Experiencing and evidencing educational influences in learning through self-study using ICT in schools and universities


A presentation at the American Educational Research Association Conference on 8th April 2006 in San Francisco


Margaret Farren, Dublin City University, Ireland

Joan Whitehead, University of the West of England, U.K.

Jack Whitehead, University of Bath, U.K.





There is a growing awareness in higher education of the need to move beyond the "tired old 'teaching versus research' debate" (Boyer 1990) and work out what are 'due standards of excellence' (Furlong & Oancea, 2005) for practice-based research. As three self-study researchers in higher education, we will show how we are contributing to a knowledge base of professional practice by using a 'living educational theory' (Whitehead, 2004)) approach to action research in our own learning. We will provide evidence to show how the meanings of our embodied ontological values, can become living standards of judgement in evaluating the validity of our knowledge-claims. These living critical standards of judgement include a 'pedagogy of the unique', a 'web of betweenness' a 'generative approach to mentoring' and 'racialising whiteness' in educational discourse.




Our purposes are to:


i).  To communicate the meanings of embodied values of a web of betweenness, a pedagogy of the unique, a generative approach to mentoring and racialising whiteness as living critical standards of judgement in our S-STEP research.


ii). To demonstrate how Information and Communications Technology (ICT ) can contribute to making the embodied knowledge of teacher-researchers public, through "artefacts that capture its richness and complexity" (Shulman 2004). 


iii). To provide evidence of how other S-STEP researchers are being taught and mentored on masters programmes and supervised in doctoral programmes to develop their own living standards of judgement and educational theories from their practice-based research.


Educational and scientific importance


Part of the educational and scientific significance of this presentation is in showing how multi-media representations of educational practices and accounts of learning can open up new possibilities for expressing and communicating living standards of judgment appropriate for the self-study of teacher education practices.

The educational significance of the presentation is also related to the issue of the relationships between individual and collective standards of judgment . The shared living theories (Smith 2003) developed in this presentation include self-studies of the contribution ICT has offered to the development of educational knowledge. This is particularly significant in the development of new standards of collective-individual educational judgments in educational relationships. These will be characterized in terms that include the webs of betweenness of Celtic spirituality, a pedagogy of the unique, a generative approach to mentoring and racialising whiteness. 


The significance is in the evidence that shows how ICT has been used to complement and support the pedagogies of the self-study researchers. These include;


á      digital video to record teaching and supervision and reveal tensions and living contradictions when values could be lived more fully;

á       online learning environments that have sustained ongoing dialogue among practitioner-researchers with evidence of reciprocal educational influences in learning;

á       desktop videoconferencing that has opened up the classroom environment and provided opportunities to share our knowledge with others with reciprocal influences in learning;

á       multimedia and web-based artefacts with supporting text provide evidence of how practitioners are developing living standards of judgement through asking, researching and answering the question, "How do I improve my practice?' 


Data Sources


The following data sources will be used to provide evidence of the standards of judgements used to show learning in the public interest.


   i).      Accounts of our learning as higher education educators. These include pre-doctoral, doctoral and postdoctoral educational enquiries.

Farren, M. (2005c) How can I support a web of betweenness through ICT. Farren M. EARLI Conference SIG Invited symposium Teaching and Teacher Education Nicosia, 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2005 from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/index.php?page=doc&doc_id=7020&doclng=6&menuzone=1

Whitehead, J. (2005) Living inclusional values in educational standards of practice and judgement. Keynote for the Act, Reflect, Revise III Conference, Brantford Ontario. 11th November 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2005 from http://www.jackwhitehead.com/monday/arrkey05dr1.htm

Whitehead, J. and Fitzgerald, B. (2006). Professional learning through a generative approach to mentoring: lessons from a Training School partnership and their wide implications. Journal of Education for Teaching 32, (1) pp. 37-52.

   ii).    Accounts of the learning of self-study researchers on an MSc in Computer Applications for Education and MSc in Education and Training Management (ICT) - http://webpages.dcu.ie/~farrenm/dissertations.html

   iii).   19 Living Theory Doctoral Theses awarded between 1995-2006 - http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/living.shtml

    iv).   Accounts of the action research methodology used in the development of a Training School in the UK. http://edu.projects.uwe.ac.uk/trainingschool/methodology/action-research_txt.htm





The presentation is organized in three sections. In Section 1, Margaret Farren provides insights from her doctoral research into her meanings of a pedagogy of the unique and a web of betweeness and draws attention to her use of ICT in the development of her doctoral research programme and to her generative mentoring of her students. In Section 2 Joan Whitehead outlines a generative approach to mentoring developed in a training school partnership in the UK, with the use of ICT and an action reseach methodology. In Section 3 Jack Whitehead's asks 'How can I racialise my educational conversations with whiteness in a way that doesn't damagingly scarify myself and others?' and analyses the educational value of racialising whiteness in his living educational theory. 


