Transcending Boundaries and Borders: Constructing Living Theory Through Multidimensional Inquiry
As educators, how do we influence each other's learning?
This collaborative action research inquiry, by a team of university professors and doctoral students, was conducted to assist us as we tried to transform and transcend to new levels of understanding regarding the overlapping relationships of teaching and learning through the methodologies of collaborative self-study and action research. This paper describes the evolution of our journeys to understand how we influenced each other’s learning and by extension the learning of others in our respective spheres.
Hi Marie Huxtable and Joan Walton, we invite you to please start a discussion on this topic.
I have really enjoyed reading and thinking about your paper.
Some general points.
I am excited by your title
TranscendingBoundaries and Borders: Constructing Living Theory Through MultidimensionalInquiry
Please dont take it amiss if I suggest you read your paper with your title in sight. I am currently particularly interested in boundaries and living theory research as a process of multidimensionalinquiry so kept looking for where you articulate these. While I know they are implied I think these need to be more explicit. Having met you and got a little insight into some of what you do I believe you have done some amazing work and it is important people know what it is. I think you might want to think about how you explicate boundaries and borders with particular reference to your desire to improve interdependent, collaborative, relationships in a community of learning which transform the individual as well as the collective.
I would have found it helpful to have an abstract and I think you could find it very helpful to write one now and keep it and the title in sight as I imagine you did when writing your doctoral thesis.
I was surprised at how impersonal most of the paper felt in contrast to my experience of you. You might like to think about including some multimedia narrative to help you and your co-authors communicate that flow of life-affirming energy which felt to be so much at the core of what you are about.
It would have helped me if you had started with an introduction to the authors - (are you all in the group?) and your contexts, theresearch you engage in the story you are going to unfold in the paper.
There are some very moving narratives but I need help to understand their significance in transcending boundaries and borders as you work together to ‘improve learning’ and the quality of interdependent and collaborative relationships in learning communities.
Looking forward to your next iteration
We have been reflecting on your comments since you posted them and were wondering how best to respond seeing that not all of our members are available at this time. However, Jennie and I thought that we should at least begin the process. First we want to specifically respond to your queries then to Joan's. In this case, some of what we include for you will also help Joan with further clarification. We hope that you will be able to connect the missing dots as you review our paper.
Introduction of Authors
Jill and Sam are Professors who teach courses in the doctoral program. Natasha, Jennie and Dan (now deceased) were students enrolled in the program.
During one of our doctoral classes, "Research and Policy Trends, where we were introduced to Jack & Jean's text "Living Theory", Natasha raised the question; "As educators and doctoral students, can we influence each other's learning?" This stimulated much discussion and by the end of the session we decided that this could be an interesting topic to explore further. Jill encouraged Natasha to email Jack, who replied! This subsequently gave birth to our research project which included various types of data, such as regular group meetings, individuaul journaling, F2F and electronic dialogues, many of which were collected via mulitmedia. We can certainly make some of the sessions available to you and Joan.
As our small group convened to plan the way forward, we realized that if our research was to be successful we would have to relinquish some of the formalities existing between Professor and students and assume a more informal and collegial relationship (e.g. addressing each other by first names), and making connections with Buber's I-Thou relationship. The idea of Transcending Boundaries and Borders became the the focus of our research title as we work together to understand how we were influencing each other's learning through our free flow of information Simultaneously, we explored and connected Jack Whitehead and Jean McNiff's "Living Theory" because we thought that this enables us to individually and collectively reflect on our own living theory throughout the process in order to document what we were doing.
The excerpts that are in the paper provide some of the thoughts that were generated as we met as a group. They represent the connections we were making with all of the readings and theoretical background that we discussed during the initial course. At any point in our meetings depending on the focus of our dialogue we would make connections with what we espouse as our 'living theory/theories". These theories guided the quality of our interdependence and collaborative relationships. You might have deduced from the paper our strong and collective inclination towards Nodding's "Pedagogy of Care", Buber's I-Thou Relationship, and the idea of transformation. Transformation in this sense is similar to Joan's perspective where we were elevated in our philosophical views of what teaching and learning should be. We also realized that at any given point during our collaboration there was that "aha" moment as we reflected on how and what classroom practice should look like. This was possible because we realized our interdependence as educators and practitioners.
