Published papers

Creating a living educational theory research programme

Margaret Farren
Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Margaret Farren - Tuesday, 2 September 2008, 11:25 AM
Hi All,

I have uploaded my paper 'Creating a living educational theory research programme at Dublin City University. Look forward to your reviews..

Best Regards

Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Moira Laidlaw - Tuesday, 2 September 2008, 12:22 PM

First I want to say how much I enjoyed your paper, Maggie. It is an exciting read. O.K., some general points first and then more stylistic ones. I’m really happy to discuss any aspects of my review that you want to.

General comments:

I like the way you set up your paper in a framework in which uncertainty is the good guy! Opening up to learning is one of the tenets of a living theory – and of this journal – in the sense of having open reviews in which anyone can read what is said and by whom. I think this is a very strong statement. In my experience uncertainty is feared and mistrusted by people who are not secure in their own sense of self. A certain level of uncertainty is surely the only way we can truly learn deeply because learning is a risk. It might overthrow what we knew before and where we were safe. This is related, to my mind, to the reasons why planning every move in an educational process, or submitting each designated process then with measurements, leads to sterility – I am thinking, for example, England and Wales’ constant political interference in educational measurements, and to my mind these are reducing the opportunities to learn something of value rather than learning pieces of information. A mind that can only accept measured standards is a narrow mind in my opinion. Learning has within it, as your paper shows, an openness to wonder. Without wonder, mystery and beauty in our lives, then we are much the poorer. It is so important that this kind of message that your paper supports, is itself supported! I think this is a very important paper.

I know that there is something truly significant in the idea of melding a Celtic spirituality with the processes of learning with e-technologies, but your paper doesn’t give me enough detail. As a whole strand of your living theory, I expected more detail and linking to your learning and what you find to be of value. I don’t think this is a huge criticism. I think it can be solved quite simply. You introduce it beautifully in your abstract: This constellation includes the unusual combination of an educational response to the flow of energy and meaning in Celtic spirituality and the educational opportunities for learning opened up by digital technology. This isn’t quite how I read and understood your paper, however. Having read the passage in the paper several times, however, it seems that the description near the picture of the sunset is sufficient – for me – where it stands. What I don’t fully understand is how you see that dimension affecting processes in ways you could describe to us. How does this spirituality impact on your learning/teaching programmes? I just think you need to be more specific and draw out the thread so that it is more visible to the reader. It may require literally a few lines here and there to distil it further. I also realise that this is a slippery quality – a spirituality. I am most certainly NOT asking you to measure it! I am, though, asking you to offer how you believe it impacts on you and how it helps you, I assume, to improve the quality of learning.

I very much like the whole nature of your paper. Integrating two such apparently disparate areas of human experience as spirituality and digital technologies is probably a first anywhere! However, I suppose they’re not so far apart, in the way in which the technology can give rise to a greater understanding of the spirituality. I’d like to see that tested more in the paper. Your videos are fantastic, really showing the ways in which people engage as they learn, or learn as they engage! I wonder if more explanation from you about the significance of these videos might help me to understand more about your spirituality as well as the learning with the help of technological aids.

Now to some more nitty gritty points!

Stylistic comments:


The first sentence of the abstract is too long in my opinion. I spent ages trying to understand it fully! I realised the rest of the paper would show me, but I think it could still be shorter to aid comprehension.

By the time I get to this in the abstract, though:

This constellation includes the unusual combination of an educational response to the flow of energy and meaning in Celtic spirituality and the educational opportunities for learning opened up by digital technology .

I’m really keen to read the paper!


The use of a game as an analogy is really neat, because it acts, in my mind, not just as a comparison, but reveals a certain joy you seem to have in the children playing. The way you describe the children draws me in. It’s lovely.

Tolstoi was quite something, wasn’t he? The sense he had that his fiction must have some moral standards to aspire to, is also something I admire him for. Although I imagine some other authors have that in mind, it doesn’t apparently follow that they’re all going to be authors of his stature. I wonder whether that’s what you’re alluding to in a sense of the way in which the rules created for certain processes don’t enable people to play the game. Theory cannot simply be applied!

