Open reviewing process

Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Moira Laidlaw -
Dear Jack. I think that this is, without doubt, a very important paper indeed. You are essentially doing what you are asking others to do in Living Theory as living-theorists – show how your thinking has developed and how you are accounting for those changes. It’s a living-theory, after all. I find your responses in 2019 to be compelling reading (see provisos below). You are in a unique position to be able to see how your own living-theory and Living Theory itself has developed and this paper, for the most part, shows that in ways which I feel living-theorists will find useful in the future. Not only does it mark our specific areas for the validity of Living Theory, it makes the point compellingly that the approach itself cannot be generalised in the ways that are held to by other forms of epistemology. See annotations on the paper for more detail on these points.

My major stumbling block to recommending this paper in its current state for publication is that the organisation, i.e. the 1989 paper with hyperlinks to your current thinking, is presented the wrong way round. I think as you are aiming for publication in 2019, then what is presented in the main paper needs, I believe, to be from 2019 not 1989. I am also not fully convinced about why you do the hyperlinking sections twice, and feel I must be missing the point somehow, and some of that may well be down to me. I can see that an introduction to the earlier paper might help to make general points and then you go on to illuminate them later. However, I’ve read the paper several times and still can’t make sense of the logic you are following in terms of its presentation. I believe that either you need to explain your presentation at the outset, or – and I feel this is preferable for continuity and validity – you reorganise the paper, so that it offers the reader a coherent and current narrative experience with hyperlinks to the 1989 paper. I know that by the end of the reading and annotation and reflection, I am still confused by the presentation. I therefore do not feel I can recommend it for publication in its current form.

The beginning of the paper (before the Introduction) seems a little unhelpful. There is no Abstract as such, only a summary. The picture is incongruous at this point in an EJOLTS paper. There are no keywords.

Other minor sticking-points in the paper are constituted by the lack of the correct font throughout and the presentation of the References (not Bibliography). There is also no final References list for this paper. The EJOLTS house style at: needs to be followed, and at the moment it isn’t.

There is no hyperlink to the TEDx Talk.

I am not sure presenting the text in PDF format is helpful either, as reviewers will probably want to interact with the Word document as I have.

I hope these comments make some sense. Please don’t hesitate to get back to me if they don’t.

Best wishes, Moira

P.S. Here is my Google Drive document with annotations:

Best wishes, Moira 23.11.19.
In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Peter Mellett -
Jack Whitehead University of Cumbria November 2019
Update of the paper published in the Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 19, No.1,1989, pp. 41-52
Greetings Jack

I have read Moira's review and do not wish to revisit here the points that she has already made. I agree with her that the format of the paper should adhere to the current EJOLTS norm.

My first thought is that this paper is timely and should consolidate and refresh the thinking of all those who call on "Whitehead 1989" as a pivotal supporting reference in their living-educational-theory research accounts.

My second thought is to note that the 1989 paper was accepted for publication by a mainstream academic journal – the Cambridge Journal of Education – and satisfied the standard blind review processes of the time. Quite a coup, considering the implications for 'education research'. However, in conforming to the typographical norms for printed papers, the title was set in upper case, which obscures the current distinction between Living Educational Theory and living-educational-theory.

Looking at the contents of the 1989 paper, I believe that it cannot claim to be a living-educational-theory paper because it is not an account of an individual's educational influence – but it can claim to be a Living Educational Theory paper, in as much as it lays the groundwork for the legitimacy of the novel approach to educational research that we now all know and love as LT / l-e-t. The 1989 paper certainly has had an educational influence, but it did not set out to describe that influence. So far as your 2019 paper – the "update" – is concerned, the question is whether it is an account of your living-educational-theory research enquiry or whether it is an account of your enquiry into Living Educational Research.

In the light of these initial thoughts, I shall review this 2019 paper and ask myself if it now constitutes a living-educational-theory paper and is a contribution to Living Educational Theory. Concentrating on the question-headings from the Rubric for focusing EJOLTs review conversation (draft 310317) as a yardstick:

1. Is there sufficient detail for a reader to understand the value-based explanation of the author for their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others and the learning of the social formations where they live and work (their living-educational-theory)?
Yes – In describing and explaining the foundation of living-theory research as a values-based activity, you, as effectively the 'primogenitor', are also setting out your claim to have educational influence on others and on social formations. You were moved to found the principles and practice of living-theory research through the imperatives implicit in the way in which you describe your attempts to live out your values associated with freedom, democracy, justice and truth. Under these circumstances, you are also providing a values-based explanation for educational influence on your own learning through describing and explaining the evolution of living-theory research within your own thinking (with your commitment to personal knowledge) over the intervening 30 years.

Let's now get all the non-contentious Rubric focus questions out of the way:
2. Is it potentially comprehensible to a wide audience?
3. Where context-specific language and jargon are used, are they clarified?
6. Is the normative background of the author and their work clear?
7. Is there sufficient detail for the reader to know enough about the author to understand their account?
8. Are the author's' explanatory principles and living standards of judgment clear in this paper?
9. Has a reasonable and well-reasoned argument been made and has the author critically and creatively engaged the literature?
Yes to all.

