Published papers

How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?

Picture of Sally Aston
How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Monday, 29 June 2009, 11:30 PM
I am glad to have this opportunity to share my work and I look forward to reading the reviews.
Sally Aston.
Margaret Farren
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Margaret Farren - Tuesday, 30 June 2009, 10:51 PM

Hi Sally,

Thanks for submitting your paper to EJOLTS.  The reviewers will post their response to your paper before the deadline date of July 14th. I hope you will find the review process helpful.

Best Regards,


Picture of Ladislav Bognar
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Ladislav Bognar - Monday, 13 July 2009, 3:56 PM

Dear Sally,

I’ve finally found some time to read your article. I’ve been quite preoccupied with preparing a conference which will be held in September in Požega (Croatia) about teachers’ creativity. When I read your article I recognized it as a specific kind of teacher’s creativity with which the best way of teacher’s action research is being done. My special joy was a fact that it was done in the initial teacher education because I believe that future teachers in their practice do not apply much of a theoretical knowledge, which they get in the teaching process, but that they imitate their teachers more by looking how they teach. In the courses that you have developed together with your students they have got an excellent model, which they can use in their future practice.

In the first part of your article you connect your approach with Freire and other theoreticians who suggest an active role of the student and that teachers learn together with their students. At the same time you show that you are very informed about these teaching approaches and that you have very clear attitudes towards them. It is excellent how you demonstrated Freire’s banking model of education by video clip. All your theoretical considerations are illustrated with rich reference. I always think how you English speaking people are happy because of resources.

In the second part of your work we can read very correct and detailed explanation about your activities in the classroom and we can see the whole process of changes. The table shows what kind of changes you made in the first and second phase of enquiry, and the two graphs show what changes have happened at students’ level of awareness of the fair trade issues and the environmental issues from the beginning to the end of the Food Technology course.

At the end, after using critical friends and validation group, you conclude: “I know ways to influence learning in terms of increasing knowledge, understanding, awareness and critical consciousness of some aspects of global citizenship though design and technology.“

My opinion is that all what you have done is an excellent work very useful - for you and your students in the first place, but for society too. When your students become teachers they will have rich experience for their activities with children and they can share values that you affirm in your pedagogical practice. I agree with you that your work will impact other people who are connected with these issues but especially the teachers who can get inspiration to change their own approach that â€not only empowers students by giving them the knowledge and skills they will need to function in the larger society as critical agents but also educate them for transformative action…in the interest of creating a truly democratic society’ (your cite of Dewey).

I have some suggestions for little corrections:

  1. Your text is very readable and the video clips that you have included are useful for better understanding of what you are trying to explain. My suggestion is that you decide what videos are necessary and really important for your article and to exclude the others.
  2. Similar is with references; today we have too many books and other resources and we need to have criteria for selection. My suggestion is that you add in references only the books that you have cited in the text.
  3. In the table you have three rows and the third is named “General”. My suggestion is that you change this title and choose another which will explain the changes in teaching process better.
  4. You have one table and two figures. First you named “Figure 2” and second you named “Figure 4”. I think that this is a mistake.

It was my pleasure to read your very interesting article and I my suggestion is that it can be published in EJOLTS.

With the best wishes,

Ladislav Bognar

Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Wednesday, 15 July 2009, 8:36 PM
Dear Ladislav
Thank you so much for your feedback and very helpful comments regarding my paper. I am very pleased that you enjoyed reading it and have recommended that it can be published in EJOLTS with a few changes. I was particularly pleased that you thought it represented a 'special kind of teacher's creativity'. I will wait to hear the comments from the second reviewer then get to work on improvements.
With best wishes
Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Monday, 10 August 2009, 9:27 AM
Dear Ladislav,

I apologise for taking so long to sent you the resubmission of my paper. I have addressed the four suggestions that you made.

1.. i have removed some clips and selected the ones I feel are most useful
2. I have only included references in the reference list that I have cited in the text.
3. I have made adjustments to the labels in the table to be more specific about the areas of focus.
4. I have relabelled the figures correctly.

