Your paper clearly explains the educational influences you have developed in your own learning. You write how your work has empowered you to “ be no longer cast as a passive observer in an unchangeable process, but rather the key actor in the production of a better education system” (Byrne and Gallagher 2004 p31). And yes I can see that the questions you asked of yourself influenced the learning environment you created for your pupils. Indeed, the paper shows a desire to “openly proclaim” the core value of love, which underpins your educational values and beliefs of autonomy, dialogic co-enquiry and inclusion.
However, I find little of the pupils’ voices in your writing. This is in part due to the fact that I could not open the audio links. Yet, I think that your work could allow for a critical evaluation of the pupils’ comments and reflections, in light of what you reviewed in the literature on virtual learning environments and motivation to learn, and virtual learning environments and higher order cognition. Pehaps if I could access the audio links I could better relate to your work on the SOLO taxonomy or you may want to focus on your own learning only?
Thank you for sharing your paper, which I found both engaging and intriguing. Your inquiry question ‘how do I enhance motivation...among students’ drew me into your text at the same time as offering me a challenge of my own. And so my inquiry question as I read your paper became ‘can we indeed enhance motivation of others?’
I am therefore responding from this catalytic place in the main body of my reply, with an observation of some presentational issues listed separately. I would like to encourage you to address these before submitting your final version of the text.
It’s the shape of your paper that I find intriguing, and particularly the way in which your voice appears to change in the text. I have the sense that a significant shift happened for you through both the experience and subsequent reflection, and that this is mirrored by the strengthened presence of ‘I’ in the writing in the later pages. In this way the shape and tone of the writing embodies the very dualism of guide and co-learner that you are seeking to balance out.
I experience you in your role as ‘guide’ throughout sections 1 to 4, your authoritative voice clearly laying out both context and process. I don’t always connect fully with your writing in this form, perhaps needing a fuller explanation to enable me too to be a ‘co-learner’. For example, in the second paragraph of 2.1 you tell me that ‘many of the tools used in Moodle reflect the philosophy of social constructionism’ but I’m unable to absorb this as meaningful data without some brief signposting. There are other examples, and although you may intend the text to be read by a specialist audience it would be useful to hear your own interpretations of some of the theories and language you use. This is such an opportunity to share with us what you have learnt along the way.
And then in 4.8 you share a ‘dawning of a profound revelation’ and I sense I am hearing the voice of the co-learner. I believe I experience the tension between the two – and am curious to know at which point you yourself believe you achieve an effective and satisfying balance of the dualism?
As I re-focus on the inquiry question you have shared up front I find myself responding in the role of co-learner – and would like to better understand how you both experience and evaluate the motivation of others as an integral part of your practice. For the full action research cycle to be present in the paper I feel I need to be anchored in sharing your ‘real’ experiences, to walk alongside you as you develop your understanding with your co-learners and then to be invited to observe you as you return to the changed actions. I find I want to experience you more as an integral part of the research itself and wonder if in some way you might strengthen this aspect in your paper.
Finally, I would like to share a reflection on the explanation of your core educational values, summarised in 4.2. You describe these as being ‘the single most influential force at the root of my research’. Have you considered sharing these much earlier, possibly as part of the introduction to your writing, and so giving you the opportunity to track how you are embodying them as you move through the research? This could be a way in which you might enable the reader to truly share their significance for you, and to experience how they both advise and guide you in your practice.
Mary, my overall sense of your writing is that you are driven by a passion for your work that gives you both energy and clarity about who and how you are as an educator. I would therefore like to encourage you to re-read the text with a critical observer lens, to hold your inquiry questions lightly, and while allowing yourself to listen to your writer’s voice just make a final check that you are indeed sharing your ‘whole’ self.
Thanks again to both of you for your invaluable feedback. As I delved more deeply into your suggestions I began to appreciate just how accurate they were. I was struck by the realisation that in the bid to condense my initial dissertation (on which the article is based) into the appropriate word count, I had lost something of the true essence of my work and had somehow diverged away from my ultimate purpose. Your advice that I better incorporate the "pupils' voice" within my writing and the need that you expressed to "be anchored in sharing" my experiences were extremely well-founded.
With all of this in mind I have included a total of 23 links to audio clips, discussion forum transcripts and documents (primarily journals and personal reflections). I know that in my previous draft there were issues over some of the existing links working, but all of these should have been resolved. However, if you find you are still unable to access the links, please let me know and I will investigate the matter further. I also included additional explanatory text in instances where I felt that a greater deal of elaboration was required to better convey to the reader the true extent to which the study affected both my practice and the students which I teach.
You will see all of these aforementioned changes, as well as others, at a glance as they are highlighted by the reviewing tool in the margin of the latest draft of my attached paper.