Section 1 – Margaret Farren




The context of my research is the collaborative process that developed between myself and participants on the M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education and the M.Sc. Education and Training Management (ICT) at Dublin City University. In my practice-based research, I demonstrate how I am contributing to a knowledge base of practice by creating my 'living educational theory' (Whitehead, 1989, 2003). This involves me in systematically researching my practice in order to bring about improvement and contribute to a knowledge base of practice. I have recognised that in a certain sense I represented myself as a 'living contradiction' i.e. holding educational values and denying them in my practice.  Through the action research process of experiencing myself as a 'living contradiction' I have been able to imagine a way forward in order to live my educational values more fully in practice.   In my opinion, an appreciation of one's own ontological position is a vital step in clarifying the meanings of one's values in the course of their emergence in practice.  We are never finished products, but we are always emerging, thus we are beings in becoming. The values that have emerged in the course of my practice-based research include a 'pedagogy of the unique' and a 'web of betweenness' (O' Donohue, 2003). I intend to analyse my educational influence in terms of the transformation of my embodied knowledge into public knowledge, by showing my educational influence in my own learning, in the learning of others and in the education of social formations. My understanding of the education of social formations is a social formation's learning to live values that carry hope for the future of humanity more fully in the rules that govern its social organisation (Whitehead, 2005). I provide evidence to show how I have supported practitioners on Master's degree programmes in bringing their embodied knowledge and values into the public domain as they design, develop and evaluate multimedia and web based artefacts for use in their own practice contexts.


Educational values


Barnett (2000, p. 164) claims that a 'higher education' must embrace three dimensions of being: knowledge, self-identity and action, in its pedagogies. In other words, new methods of teaching have to be developed in higher education. 'Pedagogy of the unique' expresses my belief that each participant has a particular and distinctive constellation of values that motivates his/her enquiry and that sets a distinctive context within which their own enquiry proceeds. This is based on my belief that participant brings to their learning their own previous life knowledge and experience. I demonstrate how I help to develop each participant as a person in relation to one another rather than only their content knowledge.


The Celtic spiritual tradition is among the most ancient in Europe and has its origin nearly 3000 years ago (Sellner. 2004, p.13). The Irish Theologian and Philosopher, John O'Donohue, refers to the 'web of betweenness' (O'Donohue, 2003) of Celtic spirituality. He understands spirituality as intimately linked with relationship and community.  He does not see community as something that is produced but believes that it has to be allowed to emerge: "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" (O' Donohue, 2003). His idea of community extends beyond the social community to the idea of a community of spirit: "The human self is not a finished thing, it is constantly unfolding" (O' Donohue, ibid.). The 'web of betweenness' is a way of expressing my understanding of 'power with', rather than 'power over' others. Each individual's uniqueness can enrich self and the community. In the 'Web of Betweenness', I show how participants develop their own sense of being as they learn in relation with others. 


Validation Meetings through desktop videoconferencing


During the Master's supervision period, I organise group validation meetings. The purpose of a validation meeting is to give participants the opportunity to present evidence of their own learning and influence in the learning of others.  With the permission of all, I videotape these meetings.


In this section, I will focus on my supervision of four teacher-researchers, Chris Garvey, Bernie Tobin, MairŽad Ryan and Fionnuala Flanagan. Each was carrying out research into his/her own educational practice. In order to give them the opportunity to make their research public, I arranged a validation meeting through a videoconferencing link up with Dr. Jack Whitehead of the University of Bath. I believed that it was useful to bring in an international expert in action research who would listen and respond to their enquiries and provide constructive feedback on their research. This represented part of my own endeavour to live my values of collaboration and dialogue in the learning process. As for participants, the videoconferencing link up further challenged them to consider the data that they needed in order to present evidence that they had improved student learning.  I believed that this would help them in presenting their final dissertation. The video clip 'chrisvideoconf' was taken during the videoconferencing link up. The dialogue with Jack Whitehead helped Chris to reflect on his own learning in the research enquiry. It also helped him to consider the data he had collected and determine whether he could show evidence of improvement in student learning.  This was to be the focus of the next validation meeting between myself, Chris, Bernie, MairŽad and Fionnuala.



Peer validation meetings


In guiding the deliberations of the peer validation meetings, I keep in mind the general aim of developing each participant's 'living educational theory', having regard also to Habermas' insistence on social validity. In his book Communication and the evolution of society, Habermas (1976) states that "anyone acting communicatively must, in performing any speech action, raise universal validity claims and suppose that they can be vindicated (or redeemed).  Insofar as he wants to participate in a process of reaching an understanding, he cannot avoid raising the following – and indeed precisely the following validity claims". 