The way in which you blend anecdote with educational theory is inspiring. There is a seamlessness about it, and this gives me confidence in your authorial voice.

You write on p.2: If I spend three hours with a group of students discussin, Watch the end of â€discussin…’

p.3 When you write: I am cautious of preconceptions I wonder if that can be entirely true. Preconceptions by their nature are not always open to the conscious mind. It might be better to make a tentative comment about your caution.

The way in which you introduce the technological aspects of what you’re considering is done very skilfully. It fits.

p.3: Speed makes the computer a friend that can whisk us along rather than leaving us in frustration. But we need to be attentive to the journey rather than become too fascinated by the technology. I like the possibilities of this, the sense that there is a balance to be achieved. I wonder if this is what your insights into Celtic spirituality can explain for me.


p.4 You write about â€the future of humanity’ from Whitehead. This is a phrase borrowed from Kilpatrick, 1951 in fact. Kilpatrick, W. (1951) Crucial Issues in Current Educational Theory. Educational Theory 1 (1) pp. 1-8. (You can also find it at the bottom of the page at: (smile))

I think that when you’re writing about a Masters degree, Masters has a capital M. Sometimes in the rest of the paper it’s M and other times m.

Creating an educational space…

You write: There is a lack of research in higher education into how educators are influencing the education of their students. As a claim I am sure every single living theorist and most action researchers in general would agree with that statement, but making a claim like that is not very rigorous. I think you need to find some reference that backs that up.

You wrote on p.4: Bruce Ferguson which is hardly surprising as RI wrote it incorrectly – despite my underlining of the fact. It is a hyphenated surname: Bruce-Ferguson. Hers was a lovely article, wasn’t it?

p.5 I wonder if you need to give us a seating order of the people whose names you mention being on the video. It’s otherwise confusing. In addition, the mention of the names so far away from where you’ve placed the video in the paper makes it doubly confusing. Is there a way of organising the writing so that nothing is lost, but it’s not so difficult for the reader here? The juxtaposition of the picture between the names and the video extract is confusing for me.

The picture of the sunset is stunning, by the way. Wow!

Bernie’s body-language and her voice flow, don’t they? I was intoxicated just watching and hearing, without necessarily first time round, listening to the actual meanings. I wonder whether this is another huge advantage of visual/audio forms of representation: that the message is carried in so many other ways than simply through language and semantics.

The organisation of the three video-clips was problematic to me. First I could only find two urls for videos and then I realised that there were parts one, two and three at the site. I wonder if you could say that so it doesn’t lead to more confusion. It may be just me, but it wasn’t self-explanatory and I think it should be.

p.8 top. You write: Rayner refers to this as 'relationally dynamic'. You need to end this sentence with a colon to introduce the quotation, otherwise the reader – well, me in this case! – expects to find a date-allusion to when he said it.

I think quotations needs to be in italic script as it helps the reader to distinguish between text and quotation. Lower down the page, the quotation needs to be set apart from the rest of the text as it’s quite long.

Bottom of p8: makes this a innovative and unique programme Needs to be â€an innovative’…

p.9 I wonder whether, in describing Yvonne Crotty’s contribution to the programme, you need to emphasise the point that there are strands of influence through you to her and then to her students. Therefore your living educational theory is partly validated – I assume – through the fact that she has learned something with you.

Why a living theory approach

I wonder whether this section might be better at the beginning as it seems to me to be part of the context of your own learning.

Storying my developing use…

I love the point you make about the importance of sharing learning. Indeed, that’s so much a part of the human condition.

I’m wondering about the organisation of this part too. As it’s part of the story, it’s part of the context as well. However, this is your paper. Maybe it would be worthwhile having an explanation at the beginning of the reasons for presenting your paper in this way. At the moment, I am not convinced that the videos of your practice, say, belong before comments on why you’re using a living theory approach or indeed storying your developing use of technology. You see, I think these two sections belong nearer the beginning, but I may be wrong. I’m questioning the logic. See what you think.