We hope that we have cleared up some of the confusion you alluded to in your review. At this point in time, Jennie and I are anxious to revise the paper and see it move forward, as our work together continues to evolve.
Thanks for your insightful comments and your support thus far. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with you.
Jill and Jennie
Thank you for your paper, which was interesting to read. You are clearly advocates of living theory, and I don't think that anyone would reach the end of your paper without knowing you had all been very positively influenced by the principles and values of living theory, and that you had found the experience of working together rewarding and productive. There is good evidence also that the work you did as a group had a positive influence on those with whom you were in educational relationships.
However, what I was not sure about was what your individual living theories were that you were each developing with the support of each other. I felt there were many generalised statements of the work you were involved in; and you talk a considerable amount about the transformative influence of your work, and of your collaborative action research. You describe in detail what living theory is, using mainly Jack and Jean's work as reference; and you talk about doing it; but if I were new to living theory, I would come to the end of your paper not really knowing what it meant in practice to develop a living educational theory.
What I would have liked to see then, are some specific examples of what your living theories were; for at least one or two of you to describe in detail how you came to create your living theory, what the values were that were informing what you did, and what was a concern or issue you responded to as a consequence of engaging with your living theory.
It should then be possible to describe and analyse the influence of the collaborative research group in supporting you in your inquiry - to understand specifically how the collective impacted on the individual, and vice versa. It would also be good to give a more detailed picture of what 'transformation' actually meant in reality. The word transform, transformation or similar occurs 30 times in your script and is clearly a key concept - but I came to the end not knowing what this actually meant in practice. I normally understand transformation to be a 'shift in consciousness that is irreversible' - so if you accept that, I would like to see at least one or two specific examples of what that 'shift in consciousness' was, how it occurred, and what impact it had.
I would agree with Marie that there would be benefit in knowing more about the group members / co-authors, and the specific contexts in which they were developing their own living theories.
If you were to adress these points, and look at including examples of your living theories in more detail and depth, then link the evaluative comments to these examples, I think this would make reading the paper a more meaningful experience. It is really not that in my view there is anything particularly wrong with what you have written - but because there tends to be a lot of content which is very generalised, I am left at the end feeling that the account is rather thin....
As an additional unrelated point - I am also very uncertain about your differentiation between practical action research and critical action research. You write:
Practical action research enables us to frame and explain action research within the context of our own enquiries thus providing a rationale for us to defend our professional values that embrace our living educational theories (Whitehead & McNiff, 2006). Critical action research is “research for education”
I'm afraid I don't really understand that perspective, it is not a differentiation I have encountered. For example, I think all action research involves the cyclical process, not just critical action research as you suggest.....
I hope this doesn't sound too negative. Like Marie, this is my first time of reviewing, so it would be good for me also to gain your responses to my comments! Also having met you, Jill, and really enjoying your company, I know how energetic you are, and could feel much of that coming through the script. So I hope you understand the points I make. But do feel free to come back and challenge the challenges!!
I look forward to your responses.
Dear Joan and Marie,
I have moved Jill Farrell's revised paper to this forum. Thank you in advance for your reviews.
Looking forward to the publication of the upcoming issue of EJOLTS.
Smile on and looking forward to your final draft
Here is the final draft of our paper! It has been a long, but rewarding process. We appreciate the time and energy you have offered throughout the process and your diligent attention to our text. Many of your comments forced us to revisit some of our original sources, which helped us in strengthening our positions. We do hope that other readers will find our story meaningful and relevant to their own practice. Keep smiling!
Hope life is smiling
I very much enjoyed reading your revised paper - and particularly liked the way you established the context at the beginning, with your 'Objectives/Purpose'. Also, you were focusing on the issue of integrating individual and collaborative inquiries, and the transformational learning that can be achieved through paying attention to the nature of the influencing relationship between these - very much a research interest of mine at the moment!
I have made just a few minor editing suggestions, but otherwise, I think this is a very interesting account, well worth publication.