The second reviewer Moira Laidlaw has recommneded that I make more significant changes to my paper in order for it to be published. I have therefore restructured it in line with her recommendations and added more direct evidence to support my claims. I hope I have still managed to write a paper that you are happy with too. I attach the resubmission to this email.

Thank you again for taking time to read my work and for your helpful recommendations.
With very best wishes
Sally Aston
Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Moira Laidlaw - Wednesday, 15 July 2009, 5:49 PM

Dear Sally, I have been invited to review your paper. I am delighted to have been invited and will get back to you within a couple of days. Having read through the paper quickly just now, (as Dr. Farren has only just invited me) I found it very interesting indeed and am pleased to be given the opportunity to read it in greater depth. Watch this space!

Warmest regards, Moira Laidlaw  smile

Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Wednesday, 15 July 2009, 8:41 PM
Hi Moira
Thank you for letting me know that you will be reviewing my paper. I have found the first review very useful and look forward to reading your comments when you have read it in greater depth.
With best wishes,
Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Moira Laidlaw - Thursday, 16 July 2009, 12:52 PM

Dear Sally. I am really pleased to have had this opportunity to study your paper in some depth. It has been a delightful morning here in Flamborough (East Coast of England. Have a look at the following url for pictures of where I live –*:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGLL_en-GB ) I think you’ll agree it’s absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe I’m as lucky as to live in a place where like this.

Anyway, to the point. I shall give you my feedback here in three parts. First some analytical points, followed by observations on the technical aspects of your paper. Finally I shall summarise my points and make recommendations. I have also appended your paper on which I have made some ancillary comments. I hope they are helpful as well.

Analytical Comments:

p.1 Very clear beginning, with a cogent sense of purpose, aims and objectives. It gives me a structure and lens through which I hope to read the paper. I really like to be invited into a paper in this way, because it’s rather like sitting at a warm fire and reading a favourite novel again.

p.2 I like the way you ally your values straightaway, and make the point that education isn’t value-free. Not neutral. It is, as Jack Whitehead has written and shown throughout his career, a value-laden practical activity. The idea originally comes from Paul Hirst (1966). To believe that education is not neutral gives it then the epistemological and ontological requirements that you allude to at the beginning, as indeed, I believe anyone must, who sees this point, because once it is seen then it becomes an imperative to behave in particular ways. I am enjoying this paper very much so far.

I am wondering, however, why there is no sense of you in this so far. By that I mean I wonder why you don’t tell us a little more about yourself. You have all these really marvellous values, which you are rightly celebrating, but not about why you have them, or at least a little from your background which might help the reader to see the connections between you and your values. I think in this journal, that kind of detail is expected. NOT, I hasten to add, some sort of voyeuristic peep into your soul or anything like that. Simply what it might have been that has led you to the person who is being written about on this page. A sense of you as a living being with living values. This wouldn’t require more than a paragraph.

p.2. I also like the way you are balancing a rigorous scholarly literature-review with a feeling for what you’re doing. So many people’s accounts become sterile when the come to deal with the literature, whereas in fact, interacting with the works of others, is like interacting with a real person, because that’s the reality of it. You write like a dream, by the way.

p.3 You write: In Design and Technology, learners can be encouraged to integrate with their context as consumers and designers and think about how they may transform it by learning how choices they make can have an impact on other people and the environment. I look forward to seeing how you do this. It’s a very large ambition, but a very worthy one. Seeing how we all interconnect has been the work that Alan Rayner ( see works on, calling it inclusionality. I believe that your arguments here can be strengthened by an allusion to his work, as he has done some groundbreaking research into how it is that we are all connected, and comes up with conclusions (from different methods and paradigms) to your own insights. The choice of this inclusion is entirely yours of course.