I make the above points in a spirit of learning. I would like to learn more about what you know. I think you can help me understand more. I accept, however, that I may have missed something, and am open to debate on any of these comments. It seems to me important that in reviewing a paper for EJOLTS I bear in mind my own limitations (biases) as a reviewer. If my remarks are biased in any way that detracts from your achievement, I do hope you’ll feel free to tell me. After all, the openness has to work both ways.

I think this paper is fascinating, innovative and deserves a wide readership.

My recommendation here is:

ACCEPT with modification - But needs further work as indicated in the review.

Warmest regards,

Moira xxx

Margaret Farren
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Margaret Farren - Thursday, 4 September 2008, 8:09 AM
Hi Moira,

I'm glad you enjoyed the paper. This fulfils one of my educational values i.e. the reader should at least enjoy reading the paper.

Thanks for your time in responding with such detail to the paper. There is always a certain anxiety in submitting an article and then waiting for the response from the reviewers. The online review system certainly speeds up the response time! I thought I would have to wait for months...

I am happy to go through the paper again with your comments.

Thanks again

Branko Bognar
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Branko Bognar - Friday, 5 September 2008, 1:48 PM
Dear Margaret,

I've carefully read your paper several times and I enjoyed it a lot. In my review I'll try to discover your intentions and comment on your paper according to them. In other words, I'll respect your criteria and avoid imposing my criteria onto your account. Anyway, this is what I'm aiming to do, and you'll need to say whether I've succeeded or not.

The title of your account is "Creating a living educational theory research programme at Dublin City University". Therefore, I'll try to find out more about the process of creating a living educational theory research programme at your university. In the abstract you both announced and elaborated upon the topics you intended to detail within the main ideas which were declared in the title:

  • Generating of living educational theory
  • Research tutoring
  • Providing an educational space
  • Practitioners-researchers' learning about:
    • The responsibility of learners for the processes of learning and research
    • Creating knowledge
    • Collaboration
    • Dialogue
    • Using digital technology for learning
  • A web of betweenness
  • Celtic spirituality
I have to say that all of these topics are very interesting and they attracted my attention immediately. I think your abstract clearly expresses your intentions in the paper.

You started the prologue with an expressive excerpt from your Ph.D. dissertation (, pp. 1-2):

"As I sit at my office desk in the university's Education department preparing for my next lecture, sounds of laughter come from the playground of a nearby primary school. On opening my office window, the excited sound of children at play floods the room. Thankful for the break, I watch their interaction: one child passes the ball to another who takes the ball, and balancing it on his left foot for a few seconds, an act that takes his school mates by surprise, he skillfully slides it under his left foot to another child. She continues the ball play. I wonder what it is about ball play that can hold our attention and interest? Is it the possibilities that a game opens up? Is it the sense of excitement, of uncertainty, of not knowing how it will all end? Is it that each person is called on to actively participate? Is it that, once play starts, each person is dependent on the other and yet needs to act independently as well, when she runs with the ball? Is it that even when you're not playing the ball you have to continue to actively read the game?
As I watch, the children are totally engaged in the game: each child with his/her part to play, as they pass the ball from one to the other. I reflect that I, as an adult, can in a curious and imaginative way, enter the world of the children, feeling that I am an active participant, promoting in my thoughts and occasionally by word and gesture the flow of the game with them.
I reflect that life, like the game, can be full of uncertainties. Each of us can be a learner who strives to develop his/her knowledge and skills to make sense of the world around us."