He claims to be:


  1. Uttering something understandably;
  2. Giving [the hearer] something to understand;
  3. Making himself thereby understandable; and
  4. Coming to an understanding with another person.

(Habermas, 1976, p. 2)


I have adopted Habermas' four criteria in the form of questions (below); criterion 4 has been adapted to include a question on evidence of the teacher-researcher's influence in the learning of others. 


During the validation meeting, each teacher-researcher had 45 minutes to present his/her research within the framework of the following questions;


  1. Are the descriptions and explanations of the teacher-researcher's learning comprehensible?

2    Is there sufficient evidence to justify the claims being made?

3    Are the values that constitute the enquiry as 'educational' clearly revealed and justified?

4    Is there evidence of the teacher-researcher's educational influence on the learning of others?


Validation meeting.  From left: Chris Garvey, Bernie Tobin, MairŽad Ryan, Fionnula Flanagan and Margaret Farren


The 'web of betweenness' (O' Donohue, 2003) in the validation meeting is characterized by a process of democratic evaluation in which 'the unforced force of the better argument' (i.e. the unforced presumption of reasonable response holds sway in the conversation).  The video clip 'Validatear' was taken at the end of the validation meeting, Chris asked for clarification on the action research cycles. The presence of the other participants helped Chris to see how his learning could relate to the action research cycles.  The explosion of laughter, at the end of the meeting, reflected Chris' acceptance of belonging to an action research community and the quality of empathy binding the community together. The 'pedagogy of the unique' is characterized in the recognition that each individual has a particular and different constellation of values that motivates his/her enquiry, as well as being situated in a distinctive context within which the enquiry develops.


Masters degree multimedia accounts


Participants on the M.Sc programmes have made use of multimedia accounts of learning in developing their own 'living educational theory'. I wish to point to Yvonne Crotty's abstract from her Master's dissertation that shows how she made use of multimedia accounts to express and communicate her living standards of judgement.


How Do I Create A Visual Narrative That Contributes To My Learning And The Learning Of Others?

Yvonne Crotty



The focus of my research is the development of a video artefact that represents the non-national students in my school.  A recent survey carried out in the school reported traces of racism among the staff and students. My rationale for developing the video was to provide the opportunity for non-national students to communicate and share their culture to a wider audience. The unique features of video gave the student the opportunity to reflect and improve on her own performances.   In my enquiry, I trace the developments in my own learning as I plan, produce and edit the visual narrative 'A Picture Paints a Thousand Words', in collaboration with the students. Through being a participant myself in the process of learning, I was able to encourage and support student learning. My research consists of two action research cycles. In cycle one, I demonstrate how I guide and encourage each student to present herself, through the use of video. In cycle two, I provide evidence to show how the video has influenced the learning of a wider audience. My educational values of creating a safe environment where students feel valued, appreciating the different forms of intelligences and using music as a way of breaking down barriers have been lived out through the production of this visual narrative.


Validation meeting:  From left: Yvonne Crotty, Miriam Fitzpatrick, Hazel Mullen, Patricia White.


During a validation meeting, Yvonne had the opportunity to present her research to peers. I am conscious of the need for participants to have the space to develop their own voice. I try to provide space, both in the classroom and online, where people can create knowledge in collaboration with one another. I believe that dialogue is fundamental to the learning process. It is a way of opening up to questions and assumptions rather than accepting ready-made solutions.  It is about mutual participation. Bohm's view of dialogue is relevant here. In defining dialogue, Bohm refers to the Greek word dialogos. Logos means 'the word' and dia means 'through' - it doesn't mean 'two'.  A dialogue can be among any number of people not just two. Dialogue is not just about repeating what someone else has said. "Thus in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together". 


I hope that my influence is seen in the opportunities I provide to participants to critically reflect on their learning through peer validation meetings.  I have endeavoured to involve participants in dialogue with myself, one another and others. Through the supervision process, I clarified my values of collaboration and dialogue and I also showed the meanings of my own embodied values through use of video clips. These values have now been transformed into communicable standards of judgement. Evidence of my influence in the education of a wider social formation is shown by the fact that research using a 'living educational theory' is now firmly established as an accepted form of research in DCU http://webpages.dcu.ie/~farrenm/dissertations.html


Section Two – Joan Whitehead

The contribution of ICT to the development of trainee teachers and the use of video to record teaching is by no means new. Examples exist from a wide range of contexts (Sharpe, 2003; Shulman, 2002; Stones, 1992).Replaying video footage provides trainee teachers with opportunities to analyse their practice and engage in a process of self-study to inform subsequent professional action and help shape professional identity and knowledge. 

Learning how to so engage is often taken for granted. It is largely assumed that trainees learn by observation and through dialogue with mentors rather than through involvement in the process of their mentor's self study and learning. In fact the use of video by mentors to record and analyse their own teaching and learning with trainees is much less common. Still less common is the use by mentors of this video record to engage in dialogue with pupils in order to learn whether their own teaching is experienced as aiding pupils' learning.