p.3. What a delight to read, your paper is so far! The values that you espouse about emancipation, children acquiring the skills and insight to cope in the world and harmonise with it is very much the reason I went to China in 2001. There was a sense that unless children (and teachers) learned how to think critically about what they were doing, and their impact on the environment around them, then this world would really be in trouble. We look sometimes at the world as if we are separated from it, whereas in fact if we could only think about our interactions with it, then we wouldn’t need to set up all the agencies, for people to do it for us. We’d all be doing it. That’s moonshine, though. That’s not the way we think yet, but it’s coming. I wonder also whether some of the work of one of EJOLTS editors, Chet Bowers, might be useful here as well. See for information about that. It might help to broaden and strengthen your arguments about our responsibilities to the world we live in.

p.3 You use the word â€consumer’, and I wonder whether there is a living contradiction here (Whitehead, J. 1989 . Creating a Living Educational Theory from Questions of the Kind, â€How do I improve my practice?’ The Cambridge Journal of Education, 19(1), 41-52.) If someone is taught to be a consumer, what is their view then of the world and their attitude towards it? Doesn’t the word â€consumer’ rather divide up the world up into disposable parts? And that’s clearly not what you are wanting to convey to your students, I assume. It may be a slip of the pen, or a slip of the mind, but I think it needs some sort of explanation, or a change of vocabulary. The jargon that has entered the language of education – drawn from fields of human experience in direct contrast to the values of education – from spheres that value commerce over people, for example. The word â€consumer’ has ugly connotations, and I think it needs either changing or explaining, because otherwise its existence in your paper is a living contradiction.

p.4. You write: These values are ones I share, and they influence why I felt committed to undertaking this research project. I became increasingly concerned that these values were not being realised sufficiently in my practice. This is really interesting, Sally. I wonder why there isn’t a little more here about you. It’s a tantalising insight into your values (which are crucial, because they decide everything you do in your working life and in this paper) yet you are strangely not quite here.

p.4 Under pedagogical concerns you give us a url for Freiere’s banking model of education. I do hope you’re going to give us some similar forms of evidence from the students themselves, as this is such a powerful form of persuasion, as you clearly realise from giving it to us here already. I am eagerly anticipating reading on. And under the â€collecting data’ heading I read now with similar anticipation for later on.

p.5. you give us an ideal insight into how to collect data, how to triangulate, and how to ensure rigour and reliability. I want to read on and see the students’ comments and their learning-development being displayed for us to consider. I am also excited to read about your own comments from your journals and any other source you choose.

p.6 you write: This form of internal dialogue has helped me to develop my ability to think at a deeper, more critical level, and therefore make more considered judgements before taking any action. And here I am beginning to wonder. So many comments that are telling me what you are going to do or did, and I wonder that a leap of development in you has taken place and yet there is still no direct evidence to substantiate any of it. If you are going to show us this, then I wonder at the organisation of this paper in which you say what is happening, what will happen and what you will make of it before there is any evidence to show us that we can take your word for it. Don’t get me wrong. I feel in my bones that you are telling the truth, but that’s not the issue here. It’s a question of academic, scholarly and ontological validity. I have, so far, after long deliberations about method, yet to see a single example of this. And when you claim that you are thinking at a deeper and more critical level and that you are able as a result to make more considered judgement, I need as a critic of your paper, to see some of this. It’s got to the point when the cart and the horse are becoming transposed and the load’s gone missing!

