You have asked me to respond to your paper, and I am pleased to do so. Thanks for the opportunity. You always help me to improve my own ideas, by offering explanations for what you are doing that enable me to work out explanations for what I am doing in turn.
I like the way you have written the paper, and I especially like the theme and metaphor of counterpoint. This is a beautiful metaphor, one that communicates ideas of the one in the whole and the whole in the one, as you say on your first page. I think this may be a theme that you could develop further at some time, to explain the interrelationships between people and the creation of which they are a part. Personally I would like to see an emphasis, or perhaps a new direction in your work, of showing the interrelationships between everything, as Bateson (2002) did in his work, only he never quite articulated the significance of what he was doing for the development of sustainable human practices to influence the sustainable development of an interrelated universe. I love reading the work of Bateson and other philosophers, who develop themes about interrelatedness, indivisibility, and iterative forms within self-recreating processes. My interests are more on the form of the processes; your interests, I think, are on the living manifestations of the processes. Both are needed and are complementary.
I would like to comment on your paper in some detail, because I think there are some interesting issues for discussion. Your paper, like the other papers that appear in the journal, have the capacity to influence thinking, perhaps on a global level, and so issues raised at this stage may enable those ideas to be communicated even more powerfully, and even enter into debates that influence the developmental history of ideas.
When I read and comment on a paper, I also comment on the language used to communicate the ideas. Perhaps this is from my background in textual work and copyediting. I have also learned from some excellent editors and copyeditors. My interest stems from an understanding that the form of language we use to communicate what we want to say is as important as what we have to say. When people engage with a text, they engage first with the text, not with the ideas that the text communicates. So the text needs to use forms that communicate the meanings of the words themselves. I am interested in textual work, which is part of the process of communicating work in action research, or any other area for that matter.
So I will now go through the paper progressively. You will see that I comment on textual issues as well as on the meanings communicated through the paper. Normally, when I respond to a manuscript, I would write my textual points direct onto the manuscript, but since this is a new form of review, offered dialogically to a discerning audience, I wonder if I should also make this process of textual commentary explicit. I have checked with you whether I should respond only to themes, or also to matters of language, and you said to respond to both. So here goes.
In your rationale, last sentence, you may want to insert the word â€lifelongâ€™ to read â€my account of my lifelong educational development.â€™ I appreciate that â€educational developmentâ€™ implies a lifelong process, but it may be worth emphasising this aspect.
The theme you introduce in your â€Forewordâ€™ about counterpoint is a highly original idea that has now entered the literature and can be accredited to you. As I read I was reminded of David Bohmâ€™s (1983) idea of a holographic universe. Bohm is one of those philosophers I mentioned above, and, given that you later cite Zohar, a writer who shared the same interests as Bohm in showing the inclusional and transformational nature of human relationships within a relational universe, it may be worth introducing him here.
In the sentence beginning â€With Bachâ€™s fugues â€¦â€™ I wondered whether â€artâ€™ was meant to be â€artâ€™ or may have been â€actâ€™, i.e. â€act of Creationâ€™. The idea of â€the art of Creationâ€™ is also a meaningful and lovely idea. In the last sentence of this paragraph, where you speak about â€employing the art of the dialecticianâ€™, yes, you are doing so, but it may be worth going on to communicate the idea developed by Jack Whitehead, that dialectical forms need to be incorporated within inclusional forms. You actually go on to speak about inclusional forms on the next page.
In the next paragraph, beginning â€It isnâ€™t possible â€¦â€™, I would like to read the idea of values linked with standards of judgement (the sentence after â€more comprehensible to you, the readerâ€™), which appears in the next paragraph. You were one of the pioneers of the idea of values transforming into living standards of judgement.
A small point arises in the paragraph beginning â€I will therefore show â€¦â€™, when you say â€in the learning of the social formationsâ€™ I would delete â€theâ€™ otherwise as your reader I am left wondering which social formations you have in mind.
