How can self study enquiries into the generation of living educational theories be validated in creating a future for educational research?

Jack Whitehead, Department of Education, University of Bath.



(This paper is also available at )


A presentation at the BERA 2006 Symposium at the University of Warwick on 8th September 2006, on, How do we explain the significance of the validity of our self-study enquiries for the future of educational research?

Context of the domain of enquiry

In contributing to the theme of this Symposium I shall focus on research that explains how self-study enquiries into the generation of living educational theories can be validated in creating a future for educational research.

As a human activity the generation of theory in research is influenced by the social context of its production. I doubt if there is anyone in this Symposium or who is reading this paper, whose awareness is unaffected by media images of individual and state sponsored acts of terrorism. Hence, the framing of my contribution to this Symposium acknowledges that this is a contextual influence in the generation of educational theory. The framing also contains a clear distinction between education research and educational research in the generating of living educational theories. It provides a brief contextualization of relationships between different meanings of validity and focuses attention on the meanings of validity, methodology, culture and influence used in this presentation. In acknowledging the contextual influence of terrorism I know that there is a danger of confusing the physical acts of terrorism with the forms of intellectual terrorism distinguished by Lyotard (1984) that involve power relations that exclude ideas from the Academy. I think it is a risk worth taking in suggesting that both forms of terrorism appear to draw on the language and logic that characterizes an addiction to conflict (Rayner, 2003).


In relation to the influence of terrorism in the inner life of a culture and to a terrorist-altered inner life I am drawn to Cowley’s points on the writer DeLillo:

“… DeLillo suggests, in an age of mass communications, where the televised image is all-powerful and all-pervasive, writers can no longer ‘alter the inner life of a culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory’.

DeLillo is, I think, broadly correct: no artist, literary or otherwise, can compete with what he calls terrorism’s ‘raids on consciousness’. Yet what they can do – and this has become the self—imposed challenge of some of our best writers, from Ian McEwan (Saturday) to John Updike (Terrorist) to Martin Amis (The Last day of Mohammad Atta) – is to show us something of the shape and contours of that new, terrorist-altered inner life.” (Cowley, 2006, p. 23)

I am aware of working in my research with my own terrorist-altered inner life. I recently examined a doctoral thesis on research in a school in Mumbai days after bombs had killed civilians on a rail journey in that city. One doctoral researcher working on her research in a kindergarden with Druze women on the Golan Heights was sheltering a few weeks ago in a family bomb shelter in Northern Israel as the Katushya rockets fell. Before going into the shelter she had explained that family members separated in different shelters to enhance the possibility of some of the family surviving in case of a fatal explosion. My computer screen saver shows a Wedding Anniversary picture taken at the Menega Beach Café in Bali on the 9th September 2004. On the 1st October 2005 a suicide bomber killed himself and a group of diners at the spot where I’d been enjoying myself a year earlier. Given these social contexts through which terrorism can invade consciousness and destroy lives, I continue to respond to the flows of life-affirming energy and hope I experience with researchers whose lives express hope in the values, skills and understandings. I am thinking of the hope in their contributions to cultural harmony as they seek to live their values more fully in the world through their work as educators and educational researchers. Amartya Sen (2006) writes about the main hope for harmony lying in the plurality of our identities:

The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one pre-eminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.

Perhaps the worst impairment comes from the neglect—and denial—of the roles of reasoning and choice, which follow from the recognition of our plural identities. The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live. The descriptive weakness of choiceless singularity has the effect of momentously impoverishing the power and reach of our social and political reasoning. The illusion of destiny exacts a remarkably heavy price. (Sen 2006)

While recognizing a difference between terrorist acts that kill and Lyotard’s notion that terrorist behaviour can be expressed in power relations that seek to eliminate the expression of ideas that destabilize accepted positions in the Academy, I understand Lyotard’s point about the postmodern condition in seeking to validate and legitimate new living standards of judgement:

A postmodern artist or writer is in the position of a philosopher: the text he writes, the work he produces are not in principle governed by pre-established rules, and they cannot be judged according to a determining judgement, by applying familiar categories to the text or to the work. Those rules and categories are what the work of art itself is looking for. The artist and the writer, then, are working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done. (Lyotard, p. 81, 1984)

Lyotard writes about ‘terror’ in relation to repression of ideas by institutions of knowledge. I have certainly felt the exercise of disciplinary power in the workplace (Whitehead, 1993) in ways which resonate with Lyotard’s analysis:

“Countless scientists have seen their ‘move’ ignored or repressed, sometimes for decades, because it too abruptly destabilized the accepted positions, not only in the university and scientific hierarchy, but also in the problematic. The stronger the ‘move’ the more likely it is to be denied the minimum consensus, precisely because it changes the rules of the game upon which the consensus has been based. But when the institution of knowledge functions in this manner, it is acting like an ordinary power center whose behaviour is governed by a principle of homeostasis.

Such behaviour is terrorist…. By terror I mean the efficiency gained by eliminating, or threatening to eliminate a player from the language game one shares with him. He is silenced or consents, not because he has been refuted, but because his ability to participate has been threatened (there are many ways to prevent someone from playing). The decision makers’ arrogance, which in principle has no equivalent in the sciences, consists of the exercise of terror. It says: “Adapt your aspirations to our ends – or else”. (Lyotard, p. 64. 1984)

Both forms of terrorism appear addicted to a logic of conflict. In the section below on ‘Evidence of Validation of Living Educational Theories in Creating A Future for Educational Research’ I am seeking to communicate the nature of an inclusional logic of educational enquiry. This logic supports Sen’s point that the main hope for harmony lies in the plurality of our identities and, I would add, the generation and sharing of our living educational theories in which we account for ourselves and others for our lives, learning and educational influences.

