Martina R. Clerkin's paper
Dear Martina. I am excited by this paper and think it could be an important contribution to living theory practices and ideas. This is for two reasons:
- You are a primary school teacher researching a critically-important subject â€“ that of language-learning with the help of electronic means;
- Your positioning of your epistemology within a distinct history is compelling.
Your paper shows us very clearly, a process of question and answer, whereby you come to terms with some problems affecting your practice. You bring together the personal and the political in the way you handle the disparate themes and insights of your practice in a way that is very believable.
I also like the way you show wide reading on the specifics of your own learning-needs as you seek to improve the environment for learning for your students.
You write fluently and with aplomb in a way that draws me into your text and makes me feel as if I am getting on the inside of your educational world. I like that skill very much and it is a commendable skill.
There, are however, some problems, as I see it, with your rigour in terms of backing up your claims to knowledge, and to your pupilsâ€™ achievements. You show very little of the pupilsâ€™ own voices as they seek to cope with the four strands of the language-curriculum, reading, writing, listening and speaking. You state that the listening is very hard, but you donâ€™t, for example, give us a pupil finding it so. You state that the pupils improve in their own ability to use their own meta-cognition in terms of recognising their own learning processes, but I donâ€™t find sufficient proof of this in the paper. You ask us to take far too much on trust, and we canâ€™t do that. Itâ€™s not that I donâ€™t believe you, Martina, of course I believe you. Itâ€™s that in bringing to the fore those aspects of the evidence you state you have about your studentsâ€™ learning, the more precise and honed will be your own insights into the process of gaining evidence from data, and this will enhance the quality of your learning. The processes of action research and evolving your own living theories rely on your ability to render the whole process transparent. It is only in the transparency that the truth of your evidence will be validated. You need to show us.
Secondly, less importantly, I find that you are genuflecting, kingmaking and sandbagging a lot. Bassey (1991) coined these descriptions (see http://www.bera.ac.uk/files/2008/08/Bassey,_1991.pdf and â€Findâ€™ sandbagging and it will lead you straight through to the descriptions). The references you make seem to me to be taking up far too much space and your own evidence for your own living educational theory too little. I think it may be a question of confidence on your part, the lingering sense in these postmodern times, that we need to hold on to the stabilisers or we might fall off. I think you have something of your own to say. This is your living educational theory, so claim it back from all those other authors who donâ€™t know you and wonâ€™t know you in this current incarnation. Throw away the stabilisers and take your hands off the bicycle and cruiseâ€¦
Thirdly, I would like to see some exploration of the apparent living contradiction of those in charge choosing the criteria of success for the students. If the students have no power to choose, then where is the emancipatory element in terms of an improvement in learning. What does an improvement in learning for the students mean if the students cannot take some control over their own learning for themselves? This is a genuine question and I think it needs addressing in the paper.
I love this paper because of its scope and potential but without a clearer evidential basis from you and from your students, it doesnâ€™t yet stand up sufficiently on its own terms. I would therefore refer to http://www.ejolts.net/files/Reviewing%20process2.pdf and:
ACCEPT with modifications - But needs further work as indicated in the review. This is particularly with regard to the evidential basis (pupilsâ€™ voices, videos, journals for example) of your work and the living contradiction inherent, it seems to me, in the acceptance on your part of the criteria for success being imposed on the children. This is not demonstrating the values of this journal - or indeed of the values implicit in your account. EJOLTS is particularly keen to promote a democratisation of the learning process, in the belief that this itself is educational (Laidlaw, 1994)
Do take a look at the attached document, which is your article with some more precise details and technical points that need to be attended to.
Moira Laidlaw. 24th January, 2008.
Laidlaw, M. (1994). The democratising potential of dialogical focus in an action research enquiry. Action Research: an International Journal. 2(1), 224-242.
Thank you for your review of my paper. I am taking steps so that I can show more evidence of the pupil's own voices and learning online.It is my hope to include an example of an e-portfolio, audio ofÂ class discussions, and more evidence of learning.
In regard to my own learning, I love the idea of 'cruising'!Â (I used to have a fondness for it until I made a rough crossing to Tory Island in Donegal some years ago!). I believe I will have toÂ find a senseÂ of myself in the paper.
In regard to sharing learning intentions and criteria for success, if the pupil's are to 'create' the learning intentions this would trulyÂ be a more democratic way of learning. I agree that there is a living contradiction unfortunately, I would have to say that to get the eight year olds involved in 'creating' the rubric and learning intentions would require a whole term of work on this area alone. The simple process of identifying learning intentions and success criteria was quite demanding. Indeed, I see this contradiction clearly now with the help of your review and cannot deny it!
In anticipation of further discussion
You can't change the curriculum necessarily, but you can help students to engage in it creatively in ways that support their own particular learning needs.
