Resubmission: Love and critique
I am finally resubmitting my paper. Many thanks to everyone contributing to the improvement! I am looking foreward to new reviews.
I am really delighted to read the resubmission, Sigrid. It is such a pleasure to read.
In one of the interim papers I saw of your work, I was wondering about the idea of there being a body of living educational theory and that you contribute to it. I believe some people, including myself,Â might take issue with that. Living theory, by 'definition' (if one can say such a thing) is notÂ a thing at all, but instead orientations to reality, to action, to purposes, to theorising. (Have a look at: http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/values/harvard.htmlÂ in which Peter Mellett, Jack Whitehead and I discuss this very question).
I amÂ attempting to highlight how important it is not to assume that living educational theory is some kind of thing, something divorced from the people who live it. If we say we are contributing to the body of living educational theory, we are homogenising these new ways of seeing, and we are melting down into one all our uniqueness and individuality. This might seem a truism, or a pernickety comment, but I think it is at the heart of some of the values that seem to constitute individuals' living theorising.
I think one of the things that really moves me about your paper is the way in which you interweave your own learning with that of your students'.Â This mutuality of experience is something that seems to run through many of the living theory accounts.Â I believe that to expose your own vulnerability takes great courage.Â Learning is not an easy process at all times.Â In my experience of working with education students, their growingÂ understanding of the processes often triggered mine.Â I think this vulnerability that you write of soÂ beautifully is a very significant aspect of your work.Â When I am reading your paper there are parts of it that move me to tears.Â Tears have always, as I've explained to my students over the years,Â been very much a living standard of judgement for me.Â Â They mean that something has resonated inside and moved me, sometimes to deepenÂ a perspective I already had, butÂ always to shift my understanding on to a new and exciting level.
Let me give you a couple of examples. One is the way you use BuberÂ in your writing. The notion that he had of I-Thou is really beautiful but I've never managed to integrate it in my work.Â Jack Whitehead first got me interested in Buber, and although I sometimes find his prose (Buber's I mean!) difficult, I know it's always worth reading because it becomes poetic.Â I am thinking, for example, of his lines (I think this is how it goes: Man is solitary and stands in the echoing hall of his deeds. Wow!) AnywayI have a feeling, which is not easy to articulate in words, that you have managed to show your loving concern for yourself and your students and colleagues which helps to illuminate BuberÂ and your educational processes as reflections of each other in a way.Â Â You've also integrated Scott Peck's notion of love into the weft.Â I find thisÂ synthesis moving because you bring your values, your ethics, your processes, your intellectual insights, and your emotional strength into this account.Â It is alive with this love.Â That is what I find moving.
Another example, which really is a further illumination of the previous one, is your account of your reaction to the music and the ethical constraints you then felt obliged to solve.Â I think we've all had moments when we feel suddenly that we've spoken out of turn although we did not mean to; suddenly with the presence ofÂ an additionalÂ person the words take on a new significance.Â I think the way in which you've written about this is really about the world you want to inhabit.Â I am always moved by someone's search for truth and wholeness and integrity, which I suppose is why I've written my paper for the first issue about counterpoint, because to me counterpoint in my educational practice is about a search for those qualities.Â But it it isn't only that I moved by seeing values I also strive for reflected in what you do, it is your rendering it transparent: that is awesome!Â The mutuality of learning is an incredibly complex process.Â As I am never loath to quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes IV: I don't give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would die for the simplicity on the other side - what you have done for me in your paper is to show me the process of this growing transparency between different learners.Â The way you interweave your strands of learning seems to me redolent of a simplicity on the other side of complexity. ThisÂ is something I search for, or at least try to, because it seems to reveal in the doing of it, certain values related to honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and love.Â It is partially an aesthetic process, isn't it? Branko and I have been discussing this to a degree, because it seems to us that the aesthetics of education is not addressed very strongly and we feel this is a pity.Â Educational development, I believe, is an aesthetic process because it deals withÂ ethics and ontology (Laidlaw, 1996).Â I believe education is a statement by a society of what that society cares about and what it believes to be true of humanity.Â If aesthetics have anything to do with beautyÂ then the aspiration to what is beautiful and good and true in a society or in the potential of society is aesthetic. Sorry I'm rambling, but you've really made me think and you've re-awakened my desire to look into this again.Â Thank you. Processes that you are describing and explaining satisfy me on an aesthetic level, which, I believe, representsÂ a synthesis of understanding.Â And synthesis is about integrity and wholeness.Â This is why I find your paper so utterly thrilling Sigrid, and on so many levels.Â Processes of educational development that lead to descriptions and explanations are always complex, but it is the purpose of the kind of article you've written to make it as comprehensible to the reader is possible, and I feel you have done this completely.