Distinguishing education and educational research and education and educational theory

As well as the recognition of the influence of our social contexts in the production of living educational theories and the standards we use for their validation, I wish to frame my contribution to the Symposium in a clear distinction between education research and educational research. My need for a clear distinction developed from a response to my studies of educational theory in 1971 at the University of London, Institute of Education. The dominant view of educational theory, known as the ‘disciplines’ approach held that educational theory was constituted by disciplines of education such as the history, philosophy, sociology and psychology of education. In researching my own educational influences as an educator I wanted to create an educational theory that explains my educational influences in my own learning, in the learning of my students and in the learning of the social formations in which my practice takes place. Having examined a range of theories in different schools of thought in different disciplines of education I came to the conclusion that such research in education, or education research, could not generate, either from individual theories or theories in any combination, the explanation I needed to understand my educational influences in learning.

From this conclusion I decided, following Michael Polanyi’s (1958, p. 327) insight that I needed to understand my educational influences from my own point of view as a person claiming originality and exercising my personal judgement, responsibly, with universal intent. I coined the term ‘living educational theory’ to distinguish the explanations of educational influences in learning produced by individuals in educational enquiries of the kind, ‘how do I improve what I am doing?’, from the explanations produced by education researchers. I hope the distinctions I am using, between educational theory and education theory and between education and educational researchers, are clear. The need for such a clear distinction has been emphasised by Whitty (2005) and is highlighted in texts about the American Educational Research Association meeting in Chicago in April 2007. These appear to believe that the theme ‘The World of Educational Quality’ (see ) is identical to the theme ‘The World of Quality in Education’ (see correspondence of 11 August from AERA Executive Director, Felice J. Levine to the AERA membership).

In addition to making a clear distinction between education theory and educational theory in considering the future of educational research I want to be clear about the significance I am giving to the validity of living educational theories in creating this future.


Writing in the first issue of Educational Theory in 1951 Kilpatrick defined educational theory as a form of dialogue that has profound implications for the future of society. I agree with Kilpatrick and see educational theory as a form of dialogue that carries hope for the future of humanity. I believe that our living educational theories are the explanations we produce for our educational influences in our own learning in which we hold ourselves to account in terms of the values, skills and understandings we use to give meaning and purpose to our lives. Hence they have ontological significance in drawing on our theories of being in the world. They also have epistemological and methodological significance in forming the living standards of judgement we use in evaluating the validity of our explanations of educational influence.

The concept of validity is used in different ways by different researchers as highlighted by Donmoyer:

First the practical problem: Today there is as much variation among qualitative researchers as there is between qualitative and quantitatively orientated scholars. Anyone doubting this claim need only compare Miles and Huberman’s (1994) relatively traditional conception of validity <‘The meanings emerging from the data have to be tested for their plausibility, their sturdiness, their ‘confirmability’ – that is, their validity’ (p.11)> with Lather’s discussion of ironic validity:

“Contrary to dominant validity practices where the rhetorical nature of scientific claims is masked with methodological assurances, a strategy of ironic validity proliferates forms, recognizing that they are rhetorical and without foundation, postepistemic, lacking in epistemological support. The text is resituated as a representation of its ‘failure to represent what it points toward but can never reach…. (Lather, 1994, p. 40-41)’.” (Donmoyer, 1996 p.21.)

Michael Polanyi’s ideas about understanding the world from one’s own point of view as a person claiming originality and exercising personal judgement responsibly, with universal intent ,have had the most significant influence on my understanding of validity. I mean this in the sense that I take responsibility for the exercise of my originality of mind and critical judgement in claiming validity for my beliefs. As part of this grounding of validity in personal responsibility I seek to enhance the validity of living educational theories through a process of social validation that draws on Habermas’ theory of communicative action:

I shall develop the thesis 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 understanding, he cannot avoid raising the following – and indeed precisely the following – validity claims:

a)      Uttering something understandably;

b)      Giving (the hearer) something to understand;

c)      Making himself thereby understandable. And

d)      Coming to an understanding with another person.

The speaker must choose a comprehensible expression so that speaker and hearer can understand one another. The speaker must have the intention of communicating a true proposition (or a propositional content, the existential presuppositions of which are satisfied) so that the hearer can share the knowledge of the speaker. The speaker must want to express his intentions truthfully so that the hearer can believe (p.2) the utterance of the speaker (can trust him). Finally, the speaker must choose an utterance that is right so that the hearer can accept the utterance and speaker and hearer can agree with on another in the utterance with respect to a recognized normative background. Moreover, communicative action can continue undisturbed only as long as participants suppose that the validity claims they reciprocally raise are justified. (Habermas, 1976, p.3)

What particularly impresses me in this idea of social validity is that it includes my understanding of logic in the choice of a comprehensible expression. I mean this in the sense that logic is the form that reason takes in understanding the real as rational (Marcuse, 1964). It includes the intention of communicating a true proposition. I usually strengthen this point in the validation groups I convene by asking for the evidential grounding that justifies the assertions being made. I like the idea of choosing utterances that are right in relation to a recognized normative background. I use this point to highlight the importance of negotiating the agreed meanings that constitute the recognized normative background in the communication. Such negotiations of agreed meanings can include Lather’s insight about ironic validity above that “The text is resituated as a representation of its ‘failure to represent what it points toward but can never reach…”. I also like the idea of expressing intentions truthfully. This seems to me to include both trust and authenticity and the recognition that these are often related to interactions through time as evidence is produced to show that the individual is seeking to live in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.

