father expressed. Peter's Father had a most significant experience during the 1939-1945 war in Europe. He was captured by German soldiers and walking through a field of dead German soldiers he felt that he might be killed. This experience had a transforming influence on his commitment to enhance his expression of love and understanding which he did with his own children. Peter shares this commitment with his Father. In his Masters Dissertation 'Making the Break' Peter documents his own learning as he moved from a commitment to technical rationality to more dialogical and dialectical forms of communication, enquiry and understanding. Here is the foreword in which Peter acknowledges the influence of John Wisdom:



John Wisdom: obituary in The Independent 15th December 1993 


Photograph: A lean open face with a broad smile; cloth cap, muffler and raincoat against a background of hay or straw bales.


'... His book Paradox and Discovery (1965) ... continues his work of showing that philosophy can advance and deepen our understanding, not in the ways with which we are familiar in logic and the sciences, but in a way that good literature does.  His last book, Proof and Explanation (1990), ... is concerned with the nature of reasoning inside and outside philosophy ... He argues for the fundamental character of the particular case in all forms of reasoning, such as a mother refers to in explaining things to her child. He argues for the priority of "mother's method" over "father's", where the father resorts to general principles in his explanations. It is the mother who has to come to the rescue when the child asks for an explanation of the father's general principles - what they mean and why the child should believe them. ... He did not lecture from notes and brought his students into dialogue with what he was saying. ... Wisdom's philosophy was neither the study of arcane facts, nor the pursuit of complex theories; rather, anyone who has reached a certain linguistic level has, he believed, the capacity both to raise central philosophical doubts and to take steps towards settling them. Wisdom called these processes "provocation and pacification". Unlike Wittgenstein, he stressed the insight (rather than the craziness) that informs even - or perhaps especially - the most paradoxical and most notorious philosophical ideas. ("There is good in them, poor things"). Philosophy thus calls for a perturbation of our apparently stable conceptual schemes, and an uncomfortable deconstruction of what we know; but also for a reconstruction through which the relations between neighbouring conceptual areas are redescribed, and that which we have already known is seen anew. ... psychoanalysis, another enquiry through which that which we in a sense have always known is regained, but with greater vividness, particularity and authenticity. In both philosophy and psychoanalysis there is resistance to such knowledge, and to the exploratory use of free associations of ideas which may feel dangerous or mad. Wisdom ... drew out of his students these often inaccessible thoughts. He was truly Socratic. ...'


            This outline of Wisdom's philosophy describes the place from which I now attempt to write." (Mellett, 1995)



Concluding comments

What we are seeking to do in this present communication is not only to express and define our living educational standards of judgement. We believe that we have shown that it is possible in particular contexts to live these values in practice. Because we believe that the world would be a better place to be for the majority of people if such values could be lived more fully in a range of different contexts, we are hoping that what we are showing captivates your imagination to extend the possibilities that are open for you to explore. In other words, following Joan Whitehead (2003), we are seeking to make the possible probable.

Our use of the digital information and communications technology of the internet is most significant in our ideas of how to make the possible, probable. We believe that the visual narratives of our own educational practices show what is possible in our different contexts to live values that we identify for ourselves as giving meaning and purpose to our lives and that carry our hopes for the future of humanity. Without any colonial intent that we are aware of, we believe that the world would be a  better place if such loving and productive values were more widespread. We are placing these ideas in the interconnecting and branching flows of communication in the channels of the internet. In doing this we believe that the ideas could captivate the imagination of readers such as yourself. We also  believe that our embodied values and flows of life-affirming energy will resonate with your own in a way that serves to enhance your own expression of these values and energy in your educational relationships. Through sharing our accounts of our own learning in our living educational theories we believe that we are also showing how we are contributing to the education of the social formations in which we live and work. In doing this together we feel stronger than we do when working as separate individuals and appreciate the communion in our webs of betweenness that respect and celebrate each others differences in our pedagogies of the unique.

What we are hoping is that you will feel moved to respond to our ideas so that we can evaluate the validity of our ideas in relation to your own beliefs and commitments and can be helped to understand how we might further enhance our contribution to living more fully the values that carry hope for the future of humanity, and our own.


Bernstein, B. (2000) Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity: Theory, Research, Critique. Lanham, Boulder, NewYork, Oxford; Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Bernstein, R. (1971) Praxis and Action. London; Duckworth.

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Cambridge; Blackwell.

Buber, M. (1970) p. 117, I and Thou, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1970

Farren, M. (2004) Draft Abstract of Doctoral Thesis. Retrieved 27 December 2004 from

Laidlaw, M. (2004) How can I help to promote educational sustainability at our AR Centre and beyond? A draft interim-report by Dr. Moira Laidlaw, December 2004. China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching, Guyuan Teachers College, Guyuan 756000, Ningxia Province, P.R. China. Retrieved on 27 December 2004 from

Lohr, E. (2004) Prologue to Ph..D. Thesis 'Love at Work' submitted to the University of Bath in November 2004. Retrieved on 24 December 2004 from

Mellett, P. (1995) Making the Break. M.A. Dissertation, University of Bath. Retrieved 27 December 2004 from (Note - this is a 1MB file in pdf format and will take several minutes to download with broadband).