These activities, involving the use of technology, have implications for social relations and help participants reinterpret their roles. They for example reposition mentors in relation to trainees and pupils as each becomes a resource for the learning of the other and mentors, previously regarded as pedagogical experts, demonstrate their own growth as learners as they come to better understand their practices with trainees and pupils. Furthermore, the previously excluded voices of trainees and pupils become included in the construction of 'a living standard of judgement' (Whitehead 2005) about effective mentoring.

This section of the paper describes the role of technology in these dual processes of self-study and draws on the work undertaken by myself and colleagues from a university Faculty of Education working with school-based mentors, trainees and pupils in a Training School Partnership where secondary Post Graduate Certificate of Education students spend 24 weeks of their programme (Whitehead and Fitzgerald, 2006 ).

My own involvement and that of Faculty staff, particularly the university English tutor, was underpinned by a desire to help support a form of mentoring practice which was more attuned to our own ontological commitments to inclusionality shared by our school partners. By this I mean a democratic form of social practice and relations, characterised by openness to reflective inquiry and respecting the knowledge creating potential of all participants, ie school-based mentors, trainees and university staff. It was informed by Bernstein's (2000) view of an effective democracy, a belief that all 'have a stake' in the profession and its knowledge base, that all help constitute it and what it becomes.

What helped motivate us to act differently was what Whitehead (1989, p.41) has described as experiencing ourselves as 'living contradiction[s]'. We had become increasingly aware that the way we were acting with our school –based partners was conflicting with our ontological commitments in that we were insufficiently open to the depth of professional knowledge and practical wisdom mentors could bring to their work with trainees. We recognised too that the existing form of mentoring was marginalising rather than embracing the understandings brought to the process by the trainees whose actions and values we saw as integral to the formation of their professional identities, knowledge and competences. What we therefore sought was a more open and democratic form of teacher education and mentoring, able to sustain trainees, mentors and ourselves as reflective enquiring professionals in an ever changing complex society and also more responsive to the needs of pupils.


We sought to reconcile this conflict by encouraging and supporting mentors to maximise with trainees the possibilities afforded by reflective practice and to engage in action research cycles as articulated in the work of McNiff et al (1996) and McNiff (1984, 2002).


Below is a diagrammatic representation of the action research cycles undertaken with groups of trainees and mentors in three subjects specialisms over a period of four years and with references to the literature which helped inform our thinking and commitments.


Table 1

Stage One

Stage Two

Stage Three

Before lesson

During lesson

After Lesson

Mentor and trainee plan lesson together for situated learning

Mentor teaches a video recorded lesson and reflects whilst she teaches

Mentor and trainee deconstruct and evaluate effectiveness of mentor's teaching whilst watching the video of her lesson.

Mentor models reflective practice

Mentor and trainee's reflection prior to action


Mentor's reflection-in-action (invisible, implicit)




(post hoc, transparent, explicit)


Open mindedness



Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

After the lesson

During the lesson

After the lesson

As in stage three except it is the trainee's teaching which is deconstructed and related to other professional knowledge

Trainee's reflection-in-action

Informed by stage three, mentor and trainee revise lesson plan for trainee to teach a parallel class


During the project, data were collected annually on the reflective dialogue between school mentors and pairs of trainees as well as from university tutors. These data enabled all participants to evaluate experiences and thus illuminate their learning and the process of knowledge generation. The collection of data included semi-structured interviews and questionnaires as well as video recordings of mentors' lessons and those of trainees which were explored during weekly mentoring sessions. These learning conversations were also video-recorded to provide further data on which to base future action. Data from these conversations enabled us to see the extent to which our aspiration for a more inclusional form of social practice and relations were being evidenced.


The use of video proved to be seminal to the learning which for mentors was conscious rather than incidental and for trainees about both content and process, the latter being metacognitive and arguably transferable.

The following statement from a mentor is evidence of this:

"– having the opportunity to sit and watch one's own practice is rare and actually having to comment on the reasons for including certain activities , the choices you made--- is actually complex, forcing you to acknowledge at a conscious level why you do certain things and whether they are effective or not."

Whilst a trainee commented : " we weren't just getting a lesson on a lesson : we were getting a lesson on reflection as well" and another claimed that the process had enabled her "definitely to see deeper."

These understandings of practice were able to be extended or confirmed through the inputs we as teacher educators were to make to enable both mentors and trainees 'to form a bridge for themselves between their own practical experience and other forms of professional knowledge' (Furlong, 2000, p.14).