Forrest (1983) gave one of the clearest illustrations of how to enhance the validity of his educational enquiry, with the support of a validation group working with the above ideas (see

Winter (1989) eschews validity in favour of rigour. However, I do advocate the use of his six criteria of rigour in seeking to enhance the validity of explanations of educational influence. Kok (1991) explicitly integrates these principles into her educational research into her art as an educational inquirer. She has explained how these six principles of reflexive and dialectical critique, plural structure, risk, multiple resource and theory practice transformation can be used to enhance the rigour of an educational enquiry (see )


The methodology of action research has been significant in generating the living standards of judgement for validating living educational theories in enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ I am thinking here of the systematic form of educational enquiry that can emerge from forming this kind of question in the experience of oneself as a living contradiction. By this I mean that the ‘I’ is aware of holding together the values that give meaning and purpose to one’s existence, with the experience that the values are being negated in practice. This idea of experiencing oneself as a living contradiction appears to stimulate the imaginations of all those I have worked with in generating their living educational theories. Through their imagination they create possibilities in action plans that are intended to enable ontological values to be lived more fully in practice. Where conditions permit, they act on an action plan, gathering data in multiple forms, to make a judgement on the effectiveness of the actions in terms of values, skills and understandings. They evaluate the effectiveness of the influence of their actions and modify their concerns, action plans and actions in the light of the evaluations. In the act of producing an explanation of their educational influences in learning for themselves and to share with others, new learning takes place. This new learning always includes a growth in understanding of the meanings of the ontological values the individual uses to give meaning and purpose to their lives. This new learning involves both clarity of the meanings of embodied values and the meanings of living standards of judgement. The meanings of embodied values are clarified in the course of their emergence in practice. The living standards of judgement are formed in this process of clarifying the meanings of the embodied values with language. The formation of the embodied values into publicly communicable living standards of judgement enables the standards to be used to evaluate the validity of the living theory.

Before I move onto explaining how living theories flowing through web-space have been validated and are contributing to the future of educational research I want to explain why I use the concepts of culture and influence in learning in the generation of living educational theories.


My awareness of the cultural influences of text owes much to the writings of Edward Said:

As I use the word, ‘culture’ means two things in particular. First of all it means all those practices, like the arts of description, communication, and representation, that have relative autonomy from the economic, social, and political realms and that often exist in aesthetic forms, one of whose principal aims is pleasure. Included, of course, are both the popular stock of lore about distant parts of the world and specialized knowledge available in such learned disciplines as ethnography, historiography, philology, sociology, and literary history…..

Second, and almost imperceptible, culture is a concept that includes a refining and elevating element, each society’s reservoir of the best that has been known and thought. As Matthew Arnold put it in the 1860s…. In time, culture comes to be associated, often aggressively, with the nation of the state; this differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’, almost always with some degree of xenophobia. Culture in this sense is a source of identity, and a rather combative one at that, as we see in recent ‘returns’ to culture and tradition. (Said, pp. xii-xiv, 1993)

In identifying below living educational theories with the future of educational research my belief, in the cultural significance of these living theories as cultural artefacts, is grounded in my understanding that each living theory includes a refining and elevating element that is contributing to humanities reservoir of the best that has been known and thought. Said’s work also influenced my awareness of how texts can support colonising and decolonising influences.


Murray’s (2006) writings have also contributed much to my understandings of the significance of producing living theories of practice that can contribute to the development of postcolonial social formations. In using the idea of influence as a central idea in my research I feel affirmed by Said’s analysis of the work of Valery, where Valery is bringing influence to the foreground of consciousness:

“As a poet indebted to and friendly with Mallarme, Valery was compelled to assess originality and derivation in a way that said something about a relationship between two poets that could not be reduced to a simple formula. As the actual circumstances were rich, so too had to be the attitude. Here is an example from the “Letter About Mallarme”.

No word comes easier of oftener to the critic’s pen than the word influence, and no vaguer notion can be found among all the vague notions that compose the phantom armory of aesthetics. Yet there is nothing in the critical field that should be of greater philosophical interest or prove more rewarding to analysis than the progressive modification of one mind by the work of another.

It often happens that the work acquires a singular value in the other mind, leading to active consequences that are impossible to foresee and in many cases will never be possible to ascertain. What we do know is that this derived activity is essential to intellectual production of all types. Whether in science or in the arts, if we look for the source of an achievement we can observe that what a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done – repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it, loads or overloads it with meaning; or else rebuts, overturns, destroys and denies it, but thereby assumes it and has invisibly used it. Opposites are born from opposites.

We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformations that others underwent in his mind; we mean to say that the dependence on what he does on what others have done is excessively complex and irregular. There are works in the likeness of others, and works that are the reverse of others, but there are also works of which the relation with earlier productions is so intricate that we become confused and attribute them to the direct intervention of the gods. (Paul Valery, ‘Letter about Mallarme’, in Leonardo, Poe, Mallarme, trans. Malcolm Cowley and James R. Lawler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), p. 241.