p.6 onwards. I took actions to improve my practice. What and how? You have told us what methods you were going to use, but practice is messy and cannot be partitioned off in the way you seem to be doing it here. Your paper is constituting a serious living contradiction in which you appear to be holding up a model of rigour and method, but I have yet to see anything inside it. You give us graphs and tables, and yet I don’t see how it happened. In a living theory there needs to be people, real people, not representations on graphs and tables. I am not scorning at all those kinds of data gathering techniques, as I think the more different types we can encourage, the more likely we are to see the real person. Your paper is a model of form, but I don’t see the life in it. A case-study might be the answer to this. It is a form (and to my mind the most important form) of evidence. Real people saying real things about real happenings. If you reduce people to graphs and tables, then this is not living theory. I am not splitting hairs. The kind of rigour that is necessary to bring life to the written word in an action research enquiry, in other words to represent people as they represent themselves, is incredibly complex and requires more than a formula, because people are complex and messy. They are not reducible to tables and graphs. And I know you know that, but your paper is giving us what I believe to be a false representation of how it really happened and what you stand for. Things in an enquiry don’t happen in a neat way. If you represent everything to us in such a way, then you are actually not giving us the whole picture. It’s like not putting yourself wholly into it at the beginning, so that we cannot see you as you work the magic. And there is magic there, but by not representing it and yourself as clearly and as messily as you might, the magic becomes trickery and that’s absolutely not what you mean. I know that for certain and I am not trying to denigrate what you are doing. I am simply saying that there is more real life in your paper, than you are letting us see, and this is the Journal of Living Theories.

p.8/9 You begin at last to give us the actual words of people you worked with, but by this time, the degree of structure in which you are casting these people has become throttling. I can’t hear their voices through your words. You are obscuring them. Is this what you meant to do? I think you need to reorganise aspects of this paper, so that you don’t take us through the whole method before you give us the real people. Let the people, and you, become the guidance for this representation, not the representation the structure for the people. The emphasis is mistaken in my view. That’s all.

p.9 You write: Entries in my reflective diary and resource files demonstrate developments in my learning about issues in world food trading, linked to my respect for social justice. This influenced improvements I made to my practice, such as adding fair trade ingredients as a consideration for all decisions made by participants as consumers or designers and introducing a role play game to raise awareness of fair trade issues. I am becoming a little concerned about statements of this kind, in which you say you have done something but the process – the life – of the enquiry is almost entirely absent. You need to show us, demonstrate your trustworthiness (Kincheloe, J. (2003). (Second Edition). Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment. New York: RoutledgeFalmer). By that I mean that assertions in any research need to be substantiated for the research paper to be held as valid in terms of answering the question: Do I believe this happened because there is a body of evidence that shows me that it is very likely to have been the case? I can’t see it here and it worries me. I am SURE you have it somewhere, but it needs to be here, in order to breathe the life into the paper that was so promised at the beginning.

p.10. Under â€discussion’ you describe the evidence and that’s a mistake. Evidence needs to be direct, otherwise there are several problems:

  • Is the writer giving us the full story?
  • Can we trust the writer?
  • What direct evidence might have convinced us more of the validity of this paper?
  • Why has the writer chosen this method of representation?

p.11. You write: I believe that I have developed a more critical and emancipatory pedagogy where participants are critically engaging in their learning experiences. I regret that I cannot see that. You haven’t given me proof of that, and although I accept that in human research, â€proof’ exists within different parameters than that expected in scientific research. We expect a richness, a detailed and variegated and triangulated commentary from those people who are the subjects of the research. You have not done that here sufficiently to be able to make that claim here and for me to believe you. I mean believe you in that research-validity way. I don’t mean I don’t believe you. I do, but that’s not sufficient here. That’s too subjective. Actually, if it’s any consolation, you had me hooked straight from the beginning, because of your insights about emancipation and the importance of critical thinking. I knew we would get along as colleagues, but that doesn’t prevent me seeing that this paper needs more. It’s got brilliant, and I mean brilliant potential, but it’s not there for me yet.

p.11. You write: Using the above values as living standards of judgement of my practice, that’s a really interesting phrase. My underlining. It needs a reference to my doctoral thesis (Laidlaw, 1996) in which I inaugurated the idea of developmental values as the living standards of judgement by which I judged my work, but also in this context you need to give some explanation as exactly to how you’re using this idea. In my notes on your paper I give a full reference for the thesis.

