Continuing my research programme into the growth of my educational knowledge
Part Three: Inclusionality 2005 - ?
Developing the dynamic boundaries of living standards of judgement in educational enquiries of the kind, ‘how do I improve what I am doing?’
The present phase of my educational enquiry is focused on the educational influence of inclusionality in my learning. I am thinking of the educational influence of inclusionality in relation to my sense of vocation in education. This sense of vocation moved me from teaching science in secondary schools in London (1967-1973) to a Lectureship in Education in the University of Bath (1973- ). I moved from being a teacher in a school to becoming an educational researcher in a University to accomplish my purpose of contributing to the reconstruction of educational theory into forms of understanding that could account for educational influences in the learning of individuals and for their educational influences in the education of their social formations. It was a mistake in the dominant ‘disciplines’ approach to educational theory, that moved me into educational research at the University of Bath in 1973. This mistake was well put in 1983 by Paul Hirst, one of the major proponents of the ‘disciplines’ approach, when he acknowledged that much understanding of educational theory will be developed:
"… in the context of immediate practical experience and will be co-terminous with everyday understanding. In particular, many of its operational principles, both explicit and implicit, will be of their nature generalisations from practical experience and have as their justification the results of individual activities and practices.
In many characterisations of educational theory, my own included, principles justified in this way have until recently been regarded as at best pragmatic maxims having a first crude and superficial justification in practice that in any rationally developed theory would be replaced by principles with more fundamental, theoretical justification. That now seems to me to be a mistake. Rationally defensible practical principles, I suggest, must of their nature stand up to such practical tests and without that are necessarily inadequate." (Hirst, 1983, p. 18)
In my enquiry into the growth of my educational knowledge, I have analysed transformations in my logics, values and methodologies in my explanations for my own learning in enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ (Whitehead, 2004). In this present enquiry I see myself working towards a clearer comprehension and communication of the implications of inclusionality for my research programme into the nature of educational theory. Following Rayner (2004), by inclusionality I mean the relationally dynamic awareness of a complex self, of space and boundaries that are connective, reflexive and co-creative. By a complex self I am meaning a fully contextualized understanding of self-identity as being formed with the reciprocal coupling of inner and outer special domains through an intermediary self-boundary. My reason for focusing on the meanings of standards of judgement is because of their role in the validation and legitimation of claims to educational knowledge. As my learning is being transformed through the practice and understanding of inclusionality in my educational relationships I am focusing my research programme on developing my understanding of the nature of the living standards of judgement that are flowing in the labyrinthine channels and boundaries of communication and that are opening and closing through the internet
The conversation that is focusing my enquiry into the implications of inclusionality for my understanding of these living standards of judgement is one between Alan Rayner and Ted Lumley (2005)
"Alan - There is a process of explicit cognition involved in understanding that space and boundaries are necessarily connective, reflective and co-creative, rather than divisive, in a dynamic, heterogeneous Universe. And this explicit cognition can undermine the absolute closure (rather than relative opening and closing) imposed by rationalistic thought, hence opening up the possibilities for relating with the ever-transforming shape of the space of the now."
Ted - “i would see this more as relational intuition, rather than explicit cognition. i don't know about you, but everytime i write about inclusionallity, i cannot do it from explicit foundations but must continually ask myself whether what i've written 'feels right'.” (e-mail 8 January 2005)
What I now want to do is to see if I can communicate my meanings of living standards of judgement that have formed in the flow of the boundaries of my educational relationships. Their formation involved both relational intuitions that felt right and their explicit cognition of the following narratives. These are now flowing through the labrythine channels and boundaries of communication of the internet. I see this flow as open to your intersubjective agreement, criticism, rejection or amendment and hence part of a validation process which can help to establish the legitimacy of such standards of judgement.
To communicate my meanings of the living standards of judgement flowing with and through the boundaries of educational relationships in awareness and understanding, I will start by using images of flow forms from biology and geology before moving to the video-images of educational relationships.
My understanding of inclusionality and flow-forms was moved on by Karen Teeson’s diagram of the interconnecting and branching channels of communication opened up by the tubular channels of connection between tubular structures in anastomosis in fungi. I have added some spaces to the closed lines in the second diagram to emphasise the relative permeabilities of the boundaries.
The second image of flow-form was provided to me by Maggie Farren:
The first image began the transformation of my understanding of communications through the internet. From thinking of such communications as following linear pathways it moved to seeing an interconnecting and branching labyrinth of channels and boundaries of communication. The second image serves as a metaphor for understanding flow-forms of living standards of judgement. The flow of water, with the boundaries of the sand is forming patterns.
