Hello Sigrit, I am delighted to offer a response to your paper. I hope it is useful. I think one of the great advantages of an open review is its transparency. I hope you will respond to this in any way you see fit. Whether or not you take on the comments that I make is entirely up to you. I would hope if you donâ€™t take them on, then we can have a dialogue about it that others may also want to join.
My first thought is that your topic about love might benefit from the inclusion of something to do with Eleanor Lohrâ€™s Ph.D. (2007): â€Love at Workâ€™ (http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/lohr.shtml) but I see no reference to it. I believe your own arguments would be strengthened by allusions to other living theories that are exploring similar ground.
I think your description of the concert and the music and the reasons for going really impacted on me strongly. I am, myself, more open to music than to any other form of art, and indeed, music means more to me than any other form of recreation or indeed learning. I found your description of the impact, most moving, because I have also experienced physical reactions to music â€“ those can be good or bad: it depends on the music. I like the way you evoke a sense of what it means to respect someone through your example. Itâ€™s very powerful and unusual in such a paper, but I like it unconditionally.
You ask whether you are in an I-Thou relationship in your actions? This needs a little explaining. The I-You relationship would constitute for many readers, particularly those who do not have a theistic faith, sufficient closeness for a warm relationship. I think you need to explain for me why this is necessarily an I-Thou relationship.
I am so enjoying this paper so far (on p.3 now) because of your openness. I wonder if this openness is what you bring into your relationships with students. If so, then I can see why you might want to call this experience love. I shall read on and find out!
When you write: I do not regard love and critique as opposites, or dialectical entities, rather I consider the constructive critique to be included in love as love seeks to see the other and influence the others learning and development into â€coming into the worldâ€™, and in this process constructive critique may be useful (p.3)
I wonder if you need to say more about love. Itâ€™s not a simple condition. The Greeks, for example, had many different kinds of love, which they perceived being aspects of the human condition. Scott Peck (2003), for example, cites love as being not a feeling but a state of mind in which one acts in the direction of oneâ€™s own or the otherâ€™s spiritual development regardless of personal feelings towards that person. Is that what you mean? I think you need to be very precise about this because itâ€™s a key point in your paper. And itâ€™s also fairly new as a way of thinking about how to act with students. There is the whole argument about professionality and being involved and what that means for working with students and other, less powerful people in prescribed roles and processes. Iâ€™d be interested precisely what you mean by â€loveâ€™.
I think where you show us wrestling with the questions, the dilemmas, the contradictions of your practice vis-Ă -vis your students, is excellent. These words really have for me the ring of authenticity. I remember struggling with such issues myself when I was a teacher-trainer at Bath University in the early nineties. I was worried, like you, about doing the right thing, but not wanting to impose, but on the other hand recognising that there were certain values and processes, which rally needed to happen for the student-teacher in order, it seemed to me, to result in student-teachers who could become autonomous and collaborative. A seeming paradox, but then it often comes down to that, doesnâ€™t it?
I would like to have a little more detail about the studentsâ€™ apparent satisfaction expressed at the top of page four: The background for this decision revealed that our students expressed satisfaction with the guidance they were receiving, they became confident essay-writers and everything seemed great. I would like to know what â€greatâ€™ means. I am sort of sorry for this comment. I remember teaching in a Bath school and being extremely fussy about the language the girls used in their essays or even in speech. If they said something was â€goodâ€™, I would cajole them into telling me precisely what â€goodâ€™ meant, because it could mean so many different things to different people. They got used to my style after a while (Laidlaw, 2000) but found it irksome! It got to the point when the word â€goodâ€™ or â€badâ€™ or â€greatâ€™ or whatever, were heard, the kids would go into a chorus of: what do you mean by â€¦?â€™ I imagine it was very annoying for the poor girl who had simply been trying to tell a storyâ€¦ However, I think thereâ€™s a serious point in all this. I think the way we describe qualities and values is crucial to our fullest communication with others, if we are going to use words â€“ and I am seeing more and more why the use of multi-media forms of representation are highly significant at bringing us closer to the values and qualities we are working with. However, if we are using words, then we have to be scrupulous about them. We need to ensure that we understand and that others understand the same about whatever it is we are discussing. Whoops. Iâ€™m sounding like the teacher in the classroom again. Sorry.
By the time weâ€™ve got to page five with the diagram (I am hopeless with diagrams, but found yours interesting) â€“ it expresses a great deal of information in a small space, I feel you are setting up your research base well, apart from what appears to be a presumption of what â€loveâ€™ and â€critiqueâ€™ mean precisely to you. I am inferring they are immanent within a process of development, but I am not sure and I would like to be sure. By letting me know I feel this would radically augment what already is becoming a fascinating read. I am so enjoying this. I have my cup of coffee hot and steaming by my side with cream (no sugar) and Bach playing loud on my laptop. I feel like a pig in muck (as they say in this area of the country! â€“ I told you it was a little crude up here!) I wonder as well that you donâ€™t have any proof, or allude to any proof of the studentsâ€™ feelings. You state this is how it was, but I would like to see how the students expressed that because, again, itâ€™s about precision of expression and narrative. You are really interesting me as a narrator, but sometimes I feel that youâ€™re not giving me enough of a picture for my imagination to fill in the gaps. I believe to a degree with Collingwood (1922) who in his autobiography wrote that we gain from a text what we ourselves bring to it. And I am happy to have my reading of a text guided by you, but if you want me to follow your path and not my own, then you need to be more specific. At least for me. That may not be a general opinion. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see what other people think.