Once again, thank you both for your suggestions. I hope that any changes I made have enhanced the overall quality of the article and that my latest version is true to your vision.
Mary Mc Mahon.
In reading your initial paper, I had a real sense of what Jack describes as one’s values being “our motivating explanatory principles ... assisting us to reign in our life- affirming energy”. However, similar to Jacqui, I wanted to better understand how you experienced and evaluated the motivation and learning of the pupils. Your revised version allows this.
I agree that when we try to condense a dissertation into a specified word count we can lose something of the true essence of our work. But I think this version has succeeded in showing a systematic reflection of your practice, as both you and your pupils collaborate to negotiate meaning that extends beyond the Leaving Certificate Biology course.
The audio links to the voices of your pupils are clear indicators of how you have increased motivation and influenced their learning. These “techno-savvy kids” enjoy the video animations of content they had learned in the classroom; indeed they enjoy working in the VLE as being “different to the usual class”. They appreciate the links to other web sites, including the link to the marking system as an exam preparation, and even submit work online. Their postings show that you have facilitated the nurturing of a community of enquiry. Your work now clearly evaluates the pupils’ comments and reflections, in light of what you reviewed in the literature on virtual learning environments and motivation to learn, and virtual learning environments and higher order cognition.
PS The only difficulty I had in accessing the links was with Journal 2; I did not have permission to access it on Google docs.
It has been a great pleasure to read the revised version of your paper – I havefound myself drawn into a very evident and human story of aspiration, reflectionand passion that has clearly signposted me through your journey. I haveparticularly valued the links to your reflective journal, and the inclusion ofthe very real voices of your class members. The cycles of action and reflectionstand out clearly, and I share your sense of joy as you reflect on Jack’sencouragement to “embrace who you are”.
I also sense your frustration as you realise that even though you have madegreat progress there is still a possibility that you have contributed to the exclusionof those pupils who have no access to the internet – and then find myselfechoing it as I fail to access the audio clips! If you could find a way tooffer these via a series of options it may go some way toward guaranteeing thatall your readers might have access to them.
I have felt both energised and enthused by your paper, and know that theevident motivation you feel for this work has in turn generated in me a senseof renewal for the passion I feel for my own practice. I appreciate that greatly.
Dear Bernie and Jacqueline,
Thank you both for your comments on the revised version of my paper. As I reflect on the initial draft I originally submitted for your consideration and compare it with the revised version, I cannot help but be struck by the extent to which my work has been immeasurably enhanced by your insight. Your feedback has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in the remoudling of the paper's content. For this I thank both of you.
Regarding the more technical side of things and the difficulties experienced by you in accessing some of the links...
Bernie, I believe that the link to journal 2 should now be readily accessible.
Jacqueline, I know you said that you had diffuculty in retireving the audio clips. I have been successfully able to do this on two different PCs so I am assuming that the issue has resolved itself. The clips play in mp3 format so maybe this is why you experienced some difficulty in accessing them?
I would greatly appreciate if you could let me know if you have any further difficulty with the links.
I'm a late arrival to this paper, which I have just found time to look at. Awesome work, and you have taken the reviewers' comments on board well. If you would like me to 'track change' some minor typos that still remain in the text, let me know...
Meanwhile, I propose to copy the link to this work to our Teaching Quality Committee. We are asked to bring examples of 'pedagogical innovation' to the table (for information rather than discussion). As our group includes representatives from both the Faculty of Education, who work with students in schools, and Science and Engineering, who teach biology, I am sure the work will be of interest.
Thanks for the sharing!
Pip Bruce Ferguson (New Zealand)
A very nice paper indeed. I enjoyed your presentation of the methodology and the section on validity. I found that very useful and is close to what I try to do.
This was particularly good:
"...Throughout the duration of the study, I called upon the observation and judgements of interested individuals to evidence my claim that my core educational values and beliefs were being adequately translated into my practice. Each of these individuals would have been explicitly aware of the ontological values and related epistemological values that were at the essence of the study. "
This I call the 'live peer test', where one uses extended peer review at a number of levels during a study.
Warmest and many thanks,
Dear Pip and Philip,
Thank you both for your warm words of encouragement. I feel very priviledged to have academics of your experience review my writing.
The entire open reviewing process has indeed marked a dramatic learning curve for me and my work. I am very grateful to have partaken in this process.
Pip, your kind offer to track any remaining typos within the text would be greatly appreciated.
Once again thank you for your time and support.
Mary Mc Mahon.
I have attached a new version of my paper which encompasses some referencing and grammatical changes that were very kindly bought to my attention by Pip.
Thank you all for your suppport and insight over the last few months. It has been greatly appreciated.
Mary Mc Mahon.