In the paragraph under your section heading â€Backgroundâ€™ I would query three small points: perhaps to speak about â€curricular processesâ€™; to use the word â€professionalismâ€™ rather than â€professionalityâ€™; and to replace â€kidsâ€™ with â€childrenâ€™ or â€young people.â€™ This last point is showing my personal prejudice for avoiding colloquialisms in written texts.
In the sentence beginning â€After ten years I came to Bathâ€™ I would suggest inserting â€homeâ€™ after â€didnâ€™t want to go backâ€™, otherwise you may imply that you didnâ€™t want to go back to Bath.
In the paragraph beginning â€In 1994 I administered â€¦â€™ â€et al.â€™ needs to be in italics. In this same paragraph an interesting point emerges, when you say â€I didnâ€™t teach English; I taught children.â€™ I wonder if you taught both, but the grammar is an issue. You taught English (direct object) to children (indirect object).
In the same paragraph, you write â€that is embedding democratic processes within the learning and accounting processes.â€™ I paused here, because the form of words, and the meanings you are communicating touch on my own interest in understanding the nature and processes of learning. As I understand it, learning is an individual process, something that goes on in the mind/brain of the individual. One person cannot learn on behalf of another. Learning must be done by the learners themselves. So I pause at the idea of learning being democratic. I do agree that the conditions of learning are important, and perhaps this is where the idea of democratic forms in the conditions of learning has significance. When I see you teaching, I see you arranging the conditions of learning, in the form of encouraging democratic processes that deliberately aim to nurture individual learning. (Having said that, I know that some of my best learning has arisen out of situations of conflict, where I have had to invest enormous amounts of mental energy into making sense of what is going on, so valuable and transformational learning emerges.)
In the same paragraph, I would suggest you write â€śMcIntyreâ€™s (1991) idea of â€constrained disagreementâ€™â€ť (I do like that idea. I wish all the institutions I work in would adopt the idea of an educational institution being a place of constrained disagreement. All too often they emerge as institutions which are grounded in relationships of asymmetric power.)
In the paragraph beginning â€My first ten years â€¦â€™ you say, â€but thatâ€™s not enoughâ€™, and I wonder, â€not enough for what?â€™ Your next sentence reads, â€They were a groundingâ€™ and again I ask, â€a grounding for what?â€™
In your section â€Tutoringâ€™ you use the acronym â€ARâ€™. I think you know my ongoing emotional response to acronyms. I share this with George Orwell, who refused to use acronyms for reasons of style and also to communicate the idea that if a word is worth using, it is worth spelling out in its entirety (see Crick 1980). My concern over â€ARâ€™ is that the form tends to reduce action research to a reified object, and I think this is problematic practice, communicating the idea that texts should speak about â€action researchâ€™ as an object of enquiry, rather than speak about the processes of doing action research. I am reading a book about fans and science fiction, and the author uses the acronym â€SFâ€™ throughout, and this is fine with me as a shorthand form, because science fiction is a literary genre, whereas the idea of action research is in a different realm of discourse. You should, however, put my discomfort down to my own prejudices about the use of acronyms to replace the written word.
In the sentence beginning â€After this point â€¦â€™ replace â€those learningâ€™ with â€that learning.â€™
In the section â€Bringing in the Social Context of my workâ€™, three paragraphs down, replace â€takenâ€™ with â€taking.â€™
In the paragraph noted (a), I worry about the word â€pragmatismâ€™ and would prefer to see â€pragmaticâ€™, since â€pragmatismâ€™ tends to be used to refer to a philosophical movement, whereas I think you are communicating the idea that what you did at the time was practical.
