Open reviewing process

When Grades Get in the Way of Learning

Picture of Kelly McDougall
Re: When Grades Get in the Way of Learning
by Kelly McDougall - Monday, 6 November 2017, 1:41 PM

Hello Swaroop, Joy, and Mairin,

Following your suggestions both of a broader nature and those specifically regarding the written aspect of the article,  I have revised my writing.  I hope that by adding my process and reflections from my first foray into action research that I have been able to clarify some of the confusion; however if this additional writing is too detailed it can easily be edited or removed.  

I have been permitted to use the name of my school in my work.

Thank you for the considerable commitment of time involved in writing and commenting on my work.  


Picture of Máirín Glenn
Re: When Grades Get in the Way of Learning
by Máirín Glenn - Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 1:37 PM

Dear Kelly,

You have a very worthwhile and interesting story to tell here and I can see you have begun editing your paper well. Because this is an important story, you should take your time about the drafting process. I also think you are still unearthing your learning in the process of your writing and so, I believe it is worthwhile to dedicate some time to it. I have been a teacher for the whole of my professional life myself, and I empathise greatly with the passion and the struggles your paper outline.

I love the way the story of your own learning has run in tandem with your understanding of the learning of your students. I feel you are telling two intertwined stories of learning, which is very interesting. I think your paper would be strengthened by drawing a more overt link between your values and their educational influence in your learning, as well as that of your students, and keeping that as a focus for your writing. I can see you have done this to an extent, but I think it would be helpful to bring this focus to the attention of your readers a little more overtly. (See Jack Whitehead’s short video clip on the role of values in living theory at, for example).

You have done some good work in ‘chunking’ your ideas under headings but I think it would be helpful to have some more headings and ‘chunking’, as they help your reader and guide them through your ideas. Try to ensure that your headings are appropriate to the text because it can be confusing for the reader when there is a mismatch (check Living Theory Methodology on p.3 for example). It might be an idea to jot down a draft plan or outline for your paper for yourself, listing the main ideas you wish to include in each section and the heading you might like to put on each section, perhaps?

As is the case with all forms of research, it is important to support your claim with evidence, to link specific pieces of data to your claim and show how it provides evidence of your claim. You have added in a huge amount of data in this draft of your paper but I think it might be more helpful for the reader if you could link each claim with the specific piece(s) of data that you can show to support that claim and meet that living standard of judgement.

Your paper is beautifully reflective and shows a good deal of ‘reflection-in-action’ and ‘reflection-on- action’ as outlined by Schon (1983). I think your paper might be even more convincing if you showed more critical engagement with the literature, not only in the area of living theory but perhaps also in the area of well-being, resilience and standardised testing- or whatever areas you feel are at the heart of your work. Why don’t you have a peek at some of the papers published here at to get a flavour of how engaging with the literature can give you an extra set of lenses (Brookfield 1995) as you reflect critically on your work?

I love the criteria for publication in EJOLTS listed at . They are not only helpful for publishing papers in EJOLTS but are also useful for reminding us about how we think about living theory and how we write about our experiences.

I hope you find this feedback useful. Please do not hesitate to get back to me if you need any clarification on my comments.

I wish you the best of luck with your drafting process!





Brookfield, S. (1995), Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Scn, D. A. (1983), The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York: Basic Books

Whitehead, J. (2100)  ‘ How should action research be conducted? Jack Whitehead interviewed’, available online  (accessed 14 November 2017).





Picture of Kelly McDougall
Re: When Grades Get in the Way of Learning
by Kelly McDougall - Thursday, 23 November 2017, 4:29 PM

Hello Mairin,

Thank you for giving me this feedback on my work and my writing.  I am struggling to find time to commit to the process: to reading other articles, research and re-considering how I might make my experiences and my writing be more in line with your suggestions.  Already feeling overwhelmed with my commitments to my students and my school, I know that realistically I may not be able to find the time necessary for this work until next summer.

The Bluewater Action Research Network has just received funding for another year in which we will be able to support teachers either beginning or continuing their self-directed professional development and their journey into living theory action research.  I had already committed to facilitating this project before submitting my work to EJOLTS, and so I feel that I need to honor that commitment and recognize the limits of my time this school year.

If my situation changes and I can make progress in the revision process, I will be in touch with another version of the article.

Thank you again,


Picture of Máirín Glenn
Re: When Grades Get in the Way of Learning
by Máirín Glenn - Monday, 27 November 2017, 3:45 PM

Hi Kelly,

Finding time to do everything can be very challenging and overwhelming. I do think you have a story of learning that needs to be told but I appreciate that it will take time and energy. Perhaps when you return to your paper at the end of the school year, you will have more time to commit to your writing.

I wonder, though, if you would consider continuing to engage with the ideas and trying to clarify your own thinking some more in the intervening months? I suspect that your learning in the BARN project will help you think more clearly about your EJOLTS’ writing. I think the practice in which you engage, and the values you hold are linked very closely and you might find it beneficial to develop a keener awareness of how you are living in the direction of your values as you teach and as you facilitate your BARN work. I suggest that you continue to keep a journal of your reflections about all the work you do between now and summer time. As you write in your journal, it might be helpful, perhaps, to bring a keener awareness to events that show that you are living and working to you values (or not).  

When you return to your paper, Swaroop’s excellent advice should help you with your revision.

Wishing you the best of luck with your practice and the theorising of your practice,

Warm regards,


Swaroop Rawal
Re: When Grades Get in the Way of Learning
by Swaroop Rawal - Friday, 24 November 2017, 7:56 AM

Dear Kelly,

I am sorry it took me so long to reply. 

I find your work extremely important. It is beautiful. However, I find your paper very difficult to read, partly because of your sentence structure and partly  because of the flow of your writing. 

I am posting you my comments I do hope they will help you create  a strong and wonderful paper. You need a more dynamic engagement with living-education-theory and the idea of you as a living contradiction. It is in your work but not in your writing.

love, Swaroop