Valery converts ‘influence’ from a crude idea of the weight of one writer coming down in the work of another into a universal principle of what he calls ‘derived achievement’. He then connects this concept with a complex process of repetition that illustrates it by multiplying instances; this has the effect of providing a sort of wide intellectual space, a type of discursiveness in which to examine influence. Repetition, refinement, amplification, loading, overloading, rebuttal, overturning, destruction, denial, invisible use – such concepts completely modify a linear (vulgar) idea of ‘influence’ into an open field of possibility. Valery is careful to admit that chance and ignorance play important roles in this field; what we cannot see or find, as well as what we cannot predict, he says, produce excessive irregularity and complexity. Thus the limits of the field of investigation are set by examples whose nonconforming, overflowing energy begins to carry them out of the field. This is an extremely important refinement in Valery’s writing. For even as his writing holds in the wide system of variously dispersed relationships connecting writers with one another, he also shows how at its limits the field gives forth other relations that are hard to describe from within the field.” (Said, 1997, p.15)

Having framed my enquiry ‘How can self study enquiries into the generation of living educational theories be validated in creating a future for educational research?’ in terms of education and educational research, education and educational theory, validity, methodology, culture and influence, I now want to focus on the data and evidence that shows how self-study enquiries into the generation of living educational theories have been validated in creating a future for educational research. I also want to point to some issues of recognition and legitimation that I am engaging with in my research into enhancing the educational influence of living educational theories. Because the list of resources in the Data Archive can break the flow of the communication, I have placed the Data as the Appendix. But I want to stress that these Data are vitally important in this presentation.

Data – see the Appendix, or

Evidence of Validation of Living Educational Theories in Creating A Future for Educational Research

In my understanding of the distinction between data and evidence, data can be transformed into evidence when it is used to justify an assertion in a belief or knowledge-claim. In each living theory above the researcher has validated their knowledge-claim in terms of their originality of mind and critical judgment and the extent and merit of their work. These are criteria that I think will be familiar with examiners of educational research, especially for research degrees. Each Abstract sets out the claims being made in the thesis and each thesis has satisfied internal and external examiners that the claims are valid. Each individual has engaged in a self-study of their own practice in which they have produced an explanation of their educational influences in learning as an account for themselves and others of how they are seeking to live as fully as possible the values, skills and understandings they use to give meaning and purpose to their lives through their productive work.

The question that fascinates me the most about the living theories flowing through web-space is whether they constitute a new epistemology for the future of educational research. Schön (1995) called for the development of a new epistemology for the new scholarship. Snow (2001) called for the development of procedures to make public the knowledge of practitioners. Furlong and Oancea (2005) have highlighted the need for new standards of judgement to assess quality in applied and practice-based educational research. Here is my case that a new epistemology with a living logic of inclusionality, a clear unit of appraisal and living standards of judgement have been validated in the Academy. I believe that this new epistemology is flowing through web-space in the cultural artefacts of the above living educational theories. Here is my justification for this belief. It rests on the following living logic of inclusionality, unit of appraisal and living standards of judgement.

A living logic of inclusionality

Alan Rayner introduced me to the idea of inclusionality in 2004. The experience that generated my understanding of inclusionality came as Rayner talked and demonstrated his understanding of the severing influence of Aristotelean Logic in framing reality. The video-clip below, of what has become known as the ‘paper dance’ .was an important part of a shift in my logical premises in the way reality is framed. Rayner describes this shift as being from absolutely fixed to relationally dynamic. According to Rayner, this shift arises from perceiving space and boundaries as connective, reflective and co-creative, rather than severing, in their vital role of producing heterogeneous form and local identity within a featured rather than featureless, dynamic rather than static, Universe (Rayner, 2004).

You can access the video-clip of Alan Rayner demonstrating the importance of boundaries that are inclusional at . I doubt if the transformation of the logical premises I use to frame reality could have taken place just from my reading of text. I think there were important communications, through the relational dynamic with Alan’s bodily communications in space, that facilitated the growth in my understanding of inclusionality. Inclusionality is one of three epistemologies I now use in my educational research.


Three Epistemologies

The first epistemology is grounded in the logic of Aristotle with his Law of Contradiction, which claims that two mutually exclusive statements cannot both be true simulataneously, and his Law of Excluded Middle which claims that everything is either A of Not-A. This logic characterises the propositional theories that dominate what counts as legitimate knowledge in the Academy. All my academic life I have drawn insights that I value from the grand narratives of propositional theory of the kind offered by Erich Fromm through his productive life. I continue to draw valued insights from these theories and have acknowledged the influence of theorists such as Polanyi (1958) and Habermas (1976, 1987) amongst many others.

The second epistemology is grounded in the Marxist dialectic as set out by Ilyenkov (1977) in his inspirational work on dialectical logic. Contradiction is the nucleus of dialectics and change is explained in terms of the Law of Identity of Opposites and the Law of the Negation of the Negation. From Marcuse’s (1964, p. 105) work I draw the insight that logic is the form that reason takes in understanding the real as rational. In asking, researching and answering questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve my practice?’, I have seen and felt myself to be, with the help of video-tapes of my practice, a living contradiction as I hold my values together with their negation in our practice. I explicated this dialectical epistemology in my doctoral thesis (Whitehead, 1999).

The third epistemology is grounded in the living logic of inclusionality (Rayner 2006). This living logic is characterized by a relationally dynamic awareness of space and boundaries that are connective, reflexive and co-creative. Naidoo (2005) has used this living logic in developing the inclusional and responsive standard of judgement of passion for compassion in her emergent living theory of inclusional and responsive practice. The living logic of inclusionality is clarified and communicated below with the help of multi-media explanations of educational influences in learning that show the educational relationships of action researchers in terms of interconnecting and branching channels and boundaries of communication.