Although I like this introduction I'm in doubt whether it is appropriate to repeat the same portion of your text in two different publications and I've found the following points regarding this doubt:

"…The authors are strongly encouraged to follow these "best practices":
1. Provide full disclosure - mention in the introduction that the new or derivative work incorporates texts previously published.
2. Ensure there is no violation of copyright.
3. Cite the old works in the references section of the new work." (Wikipedia)
I've also found this opinion about re-cycling of our previous accounts:

"Academics are expected to republish revised versions of their Ph.D. thesis. They also often develop different aspects of an argument in several papers that require the repetition of certain key passages. This is not self-plagiarism if the complete work develops new insights. It is self-plagiarism if the argument, examples, evidence, and conclusion remain the same in two works that only differ in their appearance." (Hexham, 1999,

It seems that I should not be worried about repeating the same text in two publications since this is the part of your PhD you mentioned in the abstract. However, I think that putting the quotation marks or paraphrasing of a portion of text already published in some other account, even if it is in your Ph.D. could be advisable. In this case I would suggest putting such a quotation in a box since it is a very important leitmotif for your account. What do you think? I believe this question will be an interesting one for other authors and myself as well since I was also in doubt about how to cite my own work.

The following part of your account is really great in my opinion:

"This view emphasises the importance of interaction with people and the world (Bertrand, 2003). Our values of caring and sharing need to be developed if we are to construct the world in a positive way. Who knows what will come from these small beginnings? How can I develop social formations (Bourdieu, 1990;Whitehead, 2005) that can lead to active, enquiring and creative learning in a variety of contexts? Tolstoy (1862-1967) viewed ambiguity and uncertainty not as something to remedy but as the soil for deep learning (p. 287). How can we help develop a love of learning from an early age? In our current higher education where talk is of knowledge transfer rather than pedagogy, are the learner's needs being overlooked? Are students recipients of a curriculum instead of largely choosing and/or making it themselves (Barnett, 2000, p. 163). Should we not consider the 'why' of education rather than only the 'how'? (Webb, 1996, Walker, 1999; Rowland, 2000). How can I, as a higher education educator initiate and help to co-create a curriculum with my learners? Wouldn't it be interesting to step into the shoes of the learner at the other end of our classroom and experience what it is like to be looking in from the other side?"
I like the way you start from questions not from answers, as all of them show the values you stand for. In fact the whole of the prologue was written in a thoroughly admirable way. You expressed your theoretical background clearly and announced the values which you endeavour to fulfil in your practice.

In the "context" part you gave a brief insight into your working circumstances but this part seems a bit stilted. I would like to find out something more about the institution in which you try to realise the important ideas and values you brought to our notice in the previous section. I would like to find out a bit more about any other people who might share your enthusiasm and who are willing to create a web of betweenness. I am also interested to know how your values fit into a wider institutional and social environment. Finally, I am wondering whether it is possible for you to make a short video or slideshow about your university for people who do not know anything about this institution, so that they can get more visual information about your context.

You started the next section entitled "Creating an educational space for practitioner research" like this:

"There is a lack of research in higher education into how educators are influencing the education of their students." 
I believe you are right. It is really odd that people whose main job is research do not seem to bother very much about their influence on the education of their students. This notion also emphasises the importance of your own research as you try to deal with this important aspect of higher education practice.

The section of the text in which you explained the essence of Celtic Spirituality and its connectedness with videos from your practice represents the most beautiful part of you account. It connects beauty and the harmony of nature with "an awareness of the inward and outward journey and how this is central to the development of our living of human values such as love, care and courage." I really enjoyed reading this section.

The videos are very interesting and their quality is superb. It is obvious that you had excellent video and informatics equipment. But I was not able to understand the speech in first three videos completely since the talking was pretty quiet. Of course the problem is not just on your side, but mostly on mine as I am not a native English speaker; but I suppose that other people like me, as well as deaf people might also have a problems understanding the speech in some of your videos. I am wondering if it possible for you to make subtitles in English which would almost entirely solve the problem. I also recommend that you put a title below each video. There are also several technical problems in this section: the link to the second video is missing and not all the pdf files work for me. However, I think you succeeded in giving enough evidence for the final conclusion in this section:

"The web of betweenness is a standard that recognises the relational dynamic (Rayner 2004) of human existence. The fostering of a web of betweenness is an aspiration that for some time had lain at the back of my mind. My commitment to this endeavour reflects my belief that learning is a social interactive process involving members of the group as a community of sharing participants who can develop new understandings through dialogue (Shor and Freire, 1987; Laidlaw, 1994)."