I am seeing the water as flows of communication in which living forms of judgement include both relational intuitions of the living flows of meaning in educational relationships and their explicit meanings. I now want to consider the possibility that such living meanings of inclusional standards of judgement can be expressively distinguished in intuitive and explicit communications through the following narratives. The five narratives focus on the practical activities which clarified inclusional meanings of, a loving flow-form of life-affirming energy, scientific enquiry, contextual understandings, originality of mind, critical judgement and educational enquiry, in the course of their emergence in practice. My choice of narratives was influenced by the intuition that demonstrating the possibility of intersubjective agreement about these inclusional meanings from ostensive definitions would be a significant contribution to a new epistemology for a new scholarship of educational enquiry.
1) Can a loving flow-form of life-affirming energy in educational relationships be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in educational relationships?
One of my most vivid recollections of a flow of life-affirming energy was on a gloriously sunny day in Newcastle, as a 22 year old student in 1966. I was aware of a flow of cosmic energy that flowed through and around me and that continues to resonates for me in what Bataille refers to as assenting to life to the point of death and what Tillich refers to as a state of being grasped by the power of being itself. I continue to find the source of this cosmic flow of energy is a mystery to me and while I experience the flow of this energy as having personal and social expression, I see that the flow existed before my own experience of it and I believe it will continue to flow, outside myself, when I am dead. I know that any explanation of what I do would be incomplete and invalid without the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the significance of my experience of this energy. I see such energy flowing through individuals as they express what really matters to them and I usually distinguish what really matters to people, what they care about, in terms of their values.
I identify such a flow of life-affirming energy in the life and work of Salvador Dali. I imagine that we will have different responses to the following quotation. You may feel that there is an unbearable ego at work here. I am identifying with the idea that one can experience a supreme pleasure that I experience as a flow of life-affirming energy, in being oneself together with the humour of my response to ‘Modesty is not exactly my speciality’!
Every morning upon awakening,
I experience a supreme pleasure:
That of being Salvador Dali…
And I ask myself, wonderstruck
What prodigious thing will he do today,
This Salvador Dali
Is not exactly
(Levi, 2000, p.122)
A value which seems to find expression in every culture is love. In seeking intersubjective agreement about the meaning of a ‘loving flow-form of life-affirming energy in educational relationships’ I am thinking of inclusional meanings that hold together, while at the same time distinguishing love and energy in a loving flow-form of life-affirming energy in educational relationships.
Evidence for my belief that it is possible to reach an intersubjective agreement on the meaning of such a living standard of educational judgement is provided by the agreement between Moira Laidlaw and me that the relational flows of meaning in the video clip below, from which the following still image was taken, can be described through our agreed ostensive definition as a loving flow-form of life-affirming energy in educational relationships:
More still images from the classroom with Moira Laidlaw at Guyuan Teachers College in China on the 15 October 2004 can be seen at:
The following 9 MB video clip will take several minutes to download using Broadband (10 minutes on my system) and opens in Quicktime.
I am fascinated by the question of whether it is possible and desirable to extend this agreement between Moira and me, with your agreement that as we watch the video-clip we are experiencing a loving flow-form of life-affirming energy in the channels of space and dynamic boundaries of the educational relationships. So, one of the tests of validity of my belief that it will be possible to enhance such loving flows of life-affirming energy within our social contexts and educational relationships, rests on this meaning resonating with your own, first through the uniqueness of our intuitive responses and then into the explicit cognitions of our shared language.
My curiosity about the possibility of agreeing shared meanings such as a loving flow of life-affirming energy, extends to the development of inclusional meanings of a living standard of judgement of scientific enquiry in questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’
2) Can a flow-form of a scientific enquiry into educational influence in educational relationships be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in educational research.
My meanings of scientific enquiry have been influenced by my first degree in physical sciences where scientific experiments were conducted using controlled experimental designs to detect the causal influence of one variable on another. I conducted such experiments and understood their significance in the testing of the validity of scientific theories through the generation and testing of hypotheses from a theory. The understanding of a scientific theory in my first degree programme was that it was constituted by a set of determinate relationships between a set of variables in terms of which a fairly extensive set of regularities could be explained.