I now want to focus on the living logic of inclusionality, the unit of appraisal and the living standards of judgement that I believe are already contributing to the generation of the future of educational research through the flow of living educational theories, as cultural artefacts flowing through web-space. What I mean by a unit of appraisal, is what is being judged in evaluating the validity of a knowledge-claim. In the generation of living educational theories, the unit of appraisal is the explanation an individual produces for their educational influence in learning. This can be their educational influence in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.

Christine Jones, Inclusion Officer for Bath and North East Somerset Local Authority, has responsibility for the identification, promotion and dissemination of good practice with respect to school inclusion. She also manages all aspects of the Inclusion Quality Mark. Chris acknowledges a similar influence of Alan Rayner’s video ‘paper dance’ demonstration in her writings, to my own, as she reflects on the video-clips below from a Creativity Workshop Chris organised with Marie Huxtable, a Senior Educational Psychologist with B&NES, for teachers in the Authority on the 9th June 2006. Christine is on the right in the pictures. What I am hoping to explore, through your responses to the visual narrative, are questions related to the possibility that visual representations are necessary for communicating the embodied meanings of the living inclusional logic and standards of judgement of inclusionality. The visual narrative that follows was constructed as follows. Marie and Chris invited me to video their contributions to the workshop on creativity. Having done this, I asked Chris to view the video and write down her reflections as she watched. I then included the video-clips into the narrative to create the visual narrative. As I show one of the clips I will focus with you on Chris’ reflections on seeing herself, with Marie and the group on the video, to see if I am communicating my meanings of a living logic of inclusionality and living inclusional standards of judgement:

Here is the visual narrative produced by Chris, agreed with Marie and containing the images and video-clips I provided:

I am smiling as I watch the video of our Creativity Workshop and I am feeling the joy and pleasure in seeing inclusionality being demonstrated naturally and spontaneously in, between and with my friend and colleague, Marie and other educators who are participants in the workshop. I am looking at Marie as she is inviting the group to respond to her questioning with her arms open, her eyes scanning the room and including all.

I feel the joy and pleasure in looking at Marie and I, sitting adjacently and leaning forward and smiling as we engage with the participants in discussing creativity, being creative and creating that moment together and with others.

(see the 8.2Mb, 1min. 31 sec. video clip from )

We move outside the room and as I listen to what I am saying, I feel the flow of energy that I felt at the time and as I always feel when I am working with colleagues, every interaction unique and co-creative. I am listening to the expressive ‘ooh’ and the intermittent laughter as the egg is passed around, all apprehensive should the egg fall, all separate, yet one as we share the activity in that moment in time. Silence follows laughter and laughter follows silence; those bursts of energy cutting through the atmosphere of apprehension. There are no barriers here between us; there is no vacuum dividing us: we are flowing as one and as the first task is complete, we clap spontaneously together.

(see the 6.8 Mb, 1min 15 sec video clip from

I am still smiling as I watch the video as we move back into the room. The conversation, the questions and answers, the smiles and the laughter; Marie and I sitting adjacently, moving forward in response to comments, hands moving, arms outstretched, openly invitational.

(see the 7.9 Mb, 1min 42 sec video clip from (ethical permission not yet given)

Can anyone see what I see? Does anyone feel as I feel? As I watch the flow of interaction between one and the other, I am reminded of Rayner’s Dance of Inclusionality and O’ Donohue’s ‘web of betweenness’. I am looking at inclusionality in action of which I am a part and I am seeing the flow of life- affirming energy between Marie, the group and me, and as I watch, I am feeling the joy of what for me gives life meaning – the flow of interaction between one and the other and the pleasure of that co-dynamic relationship. I am reminded of these feelings of joy when I was a teacher interacting with the class: I am learning from them; they are learning from me; we are all learning together in a co-creational relationship which could not happen without one or the other within that moment in time.

I value who I am and what I try to be; I value others for who they are and what they try to be; I value what we are between us and what we try to be. It is through my relationship with others and the generative flow and pleasure of our interaction that I grow and live a life that has meaning for me.


In relation to my own self-study of my educational influences in learning in my productive life I now want to turn to some issues of recognition and legitimation that I am facing at present in my educational enquiry as I seek to enhance the flow of living educational theories through web-space.

Some Issues of Recognition and Legitimation.

Those individuals whose research I have worked to support in bringing their embodied knowledge into the public domain so that it can flow through web-space, tell me that I express a recognition of the quality of their embodied knowledge that sustains the flow of their own life-affirming energy and motivation to sustain their enquiries. Fukuyama expresses the significance of such recognition in a way I understand:

Human beings seek recognition of their own worth, or of the people, things, or principles that they invest with worth. The desire for recognition, and the accompanying emotions of anger, shame and pride, are parts of the human personality critical to political life. According to Hegel, they are what drives the whole historical process. (Fukuyama, 1992, p. xvii)

I also recognise my own disposition for self-evaluation in his point that:

“The existence of a moral dimension in the human personality that constantly evaluates both the self and others does not, however, mean that there will be any agreement on the substantive content of morality. In a world of thymotic moral selves, they will be constantly disagreeing and arguing and growing angry with one another over a host of questions, large and small. Hence thymos is, even in its most humble manifestations, the starting point for human conflict.” (Fukuyama, 1992, pp. 181-182).