At this stage in the research, what was, however, omitted from these understandings was data from pupils on their perceptions about the effectiveness of mentors' teaching in supporting their learning. Mentors initially saw accessing this data as potentially "challenging", an understandable response in what Rudduck and Flutter (2004, p.75) point out is 'the present judgmental climate' where 'teachers are anxious lest consulting pupils means unlocking a barrage of criticism of them and their teaching.' Reflecting subsequently on her willingness to initiate the use of video of her teaching with her pupils, the English mentor, a former PGCE trainee at the university and the lead mentor in the school, stated:

"to hear what (pupils) think, what they know, what they understand about how you teach them..... there's a need to know and that's why it became okay."

This 'need to know' resonates with Feldman's (2003, p.27) view that we need to 'make sure that we are not blinded or fooled by the ways that we construct our stories of being teacher educators' and that we seek multiple sources of data as well as recognise the moral dimension inherent in seeking to improve our practice.

The insights afforded through this process were confirmed by another mentor who although she had previously analysed the video of a lesson with a trainee concluded that when pupils gave feedback, she then "noticed completely different things". Thus, extending self study to involve learning conversations with pupils and provide opportunities for their voices to be heard, led to "reflective learning on (my)part and new and innovative approaches to difficult topic areas."

A similar conclusion was made by another mentor that observations offered by her pupils had added "a whole different dimension to (my) ability to reflect on (my) own teaching .. a different aspect to evaluate."

This use of video at the various stages of the mentoring process as referred to Table 1, helped develop mentoring practice from an initial restricted approach to what emerged as a generative approach based on self-study. This proved to be more in keeping with our ontological values of inclusionality in a climate of greater openness and trust between participants and has some similarity with Farren's ( 2005c) ideas of 'a web of betweenness.' The key characteristics of these two approaches to mentoring are outlined below in Table 2.


The initial restricted approach to mentoring

The new generative approach to mentoring based on self study

The mentor: an experienced practitioner who transmits knowledge to trainees and pupils

The mentor: an experienced practitioner who is involved in the generation of professional knowledge and is a co-learner with trainees and pupils.

The mentor: a guide and commentator on trainees' lesson planning, giving feedback and assisting in post-hoc lesson analysis and evaluation

The mentor: through co-planning and the co-analysis of video footage of their own lessons and those of the trainees, the mentor contributes to trainees' learning whilst advancing her own knowledge and understanding

The post lesson analysis by the mentor with trainees focuses solely on the trainee's teaching and provides no opportunity to model the way the mentor reflects on and learns about her own developing practice as a teacher.

Using video as a tool, the mentor models how she reflects on her own teaching drawing on feedback from trainees and pupils. Reflection is openly modelled as a key skill in the professional repertoire of the mentor and is replicated in the practice of trainees.

Trainees' learning from mentors is at surface level; learning for mentors is incidental.

Trainees and mentors learn from the process of joint deconstruction of lessons. Learning is at a deeper level and acknowledges the contribution pupils can make to the development of situated professional knowledge as well as to their own knowledge creation.

The mentoring process involves an ongoing commitment to the improvement of the trainee's practice as a teacher and is supported by the principles of enquiry and reflection. There is a greater emphasis on the trainee's teaching than on the pupils' learning

Mentor and trainee are involved in a systematic enquiry process that is committed not only to the learning of the trainee but also to that of pupils, the mentor and the school as a learning community. Via a website and other means of dissemination, the process is public and accountable.

The relationship between mentor and trainee is a hierarchical one. The mentor's role is clearly defined in the terms of a tutor; clear role boundaries of mentor-trainee are maintained.

Pupils are recipients of professional practice rather than partners in the generation and validation of professional knowledge.

The mentor's role is defined more loosely, with each mentor working as both guide and co-learner with the trainee. There is a greater reciprocity and interdependence in the relationship between mentor and trainee. Pupils play a role in validating professional knowledge and in the transformation of professional practice.


Participation as a critical friend in this development took forward my own thinking helping me to appreciate more deeply than previously the nature of practitioner knowledge as situated knowledge as new understandings emerge from within practice. Lighthall's (2004, p.224)) description of teacher education seemed particularly apposite in understanding the relationship between mentors and trainees:


'... ineluctably caught in particulars- in particular contexts of particular places and cultures taking particular actions with particular people who, in turn, are coping with their own particular situations, skills, capacities and problems."


It resonated too with Farren's ( 2005a) notion of 'the pedagogy of the unique' enabling mentors and trainees to constitute and re-constitute their professional identities through co-learning. It provided them with 'the paradox of being formed as situated social selves, emerging persons in emerging social worlds, patterned by history but open to movement as present interaction'( Shaw, 2002, p.173).


The use of video and making the Training School data available on a website http://edu.projects.uwe.ac.uk/trainingschool/ enabled aspects to be available for public examination thereby helping move these developments from situated 'practitioner knowledge' (Hiebert et al, 2002) to become professional knowledge shared with other teachers, open to public examination and available as a living standard of judgement of mentoring practice.


