Hello! I hope you find my paper an interesting read. I welcome any comments or criticisms you can offer me that will help me improve my work.
Hello, Julian. I am delighted to be one of your reviewers for your paper. This is particularly the case, as half of my own career in education has been with students (albeit in schools) as we worked together to find ways of improving the quality of education together. I am now working with the Open University in Distance Learning modules for the M.Sc. in develop management. I am also trying to reduce the gap between my espoused living values and those I actually bring into the educational processes (Living Contradiction), so I read your paper with real interest and pleasure.
I think it has the makings of a fine article for EJOLTS. However, there are a few things that would need to happen before I could recommend it for publication. I make these comments in the hope that they are constructive, rather than critical. This paper is potentially - in my opinion - very powerful, but I don't think the power of it is coming through sufficiently as it stands at the moment.
I am aware that this isn't my paper! The suggestions below are mine, and may not suit you. However, because there is some slippage between what you say you're doing in the paper and what is coming across (see script for details) the suggestions below may help in solving those problems. My suggestions are to do with the clarity of what you're presenting to us as readers. I want to know more about the development of these living values. At the moment I leave the paper without that sense of cohesion.
1) I think you need to let the reader know what you are meaning by your living values of respect, integrity and creativity at the outset. See notes on the text about that.
2) I think there are too many examples given (and all written in bulky, long paragraphs as well which are difficult to read). I wonder if you might write the paper in a different way. If you explained at the beginning what you are meaning by each of the three values you're bringing to the paper, then you might write a practical example for each one, in which you illustrate for the reader the living value in process over time. Thus you would end up with three examples rather than eight, and have the space to explain their significance to the developing of your values in more detail. I believe this would add cogency and comprehensibility for the reader. As they stand at the moment the examples seem to be implicit about the values rather than explicit, and the number of them is daunting. You need to prune them so that their communicability is enhanced.
3) Linked to the above is the brevity of the conclusion, which, to my mind, doesn't draw the threads together sufficiently. If you want to explain your living values and offer examples, then a conclusion would perhaps be better served by a statement about where you are now as a result of your research, and where you want to go from here.
You will see from the script that I have annotated it a lot. I hope the suggestions are useful.
I realise I am suggesting a lot of work for this paper, but that's genuinely because I think it could be much more powerful than it currently is. I have loved reading it, but I felt throughout, I needed greater clarity. I also believe the work you've done on the paper so far shows that it deserves that greater clarity as well.
I hope you find the comments here and on the script useful, Julian. I would be very interested in hearing from you about anything I've written about it.
All the best,
Hello Moira and Catriona! At last, I have re-written my paper taking on board your extremely helpful comments. Thank you again for taking the time to read my work. I have attempted to produce it in the format required, but you will see that I haven't yet learned how to reference the way that is necessary for publication, sorry. I will sort this, I promise! Moira, for some strange reason there were a couple of chunks missing from your copy, for example, part of the conclusion was not visible. These were present on Catriona's copy. I know not why this would happen. Very best wishes, Julian.
Hello Julian. Apologies for the delay in responding to your lovely paper. There has been a serious family matter that needed most of my time.
I have read your redrafted paper again with real delight. It is more powerful this time in terms of being an evocation of your living-theory and I can see that you have mostly attended to the points that I raised in my first review. The inclusion at the beginning of the explanations about the particular values that emerge throughout the paper does make the whole more comprehensible to me, and much more in tune with the sense of living standards of judgement. I still find the examples a little overwritten (more narrative than explanatory), but this doesn't weaken the paper to an extent that I would want to delay publication. I am also aware this may be a personal, rather than academic comment.
I find the paper has more shape and cogency than in the previous draft, such that the conclusion - now at its full length :) - is much more fitting than before. I think this will make an interesting and valuable contribution to the journal.
I accept that the formating of the paper is a problem - I find it difficult too. Besides that - which the EJOLTS team sorts out after acceptance for publication - there are simply too many formal in punctuation throughout, particularly in the References section and the details of in-text pagination. These need to be corrected. I would suggest you go through the paper very carefully indeed in terms of these kinds of issues - font size (abstract), paragraphing, spacing and so on.