I particularly like the way as well you detail Richard Winter's six principles of rigour in an action research inquiry.Â By the time I got to that part in the paper I didn't really need any more substantiation for what you'd already written.Â I already believed in your account because of its multi-layered rigour andÂ particularly because of the inclusion this time of the students' voices.Â This is really compelling, not just because it renders the account more reliableÂ or rigorous, but because it seems to fulfil the values you stand for.Â You care about the students; I can see that through every page.Â By allowing their voices to be heard as they are your account is walking the talk even more directly than itÂ was last time.Â (Some excitingÂ work about this kind of issue can be found in the work of Branko Bognar and Marica Zovko in the last issue of EJOLTS.)Â I thinkÂ part of the reason I feel this way is because they're children and because children so rarely get to tell adults what their world is like and expect the adults to listen as well, to pay attention, and to change what needs changing.Â However, the way in which your students respond to your approach shines through this account and is augmented by your enthusiasm for what's happening.Â There is something really miraculous, isn't there, when students are able to do something they couldn't manage before and you know that you have influenced them, and the processes' you are interrogating for yourself are helping other people to help themselves and having such an effect on you too.
I think I'd like to leave the last word in my celebration of my acceptance your paper to one of your students, Gitte, who shows great enthusiasm in what she's learnt, and what she understands she's learnt because she is visible to others in her accomplishment. It is her recognition of her achievementÂ that is wonderful; sheÂ expresses herself with suchÂ energy:
I came from one university to another, from a math-professor to an expert in pedagogy. It was indescribable! I thought I had lost my ability to learn, that I had gone both blind and deaf, until the first week at my new university had ended. The joy was enormous; once again I had found a teacher who contributed to my learning! Together with two math-teachers I have had previously; I would characterize these three as my best teachers through all my years as a pupil and student. They are my role models (..) Their ability to motivate, their engagement, using the studentsâ€™ contributions, keeping it understandable, building on what is already known and not least their dialogue with the students, are some of the qualities I will bring into my own theory of practice... (my emphasis)
I most certainly recommend that this article should be published in ourÂ second issue and I have so enjoyed the opportunity to review it again. Many thanks, Sigrid.
Moira Laidlaw, November 2, 2008.
Laidlaw, M. (1996). How can I create my own living educational theory asÂ I offer you an account of my own educational development? (Ph.D. dissertation, Bath University, Bath.) Retrieved 2 November, 2008, from http://www.actionresearch.net/moira2.shtml.
Thank you for your very encouraging response to my re-submission, Moira. I am so grateful that you challenged me after the first submission to do the job that I have now been doing. A lot of energy was released through your belief in the potential of the paper, and even if it did hurt at the time that I had not been thorough enough, I knew that both you and Pip were right. The paper needed more rigour. I am pleased that you now find that it has this required rigour. And your response reflects what I have tried to express from my lived experience, and it makes me very happy that I seem to have been able to communicate this. Your response somehow enhances my own experiences. Does that make sense?
We had a wonderful conversation with Jacks group, monday evening conversation group, where we discussed the valuable influence your previous response had on my process in writing this paper, but in a wider sense in learning to become a researcher. It was a painful, but a very rewarding process. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this job with me!!
Sigrid, November 4th 2008
What impresses me most about this paper is the quality of the writing. I feel directly addressed as a reader by a communication of the values and understandings that Sigrid uses to give meaning and purpose to her life in education. I feel privileged to share the ontological values of another. In the course of the narrative I come to understand Sigrid's meanings of love and critique, not through definition, but through a clarification of the meanings as these emerge through practice. I like very much the bringing together of a number of ideas from different researchers in the enquiry. This 'bringing together' highlights Sigrid's originality as she doesn't simply apply the ideas of others. Sigrid creatively engages with the ideas of others in the generation of her own living theory.