In the paragraph beginning â€It is difficult to distinguish â€¦â€™ you use the form of words â€Living Educational Theory Action Research.â€™ I seem continually to complain about this form of words, which is used by a number of people â€“ sorry! â€“ because I think it communicates an idea the reality of whose manifestation does not exist. There are issues of conceptualisation and issues of syntax and semantics. There is conceptual slippage in the form of words, rather like saying â€Activity theory action researchâ€™, which lacks meaning. It is syntactically and semantically problematic since action research takes place prior to the generation of living theories. And back to capitalisation â€“ as responsible action researchers I think we need to find forms of words that communicate the processes of theory generation, and avoid communicating these forms as reified. The reification is strengthened by the capitalisation of letters. What I am saying is not simply a matter of aesthetic nicety. It is actually about being extra-special critical of how the use of language communicates ideas and concepts. I do not recognise a â€thingâ€™ called â€Living Educational Theory.â€™ I do recognise practices that show the processes of people communicating what they are doing as they theorise as part of generating their living educational theories. I think, as a community of action researchers who are communicating the processes of generating their own living educational theories, we need to be extra-careful about our use of language in putting terms into the literature that will then become part of the emerging canon, and so set precedents for others who will cite our work, set out in what we hope will become prestigious journals such as EJOLTS, as exemplars of the most important contemporary thinking in the field. I think we also need to take special care, knowing that there are people who would like to place banana skins in front of our feet.
In the paragraph â€During my placement â€¦â€™, insert â€inâ€™ before â€the New Curriculum (NC)â€™ â€“ why â€(NC)â€™? You do not use the term later in the paper. Interestingly, in the same paragraph, you write â€The New Curriculum and Action Research.â€™ I can understand the use of capitals in â€the New Curriculumâ€™ as a proper noun. To capitalise â€Action Researchâ€™ turns the term into a proper noun also, and so contributes to the reification of action research, which is a shame because I understand action research to be a living process.
In your reference to Perrement you need to take out the apostrophe â€“ (Perrement 2005).
In the paragraph beginning â€The State Friendship Award was conferred â€¦â€™, where you speak about Dean Tianâ€™s inspirational form of leadership, you could return to the idea of counterpoint. I think you could develop this idea of counterpoint to communicate the idea of leadership as a process of collaborative relational forms of working, where â€leadershipâ€™ may be construed as enabling others to make their contributions in their own way.
In your sentence â€I now turn to the practical steps I tookâ€™, I wonder, â€steps you took towards what?â€™
In your paragraph beginning â€In Guyuan we wanted â€¦â€™ I wonder about the use of the word â€pursuitâ€™. I am not sure that we pursue action enquiries. I used to work with a person who wrote â€prosecute action enquiries.â€™ I just wonder about the form of words we use, and the images we communicate through those words.
Similarly, in the paragraph beginning â€At Bath Universityâ€™, I question the word â€problematecisedâ€™, and would suggest â€problematised.â€™
Just to note in the next paragraph â€With Hayleyâ€™, the word â€wholeâ€™ should possibly be â€whoseâ€™.
And in the next paragraph beginning â€I wanted to praise herâ€™ I think you mean â€her actions that day in class were a turning point â€¦â€™
In the paragraph beginning â€It is a weakness of this account â€¦â€™ I do not see the account at all as weak in any way. It is especially strong, in my view. The fact that you have limited data, or a particular form of data is not a weakness. An interesting philosophical point emerges, about the idea of improvement. David Hopkins said â€You donâ€™t have to be sick to get better.â€™ A text does not have to be weak to be strengthened. The form of a thing can be seen as its current best quality. That best quality can be improved, but that does not mean to say that the quality was not good for the point in time at which is emerged into the world.
In your next paragraph, you know what my comment is about â€ARâ€™, and â€pursuing ARâ€™, so I will not elaborate further.
In conclusion â€¦
Moira, I have responded mainly to and raised issues about editorial points here. I think the paper is strong, articulate and persuasive, and I commend you on producing such a fine paper for this introductory edition. I hope other people will follow your lead and find ways of communicating their work in what could be a highly significant contribution to educational research and educational theory.
Bateson, G. (2002) Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press.
Bohm, D. (1983) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London, Ark Paperbacks.
Crick, B. (1980) George Orwell: A Life, London, Penguin.