Given the fulfilment of the above, then I am happy to recommend your paper for publication.
Warm regards, Moira
Hello again Moira,
thank you again for taking the time to read my paper. I have been working to satisfy the comments offered by my third reviewer and I have contacted her but decided to re-post. However, I am mindful that you had asked me to attend to font size, paragraphing and spacing. however, I am unsure of how to do this. I have read the guidance notes offered and font is not mentioned. Also, you comment on my use of pagination. I have read advice on different university websites and they all seem to advocate the use of page numbers if at all possible in academic writing, so I am rather puzzled! I have tried to shorten the diary entries too but I'm thinking that the detail I have used is relevant to explain the scenario and how I was feeling at those times. Do you advice I have another go and reducing the detail? I have attached again for you. Kind regards, Jules.
Hi Jules. Lovely to hear from you. Don't worry about the formatting. What matters more is the paper itself. I know the editorial team will be dealing with editing issues for the final version.
I've read the paper through again and I really like the dialectic between form and content much better now. I think the reorganisation has also helped and offered the reader more helpful signposting by which to follow the significance of the text more closely. I really enjoyed it this time round. It's a solid Living Theory paper.
I am recommending it gladly for publication in EJOLTS.
All the best,
Firstly please accept my apology for not responding to your initial draft of your paper. Unfortunately I have had difficulties accessing the site and resetting my user name and password.
I currently work with adults in HE, but for many years I was a teacher in primary education. My research has also been centred on my practice, my values and at times the living contradiction I have felt I have had to work under, similarly to you.
The abstract frames you as a researcher and the setting in which you work, as well as highlighting the focus for this paper. I would finish the abstract with the sentence that finishes, ‘in a FE setting’. After this, you are adding an explanation to your abstract which could be included in your paper. I would also name the three values you hint at here.
Your article opens with a sub heading of ‘My Living Values’ and very quickly begins a detailed explanation on respect. For the reader, I would find it helpful to have an introduction to your research framing your ontological values as your standards of judgement which form the heart of your living-theory. Why they are important, how they were defined and how you live them in your practice would frame your paper. Drawing in more literature to frame this and support the points you are making, would also help the reader.
In your discussion around respect and organisation in a FE setting, you make some generalisations about staff responsibilities, influence and role. Whilst this may be true in your setting, it comes across for all settings. This section very quickly reads quite negatively about your experiences. Could you use these challenges to your values as living contradictions and demonstrate to the reader how you strived to overcome them and remain true to your values? You could also draw in experiences to demonstrate how you managed this.
Whilst introducing integrity as the second value, rather than criticising the setting and staff, could you focus here on how creating your living-theory made you appreciate how central to yourself integrity is and how this helped you define the other values that are important in your practice? The struggle you feel with your values comes across powerfully in what you are writing, but doesn’t currently help the reader to understand more than just the problems.
Creativity is obviously very important to you and the way in which you work. It would be lovely to read of how you applied this successfully and refined creativity as so central to your practice. You also make some claims around creativity being the ‘lifeblood’ of education which need supporting with literature.
At the beginning of your introduction I am a little unclear of your meaning, but I think you are saying a living-theory requires experiences to be recorded and come from journal entries, although many forms of evidential collection can be used. Personally I have used poetry, art work, video, journal entries, observations etc too. Possibly having a separate paragraph on social validity and rigour drawing on Habermas may help make this section clearer. You could also sum up this section by highlighting how through offering your living-theory as a gift, you are adding to the educational knowledge base.
You begin to tell me in detail about your present and past roles, your experiences as a student, but I am left confused how this relates to your living-theory, values and the living –contradiction you highlight at the beginning. It isn’t until the end of page 4 that you begin to link these experiences to your values. Could you now look forward to your practice and how you apply creativity? Your discussions around your employment journey confuse me as a reader, I cannot see your research focus, and it is lost in the description. Whilst your experiences are important in defining you and your values, how has this impacted you as a practitioner? How have you managed to be in a situation which is a living contradiction and still found the ability to hold onto, and at times work to your values, this is the story I want to read and am intrigued by.