O Donohue, J.  (2003) Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. London; Transworld Publishers.

Rayner, A. (2004a) Essays and Talks about Inclusionality. Retrieved 27 December 2004 from

Rayner, A. (2004b) Introduction to the complex self. Retreived 27 December 2004 from

Smith, C. (2003) Supporting Teacher and School Development: Learning and Teaching Policies, Shared Living Theories and Teacher-Researcher Partnerships.

Teacher Development, Volume 6, Number 2, pp.157-179.

Whitehead, J. (2003) The Future of Teaching and Teaching in the Future: a vision of the future of the profession of teaching - Making the Possible Probable. Keynote address to the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers Annual Conference 3rd-4th October 2003, Dunchurch. Retrieved 27 December 2004 from

Whitehead, J. (2004a) Do the values and living logics I express in my educational relationships carry the hope of Ubuntu for the future of humanity?

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 16-18 September 2004. Retrieved on 24 December 2004 from Education-Line at

Whitehead, J. (2004b) 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. Action Research Expeditions, October 2004. Retrieved 3 January 2005 from


Here is a letter from Branko Bognar to the British Educational Research Association Practitioner-Researcher e-seminar  16 May- 23 July, 2005. You can join the seminar and access the archives at . Branko is a pedagogue and works in Croatia.
He has worked in a primary school for eighteen years and is now an assistant in a Philosophical Faculty - Study of  Pedagogy. The letter came through in time to add to our presentation today and we thought Branko's use of video inspiring.


Dear friends,


I worked hardly two days and two nights to translate and title video recordings where you could see live example of our effort to apply action research in our educational practice.

First video (available at 11 Mb[1]) was starting point in Vesna Simic's and my action research. Our shared value is creativity, so we try to find a way how to fulfil this value. We realised that creativity is enough fulfil in her teaching of arts. But she confessed, and we find evidence for that when we analysed video recordings of her teaching, that she realised subject society and nature[2] on traditional and uncreative way. So we decided to improve creativity in that part of her educational practice.

On second and third videos (available at 30.5 Mb and at 29 Mb) we could find that children should not be treated only as participants in action research of adults (teachers) but also as co-researcher or standalone researchers. Marica Zovko, class-teacher was mentor to her students and I was mentor to her. Her students evidenced that they understand process of action research and know how to apply them to improve their living practice.


Warm regards,




Example of validation of student's action research

Transcript of presentation Anica's action research (16th February 2004.)


Action researcher: Anica Sabljic, student of 4th grade at Primary school 'Vladimir Nazor' in Trenkovo

Mentor: Marica Zovko, class-teacher


Anica (student of 4th grade): Let me to explain firstly what action research really means. It means improving yourself in something what is really important to you, where you want to correct your relationships. I wanted as more as I could try to understand family. Why did I want this? Because I love my family and that is one of ways to show them – it means improving of understanding. Plan. Plan is part which is very important to me. I have to know what to do and why I do this.

It means, in plan of acting, how I'll influence on that things: I'll help to sister, wash the dishes to mum, wait dad to finish a job, help grandmother and grandfather in cleaning. And how shall I check my effectiveness, examine how I did it and did I do this well. By questionnaires, forms and interviews. How did I research? I carried out all doings to my folks voluntary. They did not have to tell me that. Certainly, if they ask me, I'll do this, but for example, I did the dishes instead of mum after launch and it was immediately noticed. On that way I obtained that and I get evidences.

I gathered them using "feelings faces", where they checked how did they feel after I helped them, and by questionnaires and interviews. All were positive. It means that all of them perceived it and all of them felt good when I did it. I also had photos as evidence. I'll give you evidences so you'll be able to check it. Critical friend. Critical friend is my friend who tells me what can I do batter and what I did well. My critical friend told me that I keep my research diary very well because I am quite honest. For example, you will see why I am honest. In diary you write whatever you have done this day - both good and bad in this research and who has advised you. For example, I was honest and on 5th February I recorded that I did not do anything. But you have no guilty when you really can not obtain that. And for example, on 8th February I did the dishes, helped to mum about lun... did the dishes, sponged the dishes and helped to my mum about the lunch.

Vesna (teacher):  Bravo!

Anica: Do you have any question, say please. Thank God.

Branko: Go on! Go on! Do not, do not (stop), they'll now... they'll devise questions. They are little  bit surprised, wait until they devise. Freely, ask her. Ask me whatever. Is it clear to you what they do?

Anica: Do you need that I explain again?

Branko: Here, look at!

Student: How do your researches go?

Anica: Well, sometimes happened that they did not go and that anybody did not notice (what I did). Until now it has not occurred to me. You need quite much patience to obtain that.