I now turn to numbers 4. and 5. which for me are problematic i.e.
4. Is there sufficient evidence to support all the claims that are made?
5. Are there sufficient details of how the author has validated their claims?
First of all, I am not sure how to distinguish between the two – but I am holding to the words 'Claims', 'Evidence' and 'Validated'.

Your chief claim is stated within the opening section (my emphasis):
"I revisit the [1989] paper in order to share my present living-educational-theory as an explanation of [my] educational influence in my own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of the social formations that influence my practice and understandings."

The chief evidence of educational influence on the learning of others is contained in the paragraph that follows the one above:
"In 2019 I can provide the evidence, from Universities around the world, that such explanations of educational influences in learning have received academic accreditation."

However, you then go on to say:
"What I have done, using the hypertext facility enabled by EJOLTS, is to add links to the 1989 text below, that engage with the issue under discussion and update it with my 2019 insights as I continue to generate my living-educational-theory."
... and also:
"... to share my present living-educational-theory as an explanation of [my] educational influence ..."

The 1989 paper was concerned with a description and explanation of Living Educational Theory. I regard this 2019 paper as not so much a living-theory account – i.e. an account of your living-theory research – but more a paper that consolidates and develops the reader's understanding of the practice and principles of the genre. The 'educational development' of Jack Whitehead leading to educational influence on himself is more implied than explicit.

This is the point at which I feel the Rubric for focusing EJOLTs review conversation finally breaks at its seams when applied to this paper. The Rubric is designed to interrogate the contents and structure of a paper that is claiming to be a living-educational-theory research account. It is not clear to me how this paper validates that claim. It is what its title states – an update of a paper written and published 30 years ago (that went on to act as the foundation for a new form of educational research).

If you make clear from the start what sort of paper this is – and it is not a standard EJOLTS account of a living-theory research enquiry – then I say it is ready for publication. It can then also act as a template for those following on who wish to enquire into the nature of l-e-t / LET itself.

A round-about response, mostly tentative and speculative but, hopefully, an additional layer within what the others are saying.

Love Pete

In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Jacqueline Delong -
Hi, Jack. This is a significant paper for those of us in the Living Theory community and those outside and wanting to come in. I am not using the rubric because it doesn't fit what is a paper about Living Theory. It describes and explains the development of your thinking over the last 30 years and I found it enlightening.

I find the hyperlinks awkward. I understand the logic of using them but going in and out of the paper disrupts my thinking and understanding. I wonder what inverting it, as Moira suggests, would help.

Should you have referenced your writings with McNiff? It needs an abstract, key words and some formatting changes.

I am happy to help in any way and to expand on any of these points. I am recommending for publication.

Love, Jackie
In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Jack Whitehead -
Dear Moira, Jackie and Pete - many thanks for your reviewers' comments. I have restructured the paper and amended its contents in the light of your responses. Looking forward to your next responses.
In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Moira Laidlaw -
Hello, Jack. Please see my annotated version of your new draft at: Could you let me know that you can access it?

I really do love the paper now. It reads far more fluently in its current iteration and I didn't feel I have to keep going backwards and forwards in order to follow what you were saying. Indeed, it flowed so well for me that I was gripped by it and carried along by it. I am convinced of the claims you make. I believe it is a powerful contribution to your own living-theory, but also to Living Theory. It is an important paper and it needs to be published. I am recommending it for publication if the following minor points of presentation can be dealt with.

There are some formating issues you need to polish - See for details. For exmaple, look at the presentation of your references, size of main v. minor headings, physical presentation of paragraphing, punctuation for quotations over 20 words, and some inconsistency in the use of particular words - eg. you write 'enquiry' mostly, but sometimes 'inquiry'.

These are very minor and in no way diminish the power of this paper. I look forward to seeing it published in the next edition of EJOLTS.

Warm regards, Moira
In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Jack Whitehead -
10th December 2019 - many thanks for your responses. I've responded to all of them. Here is what I think is my final draft.
In reply to Jack Whitehead

Re: Jack Whitehead's review of 30 years of Living Theory research

by Peter Mellett -
Good afternoon Jack

I am satisfied that the paper in its latest iteration is ready for publication. As others have noted, I think that it will prove to be as seminal in the future as the 1989 paper has been for the past 30 years. In this respect and with their eyes to the future, it is likely that your reviewers will never be wholly satisfied!

I now look forward to reading other author's l-e-t papers from this point onwards that do not simply drop in "Whitehead 2019" as a passport to acceptance, as they have done in the past with their almost obligatory nod towards "Whitehead 1989". I shall certainly not accept a bald "Whitehead 2019" in any future EJOLTS papers that I am tasked with reviewing, looking instead for actual critical engagement with the extensive and comprehensive 'meat' that is in this paper.

Love to all