I am presenting my paper here for review and looking forward very much to reading your ideas.
What a privilege to read this account of your ongoing attempts to improve your practice within an "alien" context. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account which clearly indicates your learning and ability to create and sustain the caring and open relationships within an environment that could be experienced as inpersonal by students and tutor. Your honesty was refreshing and your ability to self-critique is evident. The learning process that you explain in this article could influence others who are increasingly having to incorporate technology and blended learning experiences into their teaching.
I do have a few comments that you may wish to think about.
Abstract: the sentence in the abstract
This was in the wake of substantial recognition for my contributions to rural education whilst on voluntary placement in China from 2001-2007. - I wonder how relevant this is for the abstract since it is not really describing the text?
In the preface:
[LW1]It was not clear to me how the two went together? For me, the relevance of the health problems and pain that you experienced is that it forced you to try another approach to teaching. I think you capture the link in the sentence:
The pain has played a significant role in my life but the emphasis throughout is on showing in what ways the changes have impacted on my educational theorising and practices.
the pain certainly impacted on your practices as you were limited in what type of work you could do, but I do not see the link between the theorising and the pain, more between the technology and the theorising?
You list your values in the introduction:
harmony, clarity, truth, love, emancipation and hope [LW1] more fully into the world. Whitehead, (2011, 20
[LW1]I think it would have been good to make more of these as living standards of judgement – you definately embodied them in your practice, but maybe make it more explicit? and in the validation section which could do with strengthening
[LW1]Not clear what the 3 categories are – at first I thought you were referring to the definition - distress, being exposed to a new environment and what ??? – now I see that you explain the categories below and that they relate to "three apparently dissimilar aspects " so perhaps make this clearer?
I find that you give very detailed explanations and footnotes that I did not always find necessary, and they perhaps detracted from your core account e.g.
From 2007 to 2010 I was on state benefits related to my condition and had applied, and been accepted for, the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) weekly payment. I was on Incapacity Benefit as well, which would continue for a year after finding employment (as long as I didn’t earn over £91 a week with the OU). The DLA was exempt for any deductions made in accordance with my earning capacity, and all my medical prescriptions were free. I felt grateful after China to be living in a welfare state. In August [LW1] 2009
 Disability Living Allowance is a monthly stipend given out on two grades according to the extent of disability. I was eligible for the higher rate of £49.80 a week. This would accommodate taxi-fares to hospital for physiotherapy treatment which was happening on a weekly basis, as well as other living costs. I was told that this allowance would continue for as long as I needed it. This, however, wasn’t the case. See later in the paper.
[LW1]Is this detail necessary? Can you not just refer to your dependence on state grants?
Also when you acknowledge Marie for paying for you - I did not think that this fitted in well with the article. I think it would be more relevant to capture your feelings engendered by relying on the state, relying on friends etc? To me, it speaks to your lack of autonomy, and that you have to base your decisions on the outcomes of grant applications etc?? or maybe I am wrong?
I was also in contact with my ‘line-manager’, who is always helpful whenever I present him with a problem I don’t know how to solve!
Again this is rather emotive and not really adding to the paper
The article is very long and could be considerably shortened if these references were removed. I don't think you need to include the appendices, you could include just a link? and similarly with the extracts from the online learning platform - this section becomes very dense and technical and loses the reader somewhat.
[LW1]What is the relevance of this? not sure how it fits in with your teaching? so you mean you contacted students personally? This sentence is in the wrong place, you describe what you did again a few lines later?
Can you explain more why you did this? what values/theory prompted you, apart from your "instinct"
[LW1]So was it a setback? the content of the section focuses more on your resilience and your success in this challenging way of teaching. I do not really see evidence that it set you back
Earlier I wrote that, 'overcoming the shortcomings has become an opportunity for greater creativity and engagement with unforeseen possibilities in the pursuit of responsible freedoms and the revitalisation of educational processes', and that 'the pain has played a significant role in my life as an educator but the emphasis [in this paper] … is on showing in what ways the changes in my life have impacted on my educational theorising and practices.’ I hope that in this paper I have substantiated these claims to your satisfaction.
I think the validation section could be strengthened by referring back to your values and highlight the evidence that shows you lived them out, in spite of the pain and fear? Make it explicit also how your theorising has changed, it is clear how your practices have changed.
This was an interesting article and one that many will relate to in terms of techno phobia. for me, that should be the focus - how to overcome feelings of alienation caused by having to teach in a different way - in your context the pain was very relevant and the relocation from China, but the main learning for others I think will be the ways to use technology to enhance the humanising experience of education and to keep inclusional and life affirming values alive.
Thanks for letting me read it.
This whole section could perhaps form the basis of another article - is it relevant here? I know it relates to ongoing learning, but you have enough already for the one article?