I particularly like the way in which Sigrid communicates the importance of her educational relationships and conversations with her supervisor and her students. The insights from Buber, Levinas and Biesta are all vital in the development of a language of educational relationships and educational influence.
I feel intimations of a loving energy being expressed in Sigrid's writings that may need a visual narrative (with video) to communicate more fully the meanings of the expression of love and critique in Sigrid's educational relationships.
page 2 - the primary word I-Though should be
the primary word I-Thou.
Thank you, Jack for your very encouraging reveiw, and even more for your influence in my learning over the last years! You have contributed through the personal enconters, your writing and your web-page where papers and theses are easily accessible. These are all wells of theorizedÂ experience, creativity, hope and encouragement. The inclusional way even this review-prosess is set up is highly inspirational. I want to thank all of you who have contributed thorugh your articles in the first issue of EJOLTS, as well as Moiraâ€™s, Pipâ€™s and Jackâ€™s review of the first draft of the paper! And I am happy to say that I finally have some videomaterial from my class-room as well as from the conversations with Jack, Alan and my supervisor Erling (thank you again, jack for doing that!), to include in my thesis.
I am pleased to be able to comment on this second iteration of the paper, Sigrid, and to avoid any further tension as you read on, I warmly support its publication! Comments as I read follow. Peckâ€™s emphasis on â€willâ€™ in love is something that I really appreciate. Itâ€™s not some warm fuzzy feeling (although it can manifest in this way) but a desire and a commitment to seek the best for the other. This comes clearly through yours, and your colleaguesâ€™, aims in your work.
In your use of Buber, with whose work I am not thoroughly familiar, I particularly like your intention to respect the otherâ€™s right to self, where you say, â€śI do not want to reduce the other to my experience of her or him.â€ť This is a very strong statement from a teacher. It recognises the unique abilities of each student and their right to develop in ways that the teacher might not see at the time of teaching.
In your next section, where you address the â€seeingâ€™ of the other, you ask: â€ś How does it show then that we see each other and recognize each other? And with what actions do we support each othersâ€™ growth?â€ť In these comments you remind me of an email conversation I had at one point with Yaqub Murray in the U.K., where he referred to his Khoikoin people and their â€śI see youâ€ť as a greeting, a form of conscious recognition/acceptance of the other. You both challenge me to think, how to I express this â€seeingâ€™ in my work as an educator? Do my ways of â€seeingâ€™ feel appropriate to the recipients of the gaze? Or is it just an invasive, intrusive gaze of the type that Michel Foucault described so passionately in â€śDiscipline and Punish, the Birth of the Prisonâ€ť(1977)? How do we, as educators, engage with students in ways that recognise and affirm, not scrutinise and dissect? I like the way you go on to discuss your developing understanding that critique need not be negative; indeed, it is a way that we can all â€recognise and affirmâ€™ good work and encourage our students to similar work elsewhere, when done in a spirit of love.
Moving into the analysis of your attendance at the concert, I thank you for including links where one can access the music. This is a good example of letting Edvinâ€™s work speak for itself, and resonate or otherwise with the listener, rather than taking your own strong reaction to it as unproblematic. And I like the way that you are honest in your limited understanding of this form of music, even while legitimately speaking of your reaction to it. Your recognition that Edvin might find your strong response difficult, even while you read of no changed body language from him, is indication of your interpersonal awareness. Arrogant people donâ€™t think like that!
There is a lovely smooth transition between your reflection on your exchange with Edvin, and the ways in which you might engage with your own students, and whether or not those exchanges are perceived well by them. Then follow some excellent teacher statements, such as â€śThe intention is not to impose values but to facilitate the grounds so that the students become aware of their own values.â€ť Or, â€śWas I being supportive of a plurality of teacher-roles or was I looking for and supporting only a variety within narrow borders mirroring my own values and experiences, in the same way as I appreciate only a certain variety of music?â€ť These are excellent questions for a teacher to be asking, and ones that we should all constantly hold before us as we seek to help students in their own development of themselves as unique individuals.