In the section "Developing a living educational theory research approach at Dublin City University" you put an emphasis on developing a new ICT/e-Learning programme in which you try:

"to support participants towards the creation of their own multimedia and web based artefacts for use in their practice as a substitute for ready made software."

In my opinion it is an excellent idea which deserves to be elaborated upon more. Other than that I would like to find out a bit more about the ICT/e-Learning programme and your efforts to establish and maintain them. Namely, this could represent the kernel of your account and I hope you'll expand this part by describing and explaining features of this programme, putting an emphasis on the question: "How do I improve my practice?" which you mentioned in the subsequent section "Why a Living Educational Theory approach?".

In the last two sections: "Storying my developing use of technology" and "Postdoctoral research" you tried to depict your professional journey, but I was not able to discover much about the main topics you mentioned in the abstract. Maybe a shorter version of those sections would fit well into the section "Context". Instead of that I would suggest placing an emphasis on the topic of your work. Namely, I would suggest that you inform us about your efforts to co-create a safe space for collaboration, dialogue and learning that begins from the needs and interests of students. I am especially interested to find out more about creating a web of betweenness by using digital technologies. From my experiences I know it is not easy to obtain even if you have all the technical, financial and social preconditions. This is a new opportunity that apart from the many advantages poses problems that have to be explored and resolved. I also would like to find out how the learners feel about dealing with particular features of digital technology and what it means for their practice. However, the most important issue I would like to find out about is how you have improved your practice by "creating a living educational theory research programme at Dublin City University."

I consider that this is a really engaging account which raised many interesting questions which were sufficiently described and explained in the first half of the text. I think the second half could be improved by putting an emphasis on the main topics mentioned in the abstract. I hope that some of my suggestions will be helpful for you in finishing your great work.

Margaret Farren
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Margaret Farren - Tuesday, 9 September 2008, 5:53 PM

Hi Branko,

Thank you for the time you have taken to review my submission to EJOLTS.

Your reference to â€best practices’ for publications is very interesting as it highlights the need to consider issues around Masters and PhD research and future referred articles. My thesis and many of the PhD living educational theory research carried out at the University of Bath can be accessed at There is a shift to open access repositories and from 1st September 2008 all postgraduates submitting research theses at Dublin City University will be required to submit an e-version to the new open access repository – DORAS. However, they do note that if the researcher wishes to protect the thesis content in case of future refereed articles based on the thesis, they can fill out a PGR8 form. This means that the thesis will then not be released ( in DORAS, or in print) until the expiration of the period on the PGR8 form.

I used the original text from the Prologue of my PhD as a way into the current article but I have tried to link the ideas in the Prologue to literature e.g. Are students recipients of a curriculum instead of largely choosing and/or making it themselves (Barnett, 2000, p. 163). Should we not consider the â€why’ of education rather than only the â€how’? (Webb, 1996, Walker, 1999; Rowland, 2000). I hope this moves the piece to another level in engaging with higher education literature? ……. According to Rowland, (2000, p.99) improving teaching involves critique, personal enquiry and openness to change. In this way, I was hoping to show the development in my own thinking and how a narrative could also be scholarly.

Your point about including subtitles for the videos is important as well. YouTube doesn’t seem to support the translation of audio into text but I can certainly attach a text file of the speech next to the video clip reference in the paper The four videos are on YouTube so I will check the links again.

Also I will review the section on Storying my developing use of technology and Postdoctoral research and review the title of the paper as well.

Thanks again for your review – it will help me with the final draft of the paper.

Best Regards


Branko Bognar
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Branko Bognar - Wednesday, 10 September 2008, 1:41 PM
Dear Margaret,

I do not know enough about citing the old works and it was a reason why I raised this subject. Namely, I think that an open reviewing could be opportunity for a discussion and mutual learning not just writing comments about someone's account. It seems to me that regarding a self-citing there no generally accepted standards and maybe we should elaborate guidelines for our contributors about citing their previous works.

You wrote:

Your point about including subtitles for the videos is important as well. YouTube doesn’t seem to support the translation of audio into text but I can certainly attach a text file of the speech next to the video clip reference in the paper The four videos are on YouTube so I will check the links again.