Andragogic – I am sorry I do not know what this means, and it does not come up im my computer ‘look it up’ facility.
The large end paragraph on page five, again reads negatively about all students at that point in your career, and just leaves the reader asking why the paragraph is there, how did these experiences impact on your practice, values and the setting? Show me explicitly why this detail is included, why it is important and what meaning you want the reader to understand about your living-theory. You mentioned Living Theory as a methodology, your ontological values, living as a contradiction at the very beginning, but you are not drawing the thread of this methodology through the stories you are recounting. I need to see how these recounts relate to your focus which is showing how your values enabled you to be the practitioner you wanted and the students deserved in an ethos that caused a living-contradiction.
‘It was during those years that I began to appreciate the significance of my strong living values, and how their existence had, and continued to shape my praxis daily within the College classroom.’ At the very end of page 5 you write the sentence above. It is this that I want to read, the tension with your values, how you strengthened your values despite the living contradiction, how this influenced your practice and relationships. I also want to understand what you mean by ‘shaping my praxis daily’.
‘These experiences served as practice for building my own LET which must be validated by experience and reflection, by teaching me how to analyse observation, reflect upon how learning was managed, and what could be done to improve my own practice, as Whitehead (1989) asked himself.’ Here are you referring to Jack’s question ‘How can I improve my practice?’
At the moment I cannot see how your section on your higher education study supports your title or focus for this paper.
You mention briefly Living Theory at the top of page 7 but in a very superficial way. More depth here would demonstrate your understanding of Living Educational Theory and how the journey as a researcher has influenced your living-theory. Be mindful of where you use capitals in Living Theory, living-theory as they have different meanings. On this page you also tell me how you will engage with Living Theory. This should frame the paper much earlier, as part of your introduction.
You then frame your writing around explanations of practice that confirmed your values or challenged them. A lot of detail is included that detracts from the thread of your living-theory and values-based explanation of the influences in your own learning, learning of others and your setting. Pulling the key threads from each scenario together around the core of your ontological values and influences in learning would help the reader to stay focused on the outline in your abstract. At the moment I cannot see you, the influences on your learning and hence practice and how this impacted on your students and colleagues.
This is just some thoughts from my perspective, but this is your writing and has to be true to the message and heart you want the reader to engage with and to take from it.
Hello Joy, and thank you for taking the time to read my paper. I am working through it trying to understand your comments and address them. You’ve certainly given me a great deal to think about. However, there’s a couple of things that puzzle me - you say I mention ‘living theory’ at the top of page 7. I don’t have that. I’m aware of some ‘hiccups’ when using this site, for example, a previous reviewer (Moira) could not see my conclusion in its entriety, but the second reviewer could read the complete paper (?), so advised me that the conclusion could be bettered. So I’m wondering whether your version of my paper is correctly displayed for you. The second point I want to mention is my use of the word ’andragogic’ which is referenced. Andragogy is the science of how adults learn, as opposed to pedagogy - how children learn. Malcolm Knowles can be Googled if you’d like to see more about this. I’ll continue to try to improve my paper, although it is supposed to be ready for the June publication so I’m up against it now! Best wishes, Jules.
Hello Joy, I reply again to your comments made on 29th May. I have added my three values to the abstract as you suggested. Again, acting on your suggestion, I have moved a large section of the abstract into my introduction. It now looks and reads much better. I have added Habermas to the introduction, explaining his theory concerning validity of communications. I have explained a little more about creativity and the lifeblood of education, drawing from Robinson who writes extensively about this. I have also explained Andragogy in my previous email. My inclusion of my employment journey was a suggested addition by a previous reviewer. Yes, I do refer to Whitehead's question of himself, 'How to I improve my practice?' As before, I don't know the comments you are referring to 'at the top of page 7'. Like my previous reviewer, you feel that there is too much detail in my journal entries which 'detracts from the thread of your living theory'. I have cut these sections back but I have found it difficult to remove more detail. My thoughts are that readers need to understand how frustrating these scenarios left me feeling. I am attaching a revised copy of my paper. Thank you again for taking the time to read it. Julian.