Let me see if I can communicate more clearly the nature of the spiritual quality of recognition I am seeking to represent in my research as I make my first return in over thirty years to these words of Martin Buber:

The teacher who wants to help the pupil to realize his best potentialities must intend him as this particular person, both in his potentiality and in his actuality. More precisely, he must know him not as a mere sum of qualities, aspirations, and inhibitions; he must apprehend him, and affirm him as a whole. But this he can only do if he encounters him as a partner in a bipolar situation. And to give his influence unity and meaning, he must live through this situation in all its aspects not only from his own point of view but also from that of his partner. He must practice the kind of realization that I call embracing. It is essential that he should awaken the I-You relationship in the pupil, too, who should intend and affirm his educator as this particular person; and yet the educational relationship could not endure if the pupil also practiced the art of embracing by living through the shared situation from the educator’s point of view. Whether the I-You relationship comes to an end or assumes the altogether different character of a friendship, it becomes clear that the specifically educational relationship is incompatible with complete mutuality. (Buber, p. 178, 1970)

(I know that the use of he, rather than he and she can reinforce gendered interpretations, as in the work I have used from Habermas and Valery. In my communications I value socially just forms of gendered understandings).

In my present research I use multi-media representations of the meanings of my embodied values in explanations of educational influence. You can see the way I integrate video-narratives into my texts in two of my recent keynotes to practitioner-researcher conferences:

Whitehead, J. (2006) Have we created a new educational epistemology in our living educational theories as practitioner-researchers? A Keynote for the Practitioner Researcher Conference on Practitioner Research: Living Theory or Empty Rhetoric at St. Mary's College on 13th July 2006

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

Whitehead, J. (2004) 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 15 August 2006 from

My most recent experiencing myself as a living contradiction is in holding together a perception of myself as an educational researcher who has made a sufficient contribution to educational knowledge to warrant promotion from a Lecturer to a Reader in Education in the University of Bath, with the perception of the Academic Staff Committee of the University that I have not yet made such a contribution. Having joined the University of Bath as a Lecturer in Education in 1973 following six years of very rapid promotion from teacher, to the highest grade Head of Department in London Comprehensive Schools, it isn’t that I have always avoided promotion! But in my life’s work at the University of Bath I have resisted the encouragement of colleagues to apply for promotion on the following grounds.

In 1976 there was an attempt by the University to terminate my employment on the grounds of dissatisfaction with my teaching and research and that I had disturbed the good order and morale of the whole School of Education. The attempt did not succeed because the disciplinary power of the University was met with a greater external power mobilised by students and colleagues internal to the University and involving distinguished academics whom I had not met, external to the University, and who were willing to comment on the quality of my research. It also involved a Professor of Public Law from the Campaign for Academic Freedom and Democracy freely taking up my case. I still marvel at the willingness of others to come to my assistance and the strength of their political integrity in engaging with the disciplinary power of the University. I gained a tenured appointment in 1977 until August 2009 because of their efforts. In recognition of their altruistic responses and care for the other in terms of truth and justice, I have not found it possible to seek promotion that would remove the tenure. This isn’t anything to do with job security as some might think. It was connected with the pleasure I felt in the moral commitment of others to express their values with political integrity in their actions. In 2005, I felt a change in emphasis in my moral purpose. Having spent a working life in researching educational theory, I felt that the University’s recognition of my contribution to educational knowledge would serve to enhance the influence of the flow of living educational theories more than sustaining my resistance to applying for promotion. I still feel this. Hence I felt comfortable in putting my case for promotion to a Readership to the Academic Staff Committee of the University. You can access this application at and evaluate its legitimacy as a case for promotion from Lecturer to Reader at Universities similar to the University of Bath.

Earlier this year the case was rejected without interview on the grounds that I had yet to make the outstanding contribution to knowledge required for a Readership by the University. In order to develop my case I must publish further in internationally recognised and reputable Journals. Now, this brings me to the two present strands in my experience of living contradictions in my work and research. I feel the first contradiction in holding my perception of myself as having made sufficient contribution to knowledge for a Readership, together with the perception of the Academic Staff Committee that I have not. The other strand of my experience of living contradiction is in the pressure to publish in the very journals that I have been critical of as being too limited in their forms of representation to carry my meanings. The crux of this contradiction is I have been seeking to research multi-media representations of embodied values in explanations of educational influence. One of the only International Journals I know in my field that is publishing multi-media accounts is Action Research Expeditions and you can access my most ambitious publishing effort to date from the live url above. Now, it was only in 2004 that the University of Bath changed its regulations to allow the submission of e-media. I served on the committee that made the recommendation for the change in regulation to Senate. Five doctoral researchers have successfully submitted their living theory, multi-media accounts to the University since the change in regulation in 2004. You can access these from the Data section above. However, there is no traditional text-based international and reputable refereed journal that I know of that can publish the visual narrative of Marian Naidoo’s emergent living theory of inclusional and responsive practice. This is because of the multi-media visual narrative on a DVD included in the Thesis. Yet, this thesis is in the University Library accepted as a doctoral thesis that has demonstrated her originality of mind and critical judgement and the extent and merit of her work.