You ask this guiding question, the one that clearly infuses the whole paper: how may the notions of love and critique be tools for improvement of our guiding-practice, without as yet, as far as I can see, giving me a sense of these â€toolsâ€™. And a quibble about language here. And this isnâ€™t a patronising comment from an English-as-first-language speaker, because your command of English is absolutely not a barrier to understanding and my comments are not made in that way. No, itâ€™s simply that you use the word â€toolâ€™ for love and critique. I know what you mean â€“ at least, my imagination fills in the gaps! â€“ but I find myself rather repelled by the word â€toolâ€™. My understanding of love â€“ and this is why precision in your paper is fundamental â€“ is that it can never be a tool, which is something that only has â€use-valueâ€™, like an object. It is finite. Love transcends, to my mind, any sense of use-value. One cannot â€useâ€™ love, one can only be infused by it and be used by it. My understanding of love is that it is a process of becoming. It can be a feeling, but this isnâ€™t, (I believe), its most powerful emanation. I believe in its highest incarnation it is the aspect of human existence that spurs us to goodness and wholeness and integrity and harmony. It isnâ€™t a tool. I know I may seem to be badgering you on this point in your paper, but words mean something! They are not simply tools either, but emanations of spirit and character. They are alive â€“ I believe. When we use language in such a way â€“ i.e. to describe something like love as a mere â€toolâ€™ then we denigrate the thing itself. It hurts my mind to read such a descriptor. I have always felt like this about language, but it is only my opinion. However, if you ignore the more spiritual aspect of my response here, I still think there is a semantic quibble. Love is not a tool!
Perhaps critique can be a tool, but I am not sure of its precise meaning (again, sorry!) Critique guided by love may be a tool, but love itself? O.K., Moira, enough now. Move on!
On p.6 I love this distinction: Ăstergaard (2006) used the expression: â€śthe loving and critical eyeâ€ť whereas for me it was about the loving and critical encounter (Buber) Thatâ€™s a point superbly made. I do empathise with that, Sigrit. I remember well with my postgraduate students the distinction I made through evolving a critical friendship with my students and encouraging them to forge such relationships with their own students (see http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsajw/preserve.shtml). This meant I needed to be very clear about how I approached any form of evaluation of my studentsâ€™ actions. I agree with you that this is a very important step in the process of teacher-education with student-teachers.
p.6 you write: It is about going over the feedback text to see if I have affirmed the student by showing I have tried to really understand his or hers aims, I am wondering as well whether this is sufficient: challenging the student in a wanted way. I think youâ€™ve hit on a really important aspect of what it means to be an educator. I can only answer this question: What does it mean for me to be an educator? in my own way and through my own values. I am a little worried when I read the above. What would happen if a student-teacher did something that was really not only antithetical to your values, but something really many socially-recognised norms of â€educationalâ€™ behaviour? What, for example, would you do if a student-teacher, or any teacher come to that, hit a child? I had just such a situation once when observing a student-teacher on teaching-practice. I have also seen it as an habitual response in China from a teacher to a student who gets, shall we say, an answer wrong. I once saw a woman-teacher striking a child in a corridor full of his peers for getting in her way. Another time I saw a teacher hit a child to the ground because he could not answer her question and she thought he was being rude. He wasnâ€™t in my opinion. And, also in my opinion, such a situation is not simply an opinion, it is a value, a rock on which I develop my practice. Violence is always wrong. In answering the question above: What does it mean to be to be an educator? I have to answer by saying that it means something quite specific. I have a notion of education, of what it is that I serve. And I see myself as serving the needs of education for a better world. Education, to me, is that which augments human development (see Laidlaw, 2001). So when you write, a little glibly it seems, about affirming a student, I challenge you to affirm a student who hits a pupil, or ridicules one, or uses his/her power to exploit a child. Again, itâ€™s a question of rigour and focus. Not everything, surely, is affirmable, and education means something.
And now my coffeeâ€™s gone cold. Damn! O.K., press on.
When you write: The love in the encounter is to do with respect . It is about â€śnot reducing the other to the content of my experienceâ€ť according to Buber, I can only shout YES! I so agree with that comment and feel that if this is what you are doing, then I would simply love to see you in action. However, I donâ€™t see the evidence for this. Where are examples of this with your students, dialogues, video-evidence, and so on. I am hearing your voice, talking about endorsing your studentsâ€™ voices, but where are they? If they are going to happen later, say so, otherwise I am left hanging and not understanding quite what you mean.