My meanings have also been influenced by Karl Popper’s understandings of the logic of scientific discovery as involving problem formulation, a tentative theory, error elimination and the reformulation of a problem. They have been influenced by Peter Medawar’s point that the biggest defect of Popper’s hypothetic-deductive system for the growth of scientific knowledge was its explicit disavowal of any competence to speak of the creative acts in a scientific enquiry. For Medawar, as a nobel prize winning scientist, the intuitive leaps of imagination were a necessary part of his scientific enquiry.
My meanings have also been influenced by John Dewey’s logic of inquiry which resonated with my own experience that I consciously experienced concerns or problems when my values were not lived fully in my practice, I imagined ways forward in action plans, acted on these and gathered data with which to make a judgement on my effectiveness, I evaluated my actions in relation to my values and understandings and modified my concerns, plans and actions in the light of my evaluations. I first explicated this form of my understanding of scientific enquiry in 1976 as I worked with a group of 6 teachers over two years to see if we could develop enquiry learning with 11-14 year old pupils in their science lessons (Whitehead, 1976). While it isn’t necessary to access this for my present purpose if you are interested in the evidence I am drawing on in this account you can access it at:
(It will take several minutes to download with broadband and open as a PDF file)
What I am interested in here, is whether it will help the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity to validate and legitimate a living standard of judgement to distinguish an inclusional flow-form scientific enquiry. The first stage in this process is to see if I can distinguish and communicate the meanings of an inclusional flow-form scientific enquiry as a living standard of judgement in an educational enquiry.
During 1971 a major transformation in my understanding of scientific enquiry in the generation and testing of educational theory occurred. Working towards my masters degree in the psychology of education I was researching what I called a preliminary investigation of the process through which adolescents acquired scientific understanding. As I was using a controlled experimental design with pupils randomly allocated to different groups so that I could see if I could detect the educational influence of using guided discovery or enquiry learning in pupils’ learning and also studying the mathematization of psychological space in Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory and Lazersfeld Latent Structure Theory of Attitudes, I began to reject the assumption in my educational theory that it was constituted by disciplines of education such as the philosophy, psychology, sociology and history of education. I could see that non of these disciplines either individually or collectively could answer my question, ‘How do I help my pupils to improve their scientific understandings?’
The problem for me seemed to rest in my conception of educational theory and scientific enquiry. I needed to develop a different approach to educational theory to the one that claimed that it was constituted by the conceptual frameworks of disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology and history. I felt that I needed an educational theory that was consciously emerging from educational practice. I was helped by ideas in Michael Polanyi’s personal knowledge to articulate the new base in consciousness for the creation of my educational theory and approach to scientific enquiry. I am thinking particularly of the decision to understand the world from one’s own point of view as a person claiming originality and exercising judgement with universal intent.
Another event which helped to transform my understanding of both educational theory and scientific enquiry was being given a video-camera by the Inspectorate in Barking in London, to explore its potential. Looking at video-tapes of my classroom startled me with the revelation that I was existing as a living contradiction in believing that I had accomplished certain things in my classroom with video evidence that I had not accomplished what I thought I had. This experience that I felt as a living contradiction moved me towards developing my understanding of dialectics as a form of scientific enquiry because contradiction is at the nucleus of dialectics. I know that for those, like Popper, who believe that dialectical forms of theorising are entirely useless as theory because of their embrace of contradiction, that they can use two logical laws of inference to demonstrate that anything that contains a contradiction is entirely useless as a theory. Using these two laws of inference any statement can be demonstrated to be true even ones that are known to be false, once contradictions between statements are accepted as true.
In answering his question, ‘What is Dialectic?’, Popper (1963) rejects dialectical claims to knowledge as, ‘without the slightest foundation. Indeed, they are based on nothing better than a loose and woolly way of speaking’ (Popper, 1963, p.316).
In developing my dialectical view of a scientific enquiry in my educational research I embraced contradiction in the sense that in my question, ‘how do I improve what I am doing?’, I existed as a living contradiction in my embodied experience. This consciously stimulated my imagination to move towards the realisation of some values rather than others, for example freedom in preference to oppression and justice in preference to injustice. By 1980 I could understand the significance of the question asked by the Soviet logician Eward Ilyenkov , ‘If an object exists as a living contradiction what must the thought be that expresses it?’. My present understanding of the history of dialectics follows Ilyenkov’s analysis.