The point I am making is that the requirement to publish further in international and reputable refereed journals flies in the face of my multi-media publications in which I have been explaining that the logic and language of these journals is too limited to carry the meanings I am seeking to communicate in my contributions to educational knowledge. It is going to take time for the new multi-media web-based journals to establish their reputations as international and reputable referred journals that carry equivalent status in the Academy with the text-based journals. I may of course be mistaken in my belief that my contributions to educational knowledge do warrant recognition by the University of Bath as sufficient for promotion to Reader. However, what is fascinating me, as my enquiry continues, and given the history of judgements on my work by the University over the thirty years of 1976-2006, is the relevance, in the face of the kind of intellectual terrorism described by Lyotard, of MacIntyre’s view that:

The rival claims to truth of contending traditions of enquiry depend for their vindication upon the adequacy and explanatory power of the histories which the resources of each of those traditions in conflict enable their adherents to write. (MacIntyre, 1988, p. 403)

My purpose in coming to the University in 1973 was to contribute to the reconstruction of educational theory so that educational theory could produce valid explanations for the educational influences of individuals in learning. I believe that the originality of mind and critical judgements of those individuals who have produced their own living theories have demonstrated their adequacy and explanatory power. Each individual has acknowledged my educational influence in supporting the expression of their originality of mind and critical judgement. I can appreciate the outstanding contribution to knowledge being expressed in the flow of these living theories through web-space. I believe that the originality of mind and critical judgement of my own research has contributed to this knowledge-base in a way that is worthy of being recognised as appropriate for a Reader. My intention in applying for a Readership after some 40 years professional engagement in education, with 33 of these years at the University of Bath, was solely motivated by the belief that such recognition would enhance the educational influence of the flow of living educational theories. (The University celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and this co-incides with my 40 years of professional engagement in education!). Given the lack of this recognition in relation to my desire to enhance the recognition of these theories I would appreciate your suggestions on what might be the most appropriate responses for me to make. I am thinking of responses that would channel my life-affirming energy into its most creative and life-enhancing forms.

You could for example look through my application and explain that it is too limited to warrant promotion from a Lectureship to a Readership. If you believe in the educational potential of living educational theories for the future of educational research, you could suggest how I might use the rest of my productive life in education in responding creatively to this lack of recognition while avoiding disabling and destructive responses and continuing to enhance the flow of living theories that carry hope for our humanity in the future of educational research.

In asking for your responses I feel most receptive to those that appreciate that the flow of my life-affirming energy and passion for education is affirmed and enhanced by those who have already recognised and acknowledged the value of my contributions to knowledge and to their own learning. The lack of recognition of the quality of my contribution to knowledge by the University is most damaging to the outside perceptions of how my contributions to knowledge are judged by my University. I continue to exist as a living contradiction. I hold the belief that the recognition by the University of my contribution to educational knowledge would assist in enhancing the flow of its influence, together with the experience and understanding that the explicit lack of recognition could damage the flow of its influence. In the spirit of inclusionality I am seeking your assistance in continuing to work in ways that serve to channel the flows of energy motivated by anger, pain and distress and that could serve destructive and disabling interests, into the flow of life affirming and creative energies that bring more fully into the world those values, skills and understandings that carry hope for the future of humanity, and our own. For example I am thinking of the values explicated in the living theories in the Data section in the Appendix and lived by the action researchers themselves. I am thinking of the values explicated by the action researcher Bridget Somekh (2006), in her book on Action Research: methodology for change and development. Somekh’s core values include respect for all participants, sensitivity to culture, support for risk taking, honesty and openness, intellectual engagement in trying to understand human and social processes, moral vigilance and resistance to the temptation to exercise power thoughtlessly in order to get things done quickly. Her text provides ample evidence of the life of learning of an action researcher who is living these values as fully as she can with integrity and authenticity. All the action researchers I have worked with have encountered both constraining and liberating power relations. I continue to find ways of channelling the energy that I could dissipate into fruitless acts of hate or vengeance when I experience the intellectual terrorism described by Lyotard. What I am seeking to do is to respond in a way that supports the power of truth rather than the truth of power with an awareness of the need for openness to reasonable argument that my judgements are mistaken. I am working on responses that contribute to the flow of life-affirming energy in the creative responses I have seen expressed in the lives of those I have had the privilege to work with in the generation of their own living theories of their human existences. I do hope that you will respond to my invitation to work on this with me.


Cowley, J. (2006) What novelists reveal about the minds of murderers, Observer Newspaper, 13/08/06, p. 23.

Donmoyer, R. (1996) Educational Research in an Era of Paradigm Proliferation: What’s a Journal Editor to Do? Educational Researcher, Vol.

25, No.2, pp. 19-25

Forrest, M. (1983) The Validation Group as a Conversational Research Community, in Forrest, M. (1983) The Teacher as Researcher, M.Ed. Dis. University of Bath.

Foucault, M. (1980), in Gordon, C. (Ed), Power Knowledge. London; Harvester.

Furlong, J. & Oancea, A. (2005) Assessing Quality in Applied and Practice-based Educational Research, Oxford; University of Oxford, Department of Educational Studies.

Habermas, J. (1976) Communication and the evolution of society. London; Heinemann

Kilpatrick, W. H. (1951) Crucial Issues in current educational Theory, Educational Theory, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-8.

Kok, P. (1991) Rigour in an Action Research Account. Paper presented to the International Conference of the Classroom Action Research Network, University of Nottingham, 19-21 April, 1991.

Lyotard, F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge. Manchester; Manchester University Press.

MacIntyre, A. (1988) Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Duckworth; London.

Marcuse, H. (1964) One Dimensional Man, London; Routledge and Kegan Paul.

McNiff, J. (1989) An Explanation for an Individual’s Educational Development Through the Dialectic of Action Research. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath.