Section Three – Jack Whitehead

'How can I racialise my educational conversations with whiteness in a way that doesn't damagingly scarify myself and others?'


As this enquiry evolves in the course of writing this text I move, below, into a multi-media presentation with colleagues in China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching (CECEARFLT) in the development of an explanation of how I think that I am racialising my educational conversations with whiteness in a way that doesn't damagingly scarify myself and others.


Through my desire to live a productive life I have focused on the generation and evaluation of living educational theories that carry hope for the future of humanity and my own. This hope is connected with the values, skills and understandings that have developed in the course of my research programme into the nature of living educational theories. What I mean by a living educational theory is an individual's explanation, for their educational influence in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations, that emerges from an educational enquiry that includes questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' (McNiff & Whitehead, 2005, 2006; Whitehead & McNiff, 2006)


My reason for stressing the importance of living educational theories is that they are ways in which individuals can provide accounts of their lives and their educational influences in their learning, in relation to the values, skills and understandings they believe carry hope for the future of humanity. By sharing these accounts, within processes of democratic evaluation, it is my belief that individuals from different cultures, races, genders, classes, religions, spiritualities and ideological beliefs can live to learn together in enhancing the flow of values, skills and understandings they believe carry this hope and, in learning to work together, to resist constraints and violations to this flow.


In answering my question I have learnt much from four doctoral students of the University of Bath, Cathy Aymer, Judith Ryde, Yaqub (Al Kindy)-Murray and Eden Charles and from colleagues in China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching.  When I asked Cathy Aymer in the course of her enquiry into Seeking Knowledge for Black Cultural Renewal, if there was anything I could do to help her she said, 'Just bear me in mind'.  Watching Cathy graduate with her doctorate (Aymer, 2005)  from the University of Bath in December 2005, and having examined her thesis, I felt that I understood the relational values of humanity and life-affirming energy that Cathy communicated in, 'bearing me in mind' and in her seeking knowledge for black cultural renewal. I am thinking in particular of her living expression of the relational African cosmology of Ubuntu, 'I am because we are'.


In examining Judith Ryde's (2005) thesis on Exploring White Racial Identity And Its Impact On Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy Organisations, I could appreciate her originality in making 'whiteness' visible with white psychotherapists and the significance of exploring guilt and shame experienced by white people in the context of psychotherapy.


In my enquiry I am conscious of the dynamic boundaries of interconnecting and branching channels of communications between people, that can flip into a disabling vortex fuelled by anger, guilt and shame. I am thinking of disabling vortices that close down discourse and educational conversations. I seek to resist being sucked into such disabling vortices. Without in any way seeking to diminish the authenticity of the pain of those who have such an influence I am aware of the empancipatory influences of the pleasurable release of my own life-affirming energy, often through laughter, that  seems to ensure that my own responses to life, flow with hope and this life-affirming energy. I want to emphasise that the release of this energy through humour does not diminish the pain, suffering and cruelty, inflicted by some human beings on others. I am simply acknowledging that my capacity to experience the pleasurable flow of energy released by laughter has helped to sustain me in my most trying times and circumstances.


My desire to enhance my educational influence flows with a life-affirming energy and love of what I do in education. I intend to express this desire without losing my awareness of the need for an appropriate response to many different kinds of conflict in the world that inflict pain, sap life affirming energies, and destroy opportunities for enhancing the well being of individuals and their communities. Hence, I am enquiring into how I enhance my educational influence with life-affirming energy, love and hope through racialising discourses of whiteness in living educational theories.


The third doctoral researcher at the University of Bath to influence my enquiry is Yaqub (Al Kindy)-Murray. As a self-designating mixed race, mixed heritage educator, undertaking a doctoral research programme, Yaqub has helped to focus my attention on the significance of identity in enhancing educational influences through racialising discourses with whiteness. When I began my supervision Yaqub (Al Kindy)-Murray would identify with the name Paul Murray. I produced a joint paper with Paul Murray for AERA 2000 on White and Black with White Identities in Self-Studies of Teacher Education Practices (Murray and Whitehead, 2000). Paul Murray moved on to Paulus Murray to Yaqub Paul Murray (2005) and to Yaqub (Al Kindy)- Murray (personal correspondence 11/1/06). Yaqub also helped me, by accident, to develop my awareness of the importance of scarification in severing educational conversations. He also helped me to understand the educational significance of scarification in cutting oneself off from the possibility of the other.


I began to develop my understanding of the significance of scarification when I made a mistake in my understanding of the use of the word by Yaqub. He had intended its horticultural use -  scratching the surface of soil and seeds to hasten germination. I had mistakenly thought, when I looked for the meaning of scarification in the dictionary, that he had meant wounding through harsh and abusive criticism! The idea of scarifying by wounding through abusive criticism has stayed with me as I seek to understand how educational conversations can be sustained in the face of scarifying responses, to one's ideas, work and being. Yaqub has also been inspirational in the way he has engaged with and shared responses to his readings of postcolonial literature (Murray, 2006).