Developing this dialectical approach to a scientific enquiry in my educational research helped me to clarify the meanings of embodied values in the course of their emergence in my educational enquiry. Using the dialectics of asking questions, expressing concerns, imagining action plans, acting and gather data, evaluating action in relation to values and understanding, modifying concerns plans and action and submitting accounts of my learning in the educational enquiry to the mutual rational controls of public criticism, I felt confident that I could show how embodied values could be transformed into living and communicable standards of judgement in the course of their emergence and clarification in practice. I think that I achieved this in relation to the embodied value of academic freedom in my 1993 text on the growth of educational knowledge.
The present transformation in my understanding of scientific enquiry in my educational enquiry is closely related to the educational influence of Alan Rayner and Karen Teeson and their ideas in my learning about inclusionality that I described in the first section of the paper. As I develop my inclusional understanding of a scientific enquiry I am retaining the Popperian Schema for the growth of scientific knowledge and Dewey’s logic of inquiry in my transforming understanding in my educational enquiry of a flow-form scientific enquiry.
The flow-form I have in mind is the relational dynamics of experiencing concerns when values are not being lived as fully as seems possible, of imagining ways forward in an action plan, acting on the plan and gathering data on which to make a judgement of accomplishment, evaluating one’s actions and accomplishments in terms of one’s values, modifying concerns, ideas and actions in the light of the evaluations, sharing accounts of one’s learning in a process of democratic evaluation of the validity of the account.
My transforming understanding is connected with my identity in terms of being a complex self who can demonstrate that his learning is extending his contextualized understanding of self-identity as being formed with the reciprocal coupling of inner and outer spatial domains through an intermediary self-boundary. In my life I engage with such boundaries in my life between home, work, the schools I visit, the people I work with, the university which pays me and the conferences at which I present my papers and hear the presentations of others.
Because of the importance of such contextualized understandings in the growth of my educational knowledge I want to consider the possibility of reaching an intersubjective agreement on contextual understanding in learning as a living standard of judgement.
3) Can a flow-form of contextual understanding in learning be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in both the education of a complex self and the education of a social formation.
The context of my answer is in my educational relationship with Jackie Delong as I work in doctoral supervision sessions with her to clarify the nature of her thesis as it is being expressed in draft abstracts of her thesis. You can access a previously published account of my educational influence in these supervision sessions at:
The video-clip at http://www.bath.ac.uk/multimedia/jimenomov/ajwsys.mov is of a doctoral supervision in which I am seeking to support Jackie in her submission of a thesis that expresses her originality of mind and critical judgement. These are two of the standards of judgement used by examiners of doctoral theses in the Universiy of Bath. In Jackie’s research these standards of judgement are related in an enquiry that includes an explanation of her ‘system’s influence’ as a Superintendent of Schools. ‘System’s influence’ is in Jackie's professional practice and research as one of her standards of judgement. This system’s influence was recognised in an award for her leadership in action research by the Ontario Educational Research Council in December 2000.
Hence I am working, in the conversation, to enhance the clarity of a draft abstract in its communication of originality of mind and critical judgement in relation to ‘system’s influence’. I am also focusing on 'system's influence' because of a criticism made by Susan Noffke, about a limitation she perceived in the lack of capacity of theories generated from self-study to address:
"…social issues in terms of the interconnections between personal identity and the claim of experiential knowledge, as well as power and privilege in society (Dolby, 1995; Noffke, 1991). The process of personal transformation through the examination of practice and self-reflection may be a necessary part of social change, especially in education; it is however, not sufficient.” ( Noffke, 1997, p. 329)"
By focusing on 'system's influence' in the context of social change and the development of cultures of inquiry I believe that the theories of practitioner-researchers provide the evidence to show that Noffke is mistaken as they learn to develop their own inclusional meanings in the development of their contextual understandings.
The two drafts of the Abstract were produced within 5 days of each other. I have placed them together so that you may get a clearer understanding of the differences between them in the clarity with which they express the precise nature of the claims to originality of mind and critical judgement in relation to ‘system’s influence’. On reading the first draft I could not see clearly the precise nature of the claims to originality of mind and critical judgement in relation to ‘systems influence’. The second draft makes this influence explicit and the final abstract shows the development of Jackie’s contextualised understand in the creation of a culture of inquiry. The final abstract and full thesis on ‘How can I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools and create my own living educational theory?’ can be accessed at http://www.actionresearch.net/delong.shtml
First Draft of the Abstract
This thesis is a journey of professional learning, reinvention and self-discovery through research-based professionalism in asking the question, ‘How do I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools in a southern Ontario school district?’ It represents and demonstrates my originality of mind and critical judgment as I describe and explain my living standards of practice for which I hold myself accountable.