I think there is a living contradiction inherent in many curricula that set up all the criteria without taking into account individual learning styles and needs, and thus to help students to create their own standards of judgement aims to complete a learning experience for the learner.
That's what I meant to say.
Warmest regards, Moira
Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to read your proposed paper. It is clear from what you write you are a dedicated and reflective educator who is developing exciting practice. I hope you will not take it amiss if I suggest that the paper as it stands might readily be accepted by a number of other journals but I think needs further work to be appropriately situated in EJOLTs and to make the contribution that, to my mind, it could make to realising the ambition of the journal,
The journal focuses on personal journeys and collaborative pathways that explain educational influences in learning in terms of values, skills and understandings that the researcher believes carries hope for the future of humanity and their own.
I found some of what you said about AfL, ICT etc. national strategies interesting but I would suggest that you need to say how you are researching the contribution implementing the recommended techniques makes to your improving practice. My biggest problem is your understanding of 'values' and mine seem to be out of kilter, and probably related to this, the lack of clarity as to what you mean by learning which is educational, and an explanation of your practice as educational.
In the abstract you put,
I show how I developed my living educational theory as I attempt to live my educational values in practice.
My own values are embedded in the construction of my educational theory and I will explore these later in the paper.
which is consistent with the title.
Creating a living educational theory while using electronic portfolios as a tool to aid the assessment for learning approach in my primary school Irish language classroom
However you put
I chose to limit my focus on the values that will help ground my judgements. My values include:
â€˘ A belief in the potential of AfL strategies in my classroom
â€˘ The integration of ICT in language learning and assessment (using electronic portfolios as a tool)
â€˘ Integration of language skills using ICT
What I got from the review guidance is what I understand by values in this context.
b) The submissions should reveal a desire to bring (at least some of) the values of, for example, love, freedom, justice, compassion, courage, care and democratic evaluation more fully into the world.
I have made some notes as I went through the first part of your paper, which I hope you will find helpful. I think you might find it useful to read more about living theory; there are some living theory theses created by teachers on Jack Whiteheadâ€™s website and Jean McNiffâ€™s, which you might enjoy. I have found it helpful to stand back from my work and ask â€“ have I given a description and an explanation of my educational influence in learning, and find it frustrating on many occasions when I realise that I have only given a description. I found that when I eventually recognised and understood my educational values then I was clear about how they offered the explanatory principles and the living standards of judgment I needed to clarify my practice beyond description.
You might like to consider in redrafting your paper whether you would like to use your knowledge and skill with technology. As EJOLTs is web-based the possibilities are open. There is little so far which extends our understanding of how to communicate the qualities of educational spaces and relationships that we are researching in creating our living theory accounts of our practice.
To clarify I am saying that I think your paper should be
- accepted with modifications - But needs further work as indicated in the reviews.
Hope this is of some help and you find working on your paper enjoyable and helps you in the process of transforming to improve and share your practice. I am looking forward to reading more.
Please find my final draft attached. Thank you very much for your detailed review, it was both encouraging and insightful.
I feel that the â€passionâ€™ that I felt while carrying out the research has been rekindled by completing this paper. I am very grateful to the parents that sent written permission to me to allow the e-portfolios and recordings up online. I believe this supports my findings and helps others share in my experience.
I have addressed the translations with footnotes and the rubric is set as an appendix at the end of the paper.
This draft is hopefully more succinct in the use of my literature, my understanding of the methodology and the explanation of my values. I felt that my values were very specific to my own learning context and to language learning. I am passionate about showing pupils that they can learn how to learn.
Moira said: â€You might want to think about the epistemological significance of having the success criteria defined for the pupils in this wayâ€™. Thank you Moira for helping me to realise the inherent living contradiction.
Marie said: â€Your paper is focused on educational concerns not simply instructional oneâ€™. I hope I have shown what I have learned about my own educational concerns, that is essentially learning how to give freedom to the pupils so that they can control their own work. How assessment for learning can hold pupil back from this freedom to be creative is also an educational concern.
I want to thank you very much for your rigorous resubmission, which you have made very quickly indeed. This does make our technical job this end much easier. We appreciate the effort you have made to resubmit within very short time-limits. I can only imagine how time-consuming has been your authorisation with parents and pupils the huge volume of archival material in order to integrate this ethic into your paper. I am really amazed that you have managed all of this. Thank you.
But I'd like to say immediately that I am recommending your paper be published in the second issue of EJOLTS.
There are a few technical details that must be attended to, however, relating to the accessibility of wmv material, which I append at the end of this review. However, I would like to state my reasons for my enthusiastic reception of your paper this time around.