Eden Charles, is the fourth doctoral researcher at the University of Bath to influence my enquiry into the educational desirability of racialising with whiteness, living educational theories, in a way that avoids scarifying myself and others.  In his doctorate Eden is researching his educational influences in his learning as a black father, a black educator at the Sankofa Centre in London and as a black management consultant in national and international contexts, in a relationship with African cosmology. Three of the following images are from Eden's web-site and the fourth from an i-chat conversation with me.




Speaking to an audience (international               From i-chat conversation with Jack 

Management consultant)                                       11/01/06.              





Listening to a student's experience   Listening to a parent's experience

At the Sankofa Centre in London.      at the Sankofa Centre in London.


What I have learnt from Eden is that it is possible, and desirable, to learn to live in a way that enhances the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity in the face of the most dehumanising of experiences.


What I would like you to bear in mind as I continue with an answer to my question, is the flow of life-affirming energy, pleasure and hope I experience, through my understandings of Eden's enquiry. I know that within particular groups certain ways of feeling, thinking and behaving often become normalised. I mean this in the sense that they become taken for granted and not problematised in the discourses of individuals within the group. For example, in my experience of groups of educational researchers who are wholly or mostly white, individual researchers have rarely racialised their academic discourse by addressing their racial characteristics of being white and by addressing the power relations that support white privilege and supremacy known as 'whiteness'. For example, as Enora Brown, writing about the  decentering of dominant discourses in education with a self-study on the (In) visibility of Race, says:


"I observed that race was relatively insignificant in the personal narratives of European American pre-service teachers and that concomitantly, whiteness was normalized in traditional textbooks within the discipline of Human Development." (Brown, 2005, p.65)


Brown's writings were published in a collection of  research papers, edited by Francoise Bodone on What difference Does Research Make and for Whom? The collection was born out of an interactive symposium at the 2002 American Educational Research Association in New Orleans on Capturing Whom for the Sake of What? What difference does research make? And for Whom?


In her contribution to the collection, Wattsjohnson focuses on articulating knowledge for transformation in a way that includes an enquiry into her existence as a black women encountering racism with a group of white woman:


"Using narrative inquiry, I succeed in a discovery of self and an understanding of the constructed community in which I exist that surpasses conventional modes of knowing, to explain what it means for me to exist as a black women at a white institution." (Wattsjohnson, 2005, p. 193)


In an earlier publication Wattsjohnson  (2003) emphasises the need to end white silence. I am hopeful that my own acknowledgement of the educational influence of whiteness as a set of power relations that sustain white privilege and supremacy, emphasises the importance of this need. I believe that the experience of these power relations by those subjected to them, scarifies, in the sense of wounding and potentially disabling, by undermining the legitimate sense of identity of accepting one's racial characteristics as no better or no worse than those of others; our racial characteristics are given to us at conception.


At an AERA interactive symposium in 2002, Dalmau was the discussant and provided, along with Bodone, the concluding chapter to an edited collection of papers stimulated by the symposium (Bodone 2005). Dalmau rightly points out that dealing with "I" also confronts the person-in-action in the world (Dalmau, p.274). Dalmau and Bodone (2005) draw on a previous collaboration to emphasise the importance of personal/professional identity (Bodone, Gujonsdottir, & Dalmau, 2004, p. 746) in self-study. Dalmau (2005) identifies three approaches from her research that I seek to integrate into my own understandings. I am thinking of the need for globalist, ecolological perspectives in mapping the terrain; ensuring that ontological, epistemological, practical, socio-cultural and historical features are considered in the enquiry; opening spaces for iterative and divergent consideration of data and meaning (Dalmau, et al. 1991, Dalmau, 2002).


In emphasising my hope that living educational theories can contribute to the future of humanity I am curious about the educational value of explicitly acknowledging the evidence of the capacity of human beings to violate others. In other words, I am wondering if the explicit inclusion of a recognition and understanding of whiteness in my living educational theory, together with the understandings of history and present day experiences, actually serves to support nihilistic and scarifying responses or does the inclusion of whiteness embody hope for the future of humanity? In denouncing the injustices of the past and present, and proclaiming the superiority of the future, do living educational theories help to save humanity from the ultimate stupidity of holding out forever against the emergence of new social realities? (Holloway 2005),


In my enquiry 'How can I racialise my educational conversations with whiteness in a way that doesn't damagingly scarify myself and others?' I am interested in your responses to my belief that I am enhancing the educational influence of living educational theories, with racialising discourses of whiteness, with explicit acknowledgements that such discourses have, historically, carried predominantly, hatred and violence.