Thank you for the re-draft of your writing which I have enjoyed reading. You write and communicate very clearly and the frustrations in your practice come across powerfully. For me, this is a real strength of your writing!
The re-organisation to the introduction is helpful, but as I read further I was confused as you do not seem to answer the questions or clarify the development of your own living-theory you highlight in your abstract.
Your abstract encourages the reader to engage with your writing and clearly sets out what you will cover. Perhaps structuring the paper in relation to the purpose and the abstract would help the reader more.
You say '‘The purpose of the paper is to outline how my classroom experiences within a Further Education (FE) institution over a twenty five year period have developed a living theory methodology which asks, ‘How can I improve my practice?’ (Whitehead 1989)’.
The introduction could include the following headings from the abstract and the contents of the paper could be organised in terms of these headings:
i) How I first recognised and then nurtured my values.
This includes my values of respect, integrity and creativity within the generation of my living-educational-theory. This also includes my responses and learning from experiencing myself as a living contradiction.
ii) How my teaching philosophy developed.
iii) Clarifying my living-theory-methodology as it emerged in the generation of my living-educational-theory.
Structuring like this and having the core focus on the development of your living-theory and values as standards of judgements supported by the scenarios, would give more context to the scenarios you present.
I hope this helps.Joy
Hello Joy, and thank you again for taking the time to read my paper. I very much liked the idea of putting new headings into my introduction. However, I did try to do this and found that I was rewriting much of it. I found it difficult to fit the information around your suggested headings and tried many times to do this. So, failing at this, I thought that an concluding paragraph using your headings might be the way to use them. Once this was done though it didn't seem to add much and I only seemed to be repeating myself. I have acted upon many of your comments and rearranged some of my writings so I hope that now you can recommend this new version for publication. Best wishes, Jules.
Dear Julian - I have enjoyed reading your paper, even though you are describing some very difficult experiences as you work to live your values of respect, integrity and creativity as fully as possible. Whilst I am not a reviewer of your paper, there are a couple of brief points you could include that might strengthen your paper before publication.
I) I know that you mention ethics a couple of times, but I think a reference to your conformity to ethical principles in the conduct of practitioner-research would be helpful - For example, I'm thinking of the British Educational Research Association Ethical guidelines that are freely available from the BERA website.
ii) You could acknowledge the need to strengthen the validity of a practitioner-researcher account as you have a tendency to make claims such as:
"I believed that group thoroughly enjoyed learning and did not want to leave at the close of the lesson. I had been creative, ensuring they were entertained while learning a new skill which they had expected to be delivered in a formal, silent and orderly manner. I had earned their respect while delivering my lesson.."
I think it would strengthen your paper just to acknowledge the importance of enhancing the evidence to justify should claims as 'I had earned their respect'. You needn't bring such evidence into the paper, but I think that it would strengthen your paper to acknowledge the importance of strengthening a practitioner-researcher account, by providing evidence to back up such claims.
It wouldn't take you long to identify three of four such claims and then to acknowledge the importance of including a process of validation to help to strengthen the validity of such claims...
Thank you all for your time in reading through my work. I have offered what I hope to be a final iteration of my paper. I have worked to improve areas highlighted by my reviewers and hopefully improved the credibility and validity of my claims. This has been an enlightening journey, and I intend to continue to learn and develop as a writer and as a researcher. All advice has been incredibly helpful and reviewer comments have helped my paper to grow into what I hope is an acceptable article for publication, as well as an interesting and entertaining read. J.
With Catriona's small amendments I am recommending your paper to the editorial board for publication.
Your paper really reflects your commitment as a practitioner over a period of many years often in situations where your values were greatly challenged.