I really like (and did in the first iteration of this paper too) the clear way in which you outline yours, and your colleaguesâ€™, action research processes. Itâ€™s very easy to follow, and I strongly appreciate your picking up of my suggestion that student voices be included. I think it really strengthens the paper â€“ more shortly. Meanwhile, your comment that â€śWhy did it not cross our mind earlier to change the time? It was so easy to do something about it, yet it did not happen until we systematically documented the students feed-back and held it together with other dataâ€ť resonates strongly with me in terms of research that I am currently doing (an evaluation of a professional development intervention for teachers of M Ä ori students in main-stream classes â€“ that is, not bilingual classes). The teachers, despite data gathering for â€Ministryâ€™ purposes, seem not to have taken in the impact of what those data are telling them until specifically requested to focus on the data for M Ä ori students. So I think your â€systematically documenting the studentsâ€™ feed-backâ€™ and comparing that with other data, is a timely warning to educators to see what may be hidden in the data that we collect.
You are also challenging me where you write â€śwe, by our research, hope to contribute with theory useful for teacher education practice and other professional educations, as the purpose is to improve practice in a wider range than just our own.â€ť I have just been taken to task by a group of educators who work with blind children. These teachers were doing an action research â€courseâ€™ (very low-key and applied) as a form of professional development. I got really excited by the work they were coming up with and encouraged them to write it up and publish it, particularly as theyâ€™d identified gaps in the literature while doing the work. But I got told firmly that â€we are practitioners and our practical work is what we valueâ€™ and that I was inappropriately imposing academic aims onto the group. Iâ€™m still reflecting on that oneâ€¦I do think blind education would benefit from knowing what great work is being done here, but perhaps I was a little strong in trying to â€outâ€™ these folk as researchers! But I am so glad to read that your group is hoping to contribute theory and â€improve practice in a wider range than just our own.â€™
Your introduction of the case studies is very clear and well structured. I love the way that you show how you changed your perception of Erlingâ€™s advice to the student to see it as helpful rather than prescriptive. I do think that when adults (or any students really) are starting off in a new field, then the provision of clearÂ guidelines which enable them to learn the â€basicsâ€™ before taking off in their own directions is generally seen as helpful rather than dictatorial. Thatâ€™s been my experience in over 20 years of adult education, anyway.
Isnâ€™t it tragic to read comments like â€śThis combined with low self-esteem, made the final evaluation seem totally improbable and I concluded that it was not trueâ€ť? It does show us what some of our students are up against. I was delighted to read of Gitteâ€™s â€enormous joyâ€™ subsequently! Well done to you all! And yes, I definitely think that you have shown â€śhow the notions of love and critique have become tools for improving my practice, tools that have made a significant contribution to the analysis of practice and to action in practice.â€ť
Sigrid, I think the inclusion of your studentsâ€™ voices adds immeasurably to the validity of this paper. One can hear, in those â€real lifeâ€™ comments, the impact of yours and your colleaguesâ€™ pedagogical practice on those students, in a way that your first draft didnâ€™t bring out. I do think that we, as educators, have a responsibility to ensure that weâ€™re speaking with, not for, our students. Otherwise, we run the risk of presenting their opinions in ways that they might find inappropriate, wrong and sometimes damaging. Here in New Zealand, I am currently evaluating the programme I mentioned above for M Ä ori students in mainstream classes. An important aspect of that programme is helping teachers to engage not just with the students, but with their families (wh Ä nau) that are so important in the education and development of M Ä ori kids, but tend to be shut out of education formally. If you want to read more, see
(sorry about the long URL!) The project leaders and the Ministry of Education have tried to â€make spaceâ€™ for relevant voices by inviting family representatives from participating schools, to a recent meeting in Wellington. So far, the students havenâ€™t been included but we, as evaluators, have been encouraged to include their voices via focus group data gathering. So, Sigrid, my encouragement to you would be to continue to include your studentsâ€™ voices where you can in your papers, and in your PhD thesis. I think these voices contribute most significantly to your claims about your work.
Finally, I love the way that you have brought your composition to conclusion by returning to the concert experience and summarizing your learning in terms of that powerful experience. I am delighted with this second iteration of the paper, Sigrid, and all the work that has gone in (despite the pain initially!) to turning out such a strong piece of work. Well done!
Pip Bruce Ferguson
I thank you dearly for your contribution in my learning and in the work with this final draft of the paper! I completely agree with you that the student's voices are absolutely essential. That is one reason for having decided to write my theses in Norwegian, so that I may present all statements in their original language. It has been a rewarding process talking to these students again and receiving their comments to my writing and use of their statements. Thank you again for your thorough comments, Pip.
Love from Sigrid