In YouTube and Google videos exist options for adding subtitles (see Video Captions in YouTube and How do I enter captions or subtitles for my video in Google video). A file with subtitles could be created by using the freeware program Subtitle Workshop or by some of avaliable on-line services (see Maybe the members of our creative team could help us with this aspect of our journal. However, I am suggesting that you put emphasise on the text since technical details could be finished later and I'll help you with them.

Warmest regards,

Margaret Farren
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Margaret Farren - Wednesday, 24 September 2008, 2:09 PM

Hi Moria and Branko,

I have gone through your comments on my paper and I have attached a revised version.

Thank again to both of you for the detailed response to the paper.  I hope I have addressed all of your questions.

Kind Regards


Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Moira Laidlaw - Wednesday, 24 September 2008, 4:10 PM

Hi Maggie! I did enjoy reading this paper. More than last time I have the sense of how your Celic spirituality and your use of web-based technologies complement each other. I can see how your students have gained from yor own living theorising, to the extent that they are beginning to create their own. I always think that part of the validation of what we do as educators must be showing something of the influence we have had on the learning of our students, and, hopefully, how they have helped us to see anew, or indeed enabled us to learn new things entirely. You now are doing that with Yvonne and she is devising her own unique ways of bringing her own particular insights as extensions of what you've done.

I see that you have expanded your contextualistion, which I think was needed in order to enable the reader to benefit from a more detailed understanding of the premises of your work.

I also feel that the reorganisations I asked for genuinely help to make the paper more coherent and for me as a reader to gain more insight into the dynamics of your work.

I think you have made a truly significant contribution to educational knowledge and theory. I suggest this paper is published, with a very few technical amendments, which I will send through email.

I am really glad to have read your paper again. Love from,

Moira x

Picture of Jack Whitehead
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Jack Whitehead - Wednesday, 24 September 2008, 5:08 PM
Hi Moira - what a delightful response to Maggie and one that resonates well with my own judgments.
Love Jack.
Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Moira Laidlaw - Wednesday, 24 September 2008, 6:36 PM

Hi Jack. Hi Maggie.

I'm glad you like the response, Jack. I really feel that your paper, Maggie, communicates so clearly about your Celtic spirituality and the insights you bring to your practice. In fact the subject-matter of the paper is unlike any other  I've read. I think there's a huge area being developed in the ways in which technology augments representations of meaning. It's an exciting venture.

Love from,

Moira x

Branko Bognar
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Branko Bognar - Thursday, 25 September 2008, 3:43 PM

Dear Margaret,

In the account for EJOLTS you gave us an insight into your multi-annual endeavours to co-create educational space in which the main aim is “teaching, learning and research processes by providing opportunities for participants to accept responsibility for their own learning and to develop their capacity as learners and researchers.“ From the text it is obvious that your efforts resulted in the programme which, amongst other things, allows students to learning and cooperate by using new technologies. The videos you included into the section “Co-Creating an educational space for practitioner research“ show us that a face-to-face communication is still very important in co- creating a reflective community in which learners could share their „individual narratives with each other creates trust between each individual and in this way a sense of community is formed.“


I believe that EJOLTS represents a further level of your professional development that we can all participate in, in working with you to develop your ideas and your commitment to the fostering of a web of betweenness. I share your belief that „learning is a social interactive process involving members of the group of sharing participants who can develop new understandings through dialogue.“


Therefore, I am looking forward to the first issue of our journal in which your paper will have an important place in co-creating an educational space for practitioner research.

Warmest regards,


Margaret Farren
Re: Creating a living educational theory research programme
by Margaret Farren - Thursday, 25 September 2008, 4:15 PM
Hi All,

There is a real sense of pleasure in reading your comments about the latest draft of my paper. Your reviews of my first submission really helped me to re-engage with the paper and produce the final draft. This process also shows how we are learning to develop new understandings through dialogue as we look forward to the first issue of EJOLTS. It has been an adventure but glad there is light at the end....

Kind Regards