Re: CREATING A LIVING EDUCATIONAL THEORY FROM QUESTIONS OF THE KIND, 'HOW DO I IMPROVE MY PRACTICE?' 30 YEARS ON WITH LIVING THEORY RESEARCH
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
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  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.