I have learnt a lot from this process too, so thank you.
Hello Joy, thank you very much for your time and your patience in reviewing my paper once again. I’m grateful for your comments and advice and, together with the help from my other reviewers, my work has been able to evolve into an article I am extremely proud of. I could not have accomplished this without such valuable input. I’ve learned a great deal from writing this paper. I will send a new version with Catriona’s amendments soon. Best wishes, J.
I have made one small amendment to my paper - removed a space from a reviewer's surname (McDonagh) on page 6. I eagerly await your comments. Best wishes, J.
Dear Julian I am recomending your paper to the editorial board for publication.
I read your paper as a courageous, self-reflective piece arguing for a methodological choice rather than a strict research report.
Thanks for all your hard work on it and I am attaching a few comments on the final version you sent.
Moira, Caitriona, Joy and Jack, thank you all again for your help in improving my paper. I hope that this time I have amended and rewritten to your collective satisfaction. Best wishes as always, J.
Thank you so much for the latest draft of your article. What I have loved most through our conversations is seeing your writing evolve and communicate what is important to you so much more clearly. I hope you feel this too. Finding clarity in my writing and moving from a writerly format to a readerly format is something I struggle with greatly, so this process together has really help me too, so thank you.
I can see more explicitly the values you hold, the reason they are important to you and the challenges through your practice. The methodology and methods you are using are also much clearer and frame your article. You also draw on a wide range of literature to support the points you are making.
Reading it, I felt the first half is stronger in maintaining the clear thread of identifying the challenges related to your values. I have added a couple of important comments following page 14, where I think this is less clear to the reader and I was left wondering why are you telling me this.
There are a couple of minor proof reading points, which will only take a moment to change.
I have also added a couple of questions just to clarify my understanding which occurred to me whilst reading, for example around the curriculum and phones. They are just points for you to consider.
The closing sentence in your conclusion is the most powerful point you make in the whole article and as a closing point is very uplifting, as I appreciate your continuing struggle to maintain and live your values but feel your clear determination and desire to do so.
I have really enjoyed this collaborative process and hope it has been as beneficial to you as it has to me. With the points addressed above I have no hesitation in recommending this article should be published.
With best wishes,
Apologies - I'm not computer savvy and I uploaded, after several attempts, my article without a title and an author! I hope this is better. Julian
I am responding to you draft paper of 10th May.
I think your ideas have the makings of a very interesting and scholarly paper. At the moment however, the structure makes it difficult for me, as the reader, to appreciate your work fullly.
My personal experience is that journal articles have to be quite concise and the reader has certain expectations. These generally include the value-based explanations of the author’s influence in her own learning and the learning of others where she lives and/or works. Each of these descriptions and explanations need to be interlinked and not written as a separate series of events. I find that they rarely even follow in chronological order. So, although this is not my paper may I suggest that you might possibly lay out your article slightly differently. Possibly shorten the contextual issues and introduce only what is necessary for the reader in order that s/he can understand your research. It is your paper, so the choice is totally yours.
In your abstract and throughout your paper, you have clearly explained your values and your living contradictions. I would love to see some data about your actions and new learning. Yours is a very interesting and descriptive paper but the required research actions are not so clearly presented and explained.
Here are some questions that might help you refocus your research paper with the readers in mind:
Have I provided sufficient detail of my living-educational-theory for it to be understood?
Are there sufficient details of how I have validated my claims to know so that the reader can share in that knowledge?
In my own career as a support teacher, I was working in a system which I perceived as unjust to my students with learning difficulties. My research focus became how I could change myself. I cannot change others nor institutional norms, but I can change me. You have provided descriptions of many instances, where your value base has also been challenged. Might you consider pointing the lens of your writing on how you have changed your actions or your understanding of them as a result of your reflections on your values and their denial in practice? Finally, could you also recheck some references (see attached).