P.11. You also write: I believe that the significance of my research lies in my capacity to theorise my practice. And this gives me the most concern. What are you theorising on? It worries me that the way you have presented the data has fallen back into a different paradigm, one of the disciplines approach, in which values were held to be crucial, but the people holding them not so significant. And that seems to me to be what’s happening here and it worries me. I cannot yet call this an answer to your question about contributing to student-teachers’ critical awareness, because I haven’t seen the student teachers. They are not real to me, and yet you seek their emancipation. This is a powerful example of a living contradiction to my mind, because your work espouses empowerment to others, yet the subjects of your research are kept almost entirely muted and theoretised. If you want to contribute to this journal, then the rubric at the homepage is crucial for you to take particular note of: The values we are thinking of are ontological in the sense that they are used to give meaning and purpose to the lives of individuals. We are particularly interested in publishing explanations that connect a flow of life-affirming energy with living values such as love, freedom, justice, compassion, courage, care and democratic evaluation . Those are, of course, just words. In order to be able to do this, a researcher in this field needs to show how this is done. And that doesn’t mean a simple and linear description of a process. It means that the players in this field are given life through your ability to represent them. If we â€use’ people in our research, we are automatically rendering them less powerful than ourselves.

I think the brilliant work that Branko Bognar is doing in Croatia with teachers and their students is very well worth your attention. Have a look in particular at the ways in which he and his co-author on the paper I am referring to (see, enable the pupils to speak and shape the meanings, both epistemological and ontological in the processes of becoming more fluent in such research. Particularly stunning is which shows a pupil, Anica, showing how she has done her action research to a group of her peers – a validation meeting. It has subtitles in English. Look at her vivacity, her self-empowerment, her self-confidence, how she shines with life. That’s what’s missing from your paper. The level of sophistication required to enable such a flourishing of empowerment is very great, but there is something in the way in which Branko and Marica write about their students that shows a different level of engagement with living values, which becomes the standards by which we can judge the effectiveness of what we are doing. I fully believe that you have done something marvellous, but I can’t see it, or find it sufficiently in the text at all. Allusions to this work would strengthen your claims to be helping to provide a way to enable critical engagement from your students in matters which are so important to this current world.

Technical Comments:

It seems to me that you have not followed the Guidelines alluded to in the paper’s margin-comments. Without adherence to this, which is part of the House Style, and therefore unavoidable, I cannot recommend this paper for publication. The Reference-section requires a lot of work. Do look at the comments I made on Julie Pearson and Maria James’ papers, because I think nearly all the points are relevant to your paper. I am aware that this aspect of preparing a paper for publication is tedious and time-consuming. However, this should not be left to the copy-editors, but is in fact a rule of submission. It isn’t a flexing of muscles on EJOLTS’ part either, but it is a way of ensuring consistency, that enables easy access, particularly to those who are not first-language English speakers. It also presents a professional face, showing that care is taken over details and that we stand for something significant, that our work is worth being produced at a high quality of presentation. Just having papers any-old style gives both a bad impression and lacks the rigour that is necessary to an international journal. Adherence to these Guidelines is a condition of acceptance.

General Comments

I really enjoyed the first part of this paper because of the promise of it. I wanted, willed you, to be offering more evidence and became disappointed as I read on. The tenets of your paper are fine and noble (and no, I’m being anything but sarcastic: your paper’s values REALLY impress me), I just feel that I cannot see enough evidence of the people themselves. The living contradiction (Whitehead, 1989) of proposing freedom but imprisoning your students in the confines of your words, almost entirely, not showing them as real, makes me doubt the validity of your claims of how you are using the values of emancipation, social justice, understanding critical consciousness, awareness and so on, to become the living standards of judgement for your practice. If I judge you on your own claims, then I cannot recommend this paper in its current form for publication, because it seems to me, that for you the words â€living standards of judgement’ are just that. I mean in the way you write. I don’t think you don’t understand the words more profoundly and spiritually, than are shown in this paper.