The values that I am articulating are grounded in my practice, in what I know from reading and dialogue, from experience and from reflecting on that experience. Through writing about my values that emerge in my practice, I am able to construct and deconstruct the transformation that has taken place over the six years of the research and to understand what has moved me forward.
Through narrative and image-based research I describe and explain the birth and growth of an action research movement in a school system that is restructuring amidst the negative pressures of market policies.
I offer my story as my own living theory of my educative influence as an educational leader and insider researcher living in turbulent times - 1995-2001, not as a model or exemplar. I do, however, want to encourage professional educators to consider the process of practitioner action research as a means to self-assessment, renewal and professional development
Second Draft of the Abstract
This thesis is my own living theory of my learning about my educative influence as a superintendent of schools, an educational leader and insider researcher living in turbulent times - 1995-2001. It is a journey of professional learning and self-discovery through research-based professionalism as I ask, research and answer the question, ‘How can I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools in a southern Ontario school district?’
It represents and demonstrates my originality of mind and critical judgement as I describe and explain my living standards of practice that can be understood through my values for which I hold myself accountable. My originality of mind is being expressed through narrative and image-based form of communication in which I describe and explain stories of myself, a self—discovery of my need for internal and external dialogue, of how I hold together continuously in a living, dynamic way, a plurality of actions. I describe and explain my work in my many portfolios including the birth and growth of an action research movement in a school system that is restructuring amidst the impact of economic rationalist policies.
This thesis focuses my critical judgements on the clarification and use of the values that have emerged in my practice as I am able to construct and deconstruct the transformations that have taken place over the six years of the research and to understand what has moved me forward. The meaning of those values that I am articulating are grounded in my practice and constitute my living standards of practice and judgement in my explanations. They emerge through reading, dialogue and reflection on my experience as I account for myself in my practice by ever moving forward while holding on to the sanctity of personal relationships and democratic evaluation within a hierarchical system and power relations.
Here is the video-clip again, and a transcript of the conversation. I want to focus on the additional meanings which the visual record can communicate about the nature of our embodied values that we are using and transforming into our educational standards of practice and judgement.
Jack … to show how I am encouraging and supporting you, to make explicit in a way that is publicly shareable your own understanding of your standard of practice as a superintendent which is related to your system’s influence….
Jackie …..there is a big emphasis on relationships and connections. That’s a common standard that runs through almost everything I do - if I can see a way of helping people or ideas or systems to connect I think it creates a more effective system to support student learning. If you’ve got people or systems going in different directions it is wasting the talent and the energy… the other thing is that when I see people who can carry something forward I try to pull all the supports behind them so that they can do that. That’s two pieces of it. It doesn’t capture it all but it captures two pieces of — And my need to see things always getting better…
I want to focus both on the embodied value of her contexualised understanding in Jackie’s non-verbal expressions as well as her statements about her ‘system’s influence’.
I am thinking of the embodied values Jackie is expressing non-verbally when she is saying
i) if I can see a way of helping people or ideas or systems to connect I think it creates a more effective system to support student learning.
ii) when I see people who can carry something forward I try to pull all the supports behind them so that they can do that.
My own perception is that Jackie is expressing passionately both her life-affirming energy and contextualised understanding.
In her thesis Jackie writes about the importance for extending her system’s influence of supporting people, who she believes have the talent, energy and commitment to improve student learning in the development of a culture of inquiry. To understand what Jackie is meaning by her value of pulling all the supports behind them it is necessary to experience the sustained and inclusional commitment she expresses over time in the organisation of this support. This in turn rests on her passion to improve learning with students. The final abstract for the thesis emphasises the importance of the development of a culture of enquiry in a further development of contexualised understanding.
Abstract of successful PhD Submission 2002
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.
4) Can a flow-form of critical judgement in learning be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in an individual’s education.
5) Can a flow-form of originality of mind in learning be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in an individual’s education.
6) 5) Can a flow-form of educational enquiry be distinguished as a living standard of judgement in an individual’s education.
Levi, B. (2000) The Dali University, London; Inter Arts Resources.
Hirst, P. (Ed.) (1983) Educational Theory and its Foundation Disciplines. London;RKP
Popper, K. (1963) Conjectures and Refutations, Oxford: O.U.P.