As a white man, I am wondering if, by sharing the life-affirming energy, love, pleasure and hope I feel as I see Eden Charles, a black man, enquiring into his parenting, his work as an educator with black youngsters and parents and his work as a management consultant, with an African Cosmology, I have been able to acknowledge the importance of a racialising discourse on whiteness in a way that shows a possibility for enhancing educational influence? I am thinking of the possibility of enhancing the flow of values and understandings that carry hope for the future of humanity and my/our own through the creation and development of one's own living educational theory.


Eden's response to the final draft of this paper seems most appropriate as an invitation to share our living theories that flow with our common humanity in our movement beyond those relationships defiled by 'whiteness':


This text reminds me of the paradox to do with the way in which it feels that by bringing 'whiteness' to the attention of inquirers you are both requiring them to be aware of the impact of their 'whiteness' upon the power relationships in the world and you are inviting them to move beyond ossified, essentialist notions of race and consider the common humanity that is sometimes defiled by 'whiteness'. (Eden Charles, personal communication, 14/01/06).


In October 2004 I was pleased to accept accreditation as visiting professor at Guyuan Teachers College, the hosts of China's Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching (CECEARFLT). Collaborative living theories, that I associate with the idea of common humanity (Gaita, 2002) are being developed in this Centre through action research with Chinese characteristics (Tian & Laidlaw, 2005). Some of this work is already flowing through web-space from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira.shtml (See the action research accounts of Ma Hong at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira/MaHong.htm, Tao Rui at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira/taoruiardr.htm, Gong Lixia at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira/GongLixia.htm

and Liu Hui at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira/liuhuiar.htm).


In my next visit to the Centre in May 2006 I hope to extend my understandings of the possibilities of enhancing the flow of values and understandings that carry hope for the future of humanity and my/our own through the creation and development of one's own and collaborative living educational theories. The multi-media technology with the moving images and access to the video-clips and video-narratives allows a linear video tape to be re-formed, as below, to develop the relationally dynamic standards of judgement of living educational theories with their webs of betweenness, pedagogies of the unique, generative approaches to mentoring and racialising discourses with whiteness (Whitehead, 2005 http://www.jackwhitehead.com/monday/arrkey05dr1.htm). In the video narratives of my own living educational theory I am drawing inspiration from the work of Alan Rayner on inclusionality (Rayner, 2006)


While it isn't possible for me to put into this web-based presentation the DVD showing the moving video-clips to communicate my understandings of a web of betweenness, a pedagogy of the unique, generative mentoring and racialising whiteness, the images below are from the DVD and I intend to show an extract from the DVD in this AERA presentation to help communicate my meanings.


Such theories, presented through video-narratives can explain our educational influences in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations. This has been well demonstrated by Naidoo (2005) in her emerging living theory of inclusional and responsive practice.  Such theories enable us to account for what we do and our ways of being in terms of the meanings and purpose we give to our own lives in our loving relationships and productive work.


The original ideas of Farren (2005c) about the meanings of a web of betweenness and a pedagogy of the unique and of Whitehead and Fitzgerald (2006) about a generative approach to mentoring resonate for me with the relational meanings being developed by Charles with his understandings of an African Cosmology, by Aymer in her relational meanings in seeking knowledge for black cultural renewal and by Tian, Peidong and Laidlaw in their development of collaborative living theories and action research with Chinese characteristics.  I still have much to learn about how to racialise educational discourses, through a postcolonial critical pedagogy (Murray, 2005) in a way that enhances the discourse, while avoiding the damaging influences of scarification in closing down the discourse.

As we develop the potential of our information and communications technology in the creation and sharing of our living educational theories, I am both passionately and cautiously optimistic about the evolutionary power of these theories to carry hope for the future of humanity, and our own.



In the context of our 'pedagogies of the unique', dialogical processes of self-study can reflect a growing openness to learning and relearning with others. They reveal how democratic processes of pedagogy and evaluation in higher education can give adequate "space to each participant to contribute to the development of new knowledge, to develop their own voice, to make their own offerings, insights, to engage in their own actions, as well as to create their own products" (Barnett 2000).


Self-studies of teacher education practice can move teaching towards enquiries into educational influences in  learning by gradually providing opportunities for participants to take responsibility for their own learning and to develop their capacity as learners in the creation of their own living educational theories.


Self-studies of teacher-education practice can provide evidence from collaborative enquiries to produce new living critical standards of judgement (Coulter & Wiens, 2002 ) for evaluating the validity of the knowledge-claims of self-study researchers.  Ontological values can be clarified in the course of their emergence in practice into communicable and living critical standards of judgement.  


S-STEP researchers can contribute to new understandings of the link between teaching and research and how teachers can contribute to a knowledge base of practice by revealing their living critical standards of judgement through the use of ICT.  



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