Student: What will you do if anybody does not notice it?

Anica: I'll more try. But if they do not (notice), I will withdraw from research, because I see... I can work how much I want but if nobody notice this, it is useless for me to help. Anybody else?

Student: Were you reluctant to do this?

Anica: No, I am not. You'll see at beginning, if you start to work, it will be bit boring to you, but when you realise this research, it will be completely interesting.

Student: Do you like to do the dishes?

Anica: You accustom yourself on it.

Student: Did you tell mum, when her ask you to do the dishes, I do not want?

Anica: Yes, before I had realised research. Anybody else?

Branko: But did you... May I ask something? This data what you have mentioned that you gathered, you recorded here. Do you have something else?

Anica: Well, I have here "feeling faces".

Branko: Can you show me that and explain how you did it?

Anica: Well, for example my mum baked a cake for a village's celebrity. For example, there always has too much staff, too much the dishes for washing. I did the dishes at least half hour while she was backing the cake. For example I interviewed her. Here are questions for mum after I did the dishes for a long time: "Was it easier to you while I did the dishes?" She said: "Without doubt, yes." "Did your job go faster while I did the dishes?" She said: "Yes, it is." "Did you surprise when I voluntary ask to wash the dishes?" She said: "Yes, but you did it often, so I was not completely (surprised)." So, she noticed that I did it often, therefore she was not... I had also "feeling faces" when I washed the dishes instead of aunt after lunch where she checked: proud, grateful, surprised and happy. She said: "Each job which you undertake, you realise with willingness and happiness therefore success can not fail. As you see, everything is Ok. And I also interviewed my sister. To her was hard to confess, but she jet confessed, that I am better.

Jasna (teacher): Another girl has wanted to ask you here.

Anica: Yes, tell me.

Student: Do you research alone?

Anica: Well, my class research, but I do this research alone.

Student: Did you research help you to improve relationship in your family?

Anica: Yes, too much, too much. For example, while I researched my family started to be better against me. I attend music school and my sister become nervous when I play music. But now she is not nervous because I help her when she has a trouble and then she kisses me. Mum also more talks with me and so on.

Branko: Could I ask you something?

Anica: Yes.

Branko: This procedure, what you are doing now, hence when action researchers finish their researches, then is good that present it to other people, in your case, to students from other school. And now, this procedure is called validation. It is foreign word which is unknown for you, but it could be easiest explained as procedure of determination how much is that what you... What is your name?

Anica: Anica. ...

Branko: ...what is Anica researched. How much is it, according to your opinion, trutful, honest, how much is it to you understandable and how much she really tried to realise her values. Therefore, firstly, was it understandable what Anica hes presented and explained?

Anica: Did you understand what I wanted to present you?

Students: Yes.

Anica: Thank you.

Branko: If something is not understandable to you, you can ask.

Branko: Do you consider that she was ho...

Anica: Do you consider that I am honest or I wrote this, but I did not work that? Do you consider that I write this honestly?

Branko: Do you have enough data about that? Do you have enough some...

Students: Yes.

Branko: ...from what you can be clear what she worked?

Student: Mum's sign.

Branko: What are you saying?

Student: Mum signed.

Student: Interview with mum.

Branko: Good.

Anica: Yes, tell me.

Student: Did you get some award?

Anica: Well, I did, family has... we have more understanding – I for them and they for me. It is my award.

Branko: You started from your values. What you said? What is most important value for you?

Anica: Family. There were couple: support, understanding. I elect understanding, because if members of family do not understand each other they can not love each other.

Branko: But, what you said at the beginning that you do all because...

Anica: Because I love my family.

Branko: Then, it means, that it is your most important value.

Anica: Yes.

Branko: Now, what do you think, did she fulfil this herself value during her research.

Student: Certainly, she did.

Branko: Do you have any critical objections? What would you recommend to her that she eventually could better perform in her future research?

Anica: Come on, let say freely. I do not be angry.

Marica (teacher): You girls also may...

Anica: Do you think that I could better understand my family?

Student: Sweep whole house.

Anica: I already did it. Good, therefore everything is clear to you.

Marica (teacher): I have one question. Is it seams to you, Anica all the time referred doing the dishes, have you any comment? Do you understand that she only do the dishes?

Student: Yes.

Anica: Well, no...

Marica: Explain.

Anica: I am... There have other things... I did not only work, clean. I, for example, help my sister to learn math. She is in first grade and she does not understand it and than I help her. It is also understanding. Here I have record in my diary. Tell me.

Student: You forgot.

Marica: Good, one more time give Anica a big round of applause!  Girls, who is the next?

Branko: Are you the next?

Vesna: No, I am not.

Branko: You will be next time.

[1]         I tried to make balance between file size and quality of reproduction. I know that quality should be improved by using advanced technology which I do not possess because it is too expensive for me.

[2]         Society and nature is subject in lower grade of primary school in Croatia.