I believe this paper could be a tremendously important to knowledge and theory, to show how emancipatory values have helped student-teachers to become more critical of their own actions and see how their actions impact on practice. However, I don’t think you show this, and in its current form I must say, my overall judgement, according to the EJOLTS standards, to be found at: is mixed. The five categories offer two that seem to be appropriate in this case:

2) ACCEPT with modification - But needs further work as indicated in the review;

4) RESUBMIT, WITH SUPPORT: The author will be offered reviewer's support if they wish to revise the paper.

I have decided to go with

2), Accept with modification, but needs further work as indicated in the review,

but with a few reservations. I feel there is a great deal to do to enable this paper to become a living document, but I also know that there is tremendous potential here that I don’t want to dampen. I am trusting you to do the work if you really want to get it published, and that’s both technical and integral. I won’t be able to recommend it for publication unless you do. However, I also recognise that the Editorial Board reserves the right to make the final judgement on the papers reviewed. I am simply judging it to the best of my ability.

I hope I haven’t dampened your spirit, Sally. I honestly like the promise of the paper and want it to be published. This is entirely why I have written in such detail and length (hope it’s not overwhelming), but I am so glad I had your paper to read. I do hope that the recommendations I have asked for are amenable to you. I think you are developing an important researcher-voice and I don’t want to quell that, in the way your paper seems to be quelling the voices of your students.

With respect and warmest wishes,

Moira Laidlaw, 16th July, 2009.

Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Wednesday, 22 July 2009, 10:36 AM
Hi Moira
I have just returned from a short break in the Yorkshire Dales so have not yet had time to read through your review in depth. However I thank you for reviewing it so thoroughly and giving such detailed feedback. At first glance I note that you identified some strengths but there are a number of aspects to address so will respond when I have time to consider and reflect on your review and decide what changes I will need to make to improve my paper.
With best wishes
Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Monday, 10 August 2009, 9:58 AM
Hi Moira

Thank you very much for your extremely thorough and detailed review of my paper. You made some very useful recommendations. I have been working on it to offer a new structure and introduce much of the evidence earlier. I have added a great deal more direct evidence and looked at Branko Bognar's work in Croatia which is inspiring. Unfortunately I do not have any video footage of my students but can see how valuable this is and will be keen to video my practice in future research. Hopefully you will feel that there is much more of a student voice in my work now. I had no intention of quelling their voices I assure you!

I have also included much more about myself and my background. I hope this isn't too much now but could easily cut it down if necessary.

I take your point about the word consumer. I was using it in the true sense of the word in that we purchase and consume (i.e. eat) food but I agree with you that the word can be interpreted differently nowadays so I have reworded the text accordingly.

I have referenced your work for living standards of judgement and I have adhered to all the submission guidelines.

The resubmission is attached and I look forward to hearing your response. I am away on holiday for a week but will check my emails on return.

With best wishes

Sally Aston

Picture of Moira Laidlaw
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Moira Laidlaw - Wednesday, 12 August 2009, 9:45 AM

Dear Sally.

What a delight to come back from holiday and read through your paper again! You have made tremendous strides with it, and I am very happy indeed to recommend it for publication. Your greater attention to students' voices, to the contextualising of yourself in the paper and to showing a greater developmental narrative, make absorbing reading.

I also applaud the effort you have made to prepare the paper more in the house style, as I know the time and effort this represents. Thank you for that!

Just a couple of minor details, however:

Bottom of p.12. I think you mean reflective diary, rather than dairy!

The margins should be straight/even throughout the paper.

I wish you all the very best in the future, and thanks for letting me review your work.

Warmest regards, Moira

Picture of Sally Aston
Re: How do I contribute to student teachers’ critical development?
by Sally Aston - Wednesday, 26 August 2009, 4:59 PM
Hi Moira
Thank you for having a another look at my paper. I have corrected diary (!) and adjusted the margins. The spelling errors that are being highlighted now are American spellings of words. Is it ok to leave as English? I hope so. I am attaching the new version and understand that it will now be proof read again by other members of the editorial board prior to publication.
Thank you for your guidance - this is a new experience for me!
Best wishes