In the last few months I have been working on the M.Sc. module, TU874, The Final Project, in which students conduct a small piece of development management research on a subject of their own choosing. There are no tutorials and all tuition is handled through email, telephone and Skype conversations. There are 4 TMAs and a final dissertation of 10,000 words. I feel it is in this module that I am at last coming to terms more with the necessary fusion between thoroughness in content-knowledge
Hello Lesley. How wonderful to read your comments on my paper. I am currently in Germany, and returning to England tomorrow. I will write a fuller response later in the week. And many thanks again. I really appreciate the time and effort you have taken in order to give a detailed response.
Until then... Moira
I am posting this review of your paper on behalf of Sarah Porter who agreed to act as the second reviewer.
I look forward to the final publication of your article!
Moira - there is a breath and depth to your manuscript that is astounding! Most people in pain merely experience their pain. They never take it to a conceptual level. They are aware of how pain impacts their life, limits their life and occasionally enriches their life. But usually pain simply truncates and eclipses their being. But you, Moira, have transmuted your pain in a Hermetic vision that corresponds to the other painful situations in your life: returning from China and learning a new technology. You have made so much sense out the muddle of it all.
As I too have experienced chronic pain, teaching in another culture, culture shock coming and going and groping for technological skills I can appreciate what you are talking about – to a point. I think you were masterful at confronting your situation.
I found your manuscript very long, but perhaps in your field it would be expected. I wanted to thank you for sharing your journey. Your incredible focus and drive is inspiring.
Reviewer for Moira Laidlaw's paper
I started reading this paper around two weeks ago, before work pressures forced me to abandon it meanwhile. However, I think this was valuable in the sense that I had time (in the 'cracks' as it were) to reflect on some of the points that you were making, and to link them to my own experience and reading.
First, I think your ability to weave together complex and, on the face of it, relatively non-connected events works very well. You have drawn on your Chinese experience to show both how you've related to students from other backgrounds, and how you have learned from their culture qualities such as perseverance in the face of difficulty. Secondly, your unfortunate experience of intense pain - something I cannot really imagine - seems to have both impacted on your ability to engage in certain kinds of work, but also to have provided you with a context in which you have reflected on and come to terms with the difficulties that can beset people in various ways as they work and study. Thirdly the interweaving of these experiences has reminded me how important it is that we as educators, researchers and practitioners of various types do share honestly about our strengths and weaknesses. I recall at one stage presenting a session on my own PhD thesis, where I talked about something in my practice that had not gone well. A business studies lecturer in the group castigated me for this - he said it diminishes the value of research to talk about what doesn't go well, as it reduces credibility. His expression was that "in business we bury our mistakes, not talk about them!" as he suggested that I do likewise.
However, to me it is this ability to talk honestly about what hasn't gone well, such as (in this paper) your initial experience of providing feedback that was too cluttered for some of your students to see how to go forward, or your stumbling with aspects of the online system, that encourages others to share. If we talk about what didn't go well with us, then perhaps other educators and students will be less inclined to fall down those kinds of holes.
The reflection that I have engaged in since reading the paper first has certainly got me thinking about the extent to which personal pain - be it physical, emotional or psychological - may approach the unbearable for those I work with, and to cut them more slack on the basis of this. I have also reflected on my own tendency to use terms such as 'dearie' and 'possum' (okay, I'm Antipodean!) and that this may be seen as unprofessional by students, although I've not had such feedback from them to date. And finally, I reflect on whether the sheer volume of feedback that I provide to my students may be overwhelming for them, or make it difficult for them to know what MUST and what MIGHT be changed.
Thank you for this paper, Moira, and for the encouragement it provides to other educators to think critically about their own practice. I did find the footnotes a bit 'over the top' at times, but recognise that you are trying to convey aspects of your context that may not be easily known or understood to people from other countries, and EJOLTS is an international journal. And your student appraisals are to die for - wish mine were always that good! I do hope that the remission continues into eternity.
Love (okay, it may be unprofessional but I'm saying it anyway!)
Firstly, I hope this is the right forum for my response, there's every chance that this is not the case and my apologies if I am clogging up the forum!
I've just started reading your article and finding it emotional and difficult to read. What strikes me is the commonality in our experience as educators and sufferers of chronic auto-immune disease. When you articulate your experience of fear and pain, and your particular use of Dickinson, I see myself.
Of course, this is not a forum for the chronically ill but for educators. For me, as for you, the fear is that my vocation is lost. I don't know when that became a dirty word but at some point we were discouraged from addressing our careers as vocations, and expected that, if they were vocations for us, we would practice for free.
My situation is slowly resolving itself after an intense, isolating and debilitating period with an uncertain future. What I do know is that, not unlike yourself, I will find a way to pursue my vocation in spite of any physical limitations I may experience and I will be a changed person, and therefore a changed educator because of it.
This is why living theory is important - because without it we fail to acknowledge our whole selves and the fullness of our experience as a catalyst of change in our practice. At this point in the article (and I am finding it genuinely emotive and difficult to read) I'm wondering what the opposite of fear is. Is it hope? Or is it bravery?
Thank you for a wonderful article,