Whatever you decide, I am looking forward to the next iteration of your paper
I am delighted that you have offered your story of “Applying my living values of respect, integrity and creativity in a post-compulsory educational setting” for publication. In Ireland, I have worked as a teacher alongside colleagues in a role similar to yours. Your paper made me realise that I have rarely questioned how my living values were evident to such colleagues. I also loved how you have thought so thoroughly about the implications of the politics of teaching.
Your abstract grabbed me immediately. I have made a structural comment on it (see attached) which I think may indicate how you might begin to enhance this paper for publication. Your readers would benefit if the finished paper could walk them through your process of how you developed your living theory, which you should explicitly state in your abstract. Readers need to understand your value-based explanation of your educational influence in your own learning, the learning of others and the learning of the social formations in your work. I sense that you are well aware of these ideas and your challenge is to clarify this in your writing.
In the abstract you have stated your question, a description of your context and why your question is important. You name your values. You say that, you will describe your actions and reflections on your actions. All good so far. Your paper has a style that draws your reader in. It is comprehensible to anyone interested in extending their knowledge. We now need to let your writing show the transformational possibilities of Living Theory research
In your paper I would like to read more about your claim i.e what you learned. I also need to read how you arrived at a living theory. For this, your readers needs clear signposts such as where is (or what is) the data that demonstrates your claim. To move from a claim to a living theory will require writing about how you validated your findings (or claim) against the living standards of judgement which you have mentioned as “social criteria of comprehensibility, truthfulness, sincerity and appropriateness, in accordance with Habermas (1987)”.
There is one other area that I would like you to consider for your next draft. As I read your paper I am confused as to why you expect other colleagues (policy makers) to demonstrate your values in their actions towards you. Your paper is about “how can I improve my practice?”, “how I worked to negate the contradictions I recognised in every-day practice”. This will go beyond demonstrating “how my values are, on occasion, challenged, contradicted, or acknowledged and respected”. In your abstract you talk of validity and ethics, I wold like to read more about these in your paper. I am attaching a copy of your paper with some comments which I hope will be of use.
I love your ideas and the story of your research. I really experienced the frustrations you felt as you wrote about your challenging situations. My comments are mainly about you might convey your living theory to a wider international audience. Please get back to me if you need further clarification.
Thanks again for this paper. I have been both laughing and in tears as I read it. I am really looking forward to your next draft.
I am responding to your paper dated 19th June 2018. I am sure that by now you are seeing that the drafts of your paper are helping to clarify the presentation of your thinking about respect, integrity and creativity. I am attaching my comments to your paper these may seem, in places, to be very pedantic and feel free to ignore those you disagree with.
I will begin by commenting on the recommendations I made the last time and then on those aspects that you might enhance further, should you wish.
1) Previous recommendations
· Possibly shorten the contextual issues and introduce only what is necessary for the reader in order that s/he can understand your research. Done. In my comments I suggest that you keep all of the introduction in the first person “ I “
· I would love to see some data about your actions and new learning. Yours is a very interesting and descriptive paper but the required research actions are not so clearly presented and explained. Good You have now offered Journal entries. I suggest that you use some device to alert the reader to exactly where these entries are. Perhaps quotation marks? You could then highlight where your learning is from the example.
· Have I provided sufficient detail of my living-educational-theory for it to be understood? Yes
· Are there sufficient details of how I have validated my claims to know so that the reader can share in that knowledge? Your work appears reliable and credibly – key validation criteria
· Pointing the lens of your writing on how you have changed your actions or your understanding of them as a result of your reflections on your values and their denial in practice? Yes definitely
2) In my comments, I suggest that you might consider enhancing your paper by altering some of your section titles so that the reflect the research process more closely. For example, I previously suggested that you shorten your context, which you did. But this could possibly be further enhanced by adjusting the headings to reflect your research process more fully as follows
my current position, my past education, my past employment, my higher education
to something like
Role models and awareness of values, The Role of Audience and Policy in nurturing and challenging values, Beginning my living educational theory journey.
Although I am making some suggestions, I feel that your paper offers and interesting and scholarly read, meets the EJOLTS criteria and am suggesting it for publication.
All the best