In the last submission I saw a paper full of potential, hence my first, also fairly enthusiasic, review. However, like Marie Huxtable, I recognise that the paper had some specific weaknesses. Marie focused on different areas of your paper, about the nature of your living theory for example, but I don't want to get into that here: that's for her to comment on. I was concerned specifically about your paper's lack of an evidential basis and felt that despite the promise of the paper, it couldn't be accepted by EJOLTS as it wasn't actually showing what your practice was, because the pupils' voices were almost entirely missing.
And now, because of your huge effort, you have gone back into the archives of your paper and re-constructed it around their voices and their and your learning needs. I feel that you have addressed these points very sufficiently for me. I am satisfied by the level of evidence you have now included. As I say, I need to be able to access the wmv files as these are crucial to speak on behalf of your living educational theory. Without their easy access, some of the depth of your paper is lost.
I find the paper also to be aesthetically pleasing (see Laidlaw, 2008). The aesthetics of educational processes often go unremarked upon unfortunately in my experience, but I find myself emotionally as well as intellectually convinced by your resubmission in ways that are not dissimilar from the processes of listening to a beautiful piece of music, for example. It coheres. It makes sense. And when I have that experience, with music, with poetry, with a book, with your paper, it is something that convinces me beyond words and gives me this sense that the world is making more sense because of it, if that makes sense to you! And that is what your paper has done for me, Martina. It has spoken to my need for something to have a form that communicates, that has wholeness and integrity.
This is why, I think, my response to your paper is so energising. I feel this flow of life-affirming energy (Hymer, Whitehead & Huxtable 2009) as I read it. It satisfies me intellectually, emotionally, psychologically and therefore, aesthetically.
I came into education because I wanted to make learning fun, make it real, have relationships with children that enabled us all to lead better lives. As I read your paper I have the sense of someone who cares passionately about education, and that you really are showing those values of care, compassion, democratic evaluation, as we write on our homepage at EJOLTS. You are showing what it means to live those values and you are accounting for them. I love it!
The inclusion of pictures, of examples of the children's work, of conversations, all these things are lovely, and handled with care and attention to detail. I am particularly impressed by the way you have brought out the living contradiction inherent in accepting passively any criteria for accessment, for success, imposed from outside. This time you really illuminate that in a way I find completely convincing.
I LOVE the paper, Martina. It has reminded me why I decided to work on EJOLTS in the first place. Because of the process of working with you on this resubmission I have felt a renewed energy for the work we are doing here. So I want to thank you sincerely for that. There are moments sometimes when things become clearer. In going back over your first submission and then to this one, I am reminded of all that I hold as vital to what it means to lead a good life - to be in loving service of humanity (Laidlaw, 2008).
So, yes, PUBLISH!
Specific technical points.
p.14 Figure 3. I cannot find the file alluded to.
p.22 Figure 6. I can't get any url from it at all. It may be me, but this needs to be sorted out because a lot of the epistemological evidence of your paper rests on this and other similar forms of evidence.
p.24 I cannot find the file for the pupils' early learning journal. Right-clicking on the title brings up a message saying 'file not found'. Could you check these links, please?
p.27 You write: the next step for this pupil would be... I wonder whether you needed to acknowledge your own learning-gaps here, in the sense that had you realised this contradiction more quickly, then the pupil's learning might have been augmented. This isn't a criticism of you, it's a comment on the rigour of the research process, that's all. Next time I believe perhaps you might be able to lead your students to an earlier recognition of this learning-step.
I am appending my copy of the paper, which I would be grateful that you could use in posting back onto the web with the links checked. This is because I have corrected a few technical points as I went along. If you then resubmit another paper, it all becomes confusing and we are repeating work, which we cannot afford to do at this stage.
Many thanks, Martina. I have so enjoyed this process of review with you. I do hope you have also found it invigorating.
Love and respect, Moira
Hymer, B., Whitehead, J., & Huxtable, M. (2009). Gifts, Talents and Education: A Living Theory Approach. Chichester: Wiley: Blackwell.
Laidlaw, M. (2008). The Pursuit of Counterpoint. EJOLTS, 1(1), 49-102.
(For whoever is proof-reading the final version. I'd just remove Vol. from the following reference to be consistent with the other references.)
Gilstrap, D. and Dupree, J. (2008). Assessing learning, Critical Reflection, and Quality Educational Outcome: The Criical Incident Questionnaire. College and Research Libraries, Vol. 69 (5) 407-426.
I am stunned by the transformation in your paper and agree whole heartedly with the recommendation it should be published. Moira has already identified the odd bits that need attending to so I wont go over that ground again.
I appreciate the work it must have taken. I would love to read the story of how you transformed your understandings as I have a great deal to learn. Maybe the telling of that story might take you to places you are wanting to visit. If so you have an eager audience waiting for you.
Thanks for the smile that your paper brings and I will be passing it on