Murray, Y. (2004) Speaking in a Chain of Voices ~ crafting a story of how I am contributing to the creation of my postcolonial living educational theory through a self study of my practice as a scholar-educator. A paper prepared for presentation to the Symposium, How are we contributing to a new scholarship of educational enquiry through our pedagogisation of postcolonial living educational theories in the Academy? held at BERA 04 in Manchester 16-18 September, 2004. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Murray, Y. (2006) Welcome to my multiracial and inclusive Postcolonial Living Education Theory - practice, research and becoming. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Polanyi, M. (1958) Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. London; Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Pring, R. (2000) Philosophy of Educational Research. London; Continuum, 2000.

Rayner, A. (2003) Feeling beyond the logic of conflict. Retrieved 31 August 2006 from

Rayner, A. (2004) Inclusionality: The Science, Art and Spirituality of Place, Space and Evolution. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Said, E. (1993) Culture and Imperialism, London; Vintage.

Said, E. W. (1997) Beginnings: Intention and Method. p. 15. London ; Granta.

Sen, A. (2006) What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn't destiny. Essay adapted from Sen, A. (2006) Identity and Violence, New York; Norton. Retrieved 15 August 2006 from

Serper, A. (2006) An Ethically-Laden Heuristic Approach to Ontological

Theory of An Individual’s In-The-World. Presented at the 7th World Congress on Action Learning, Action Research and Process Management in Groningen, 23rd August, 2006. Retrieved 31st August 2006 from

Somekh, B. (2006) Action Research: a Methodology for Change and Development. Maidenhead; Open University Press.

Whitehead, J. (1976) Improving Learning for 11 to 14 year olds in Mixed Ability Science Groups. Swindon; Curriculum Development Centre. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Whitehead, J. & McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory. London; Sage.

Whitty, G. (2005) Education(al) research and education policy making: is conflict inevitable? Presidential Address to the British Educational Research Association, University of Glamorgan, 17 September 2005.



The data archive can be accessed from the living theory section of . It consists of over 20 living theory doctoral and other theses legitimated in the Academy over the past ten years. The methods used to collect data within the doctoral research programmes include observation schedules, interviews, questionnaires, autobiography, appreciative inquiry, narrative enquiry, triangulation, action reflection cycles.

With the web-based version of this presentation below you can now access the data of the cultural artefacts of these living theories flowing through web-space. Each live url takes you into the Abstract of each thesis and then into the contents.

Eames, K. (1995) How do I, as a teacher and educational action-researcher, describe and explain the nature of my professional knowledge? Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Evans, M. (1995) An action research enquiry into reflection in action as part of my role as a deputy headteacher. Ph.D. Thesis, Kingston University. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Laidlaw, M. (1996) How can I create my own living educational theory as I offer you an account of my educational development? Ph.D. thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Holley, E. (1997) How do I as a teacher-researcher contribute to the development of a living educational theory through an exploration of my values in my professional practice? M.Phil., University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

D’Arcy, P. (1998) The Whole Story….. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Loftus, J. (1999) An action enquiry into the marketing of an established first school in its transition to full primary status. Ph.D. thesis, Kingston University. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Whitehead, J. (1999) How do I improve my practice? Creating a discipline of education through educational enquiry. Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Cunningham, B. (1999) How do I come to know my spirituality as I create my own living educational theory? Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Adler-Collins, J. (2000) A Scholarship of Enquiry, M.A. dissertation, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Finnegan, (2000) How do I create my own educational theory in my educative relations as an action researcher and as a teacher? Ph.D. submission, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Austin, T. (2001) Treasures in the Snow: What do I know and how do I know it through my educational inquiry into my practice of community? Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Mead, G. (2001) Unlatching the Gate: Realising the Scholarship of my Living Inquiry. Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Bosher, M. (2001) How can I as an educator and Professional Development Manager working with teachers, support and enhance the learning and achievement of pupils in a whole school improvement process? Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Delong, J. (2002) How Can I Improve My Practice As A Superintendent of Schools and Create My Own Living Educational Theory? Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Scholes-Rhodes, J. (2002) From the Inside Out: Learning to presence my aesthetic and spiritual being through the emergent form of a creative art of inquiry. Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 February 2004 from

Roberts, P. (2003) Emerging Selves in Practice: How do I and others create my practice and how does my practice shape me and influence others? Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 August 2004 from

Punia, R. (2004) My CV is My Curriculum: The Making of an International Educator with Spiritual Values. Ed.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 August 2004 from

Hartog, M. (2004) A Self Study Of A Higher Education Tutor: How Can I Improve My Practice? Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 19 August 2004 from

Church, M. (2004) Creating an uncompromised place to belong: Why do I find myself in networks? Retrieved 24 May 2005 from

Naidoo, M. (2005) I am Because We Are. (My never-ending story) The emergence of a living theory of inclusional and responsive practice. Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 2 April 2006 from

Farren, M. (2005) How can I create a pedagogy of the unique through a web of betweenness? Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 2 April 2006 from

Lohr, E. (2006) Love at Work: What is my lived experience of love and how might I become an instrument of love’s purpose. Ph.D. University of Bath. Retrieved 26 May 2006 from

Sullivan, B. (2006) A living theory of a practice of social justice: Realising the right of traveller children for educational equality. Ph.D. University of Limerick. Supervised by Jean McNiff. Retrieved 6 July 2006 from

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Keynote speakers: Dr Tina Cook, Northumbria University

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Professor Julian Stern, York St John University

Professor Jean McNiff, York St John University




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