You write on page 8: When students are not having a good progress and my teacherly self says: what does â€goodâ€™ mean?
When you write: In an evaluation she worded her frustration with this useless course that she could not learn anything from. I would like to hear her real words, not just reported words. If one of your aims in this research is the emancipation of your students, which seems to be what you are hinting at throughout, then surely it is about respecting your studentsâ€™ authentic voices. The whole paragraph dealing with this case-study is too brief. This journal wouldnâ€™t want you to make your paper so concise that the meanings are lost. If you could give more detail on this particular student (plus giving the young (I am guessing) woman a name, even a pseudonym) this would help me to understand what the process of love and critique looks like.
Interestingly you write: Of course that is to one extent her responsibility. If she chooses to shut her mind that is her business, but my concern was to see if there was anything I could do to prompt her to connect. My responsibility is to be aware of â€the otherâ€™ and act on the observation, I am wondering if I agree with you. I am not sure I do. Surely it isnâ€™t simply to see what is there as your responsibility, but it might be to alter what is there, or to offer the possibility of so doing. Love can help people to change. Indeed, it is often the only thing that does â€“ in my opinion. I get the feeling that youâ€™re hedging around the really crucial issues. What is oneâ€™s responsibility and what is the responsibility of others, is a crucial question in education. It may be the primary one (Laidlaw, 1996). However, when you write:
Showing the student I could see she was not benefiting from the course became a kind of critique in the sense that it was a serious judgement of the situation, and holding up alternatives made her choice of remaining partly disconnected conscious.
I find myself wanting to find out far more. There is a book in the above quotation and I do feel let down. I want to know far more. What makes something â€a serious judgement of the situationâ€™, for example? I am thinking of Winterâ€™s (1989) six principles of rigour, and Jack Whitehead et al (1992, at (http://www.jackwhitehead.com/jack/cycle3.pdf). What I feel I am lacking here is an insufficient compass by which to navigate your landscape and feel left in the dark without a torch in the landscapes of your students!
On page 8 as well you write: One should think that praise is an expression of love, but it is not necessarily so. Iâ€™d be very careful about making statements that suggest a universality when you donâ€™t present the evidence for it. I, for example, would not suppose it for an instance now. I used to, but learned quickly that praising everything left me nowhere to go. And people stopped believing me after a while. I do believe, however, there is a way of critiquing and drawing attention to something in a way that doesnâ€™t give rise to feelings of inferiority, and that, in my experience, is extremely important.
And again, whereas I do believe what you say happened in your practice, my belief isnâ€™t sufficient. In order for this to convince in an academic sense, then I feel you need to add a great deal more detail to what you have written. I want to see more of the process externalised and made visible so that I can make a judgement about its efficacy and educational merit. At the moment I am simply reading a brief description and thatâ€™s not a case-study. If we see case-study as a singularity (Bassey, 1983), it necessarily needs illumination (Parlett and Dearden, 1983) in order to help us understand, not only context, which you have given us, but people, actions, processes, dialogues and so forth. EJOLTS isnâ€™t worried so much about length as quality. And by quality here, I am meaning those values which you are exploring and developing towards what you all agree is improvement in your practice and in the practice of others within its social contexts.
On page 9 you write: As the teacher-educator group has put our practise up for enquiry, the action research awareness and skills have developed. This is a very big claim indeed. Massive. This would take a book. Can you substantiate all this: â€practiceâ€™, â€enquiryâ€™, â€action research awarenessâ€™ (what is that?) â€have developedâ€™. I think you need to look extremely carefully at what you have written there and see what of it you can substantiate. And then youâ€™ll need to go back to the text prior to this to set this up as an aim, or at least in the abstract say that this was all developed. I donâ€™t see that you have systematically written this aspect. I, at least, donâ€™t follow it. It doesnâ€™t seem to follow on precisely enough from the previous three â€case-studiesâ€™.
Again on the same page. You write: they are supposed to have training in becoming resources. How awful! Are these people people, or tools, mechanical, inert, without life, and subject to the use of others? Sorry to harp on about this, but I feel very strongly that the language we use doesnâ€™t simply describe, it also creates. In this country at least, there is, for example, a way of describing situations in healthcare and education that deny, to my mind, the very heart of what is being discussed. People are seen as repositories, or, in one situation, old people were being â€warehousedâ€™ as a description of their healthcare provision by the local health authority. By labelling people in this way, we take away their individuality, their humanity. I cannot abide it, and feel in my heart that such expressions are truly denigratory and objectivising.
The example you use on page 8 is lovely. I would like to see far more of that. I am sure from what you have written, that the warmth of your engagement with your students would have yielded a lot of comments, and thus you should be able to find far more direct substantiation in the studentsâ€™ own voices for the claims to improvement you are wanting to make.
You write: The tools were brought to life through the lived experience, and brought back to inform lived experience; holding the power to transform practice. Looking inwards and out again has created that power. First, the tools you are referring to are love and critique I gather (and Iâ€™ve already told you my misgivings about this terminology), but tools are also referred to in this article as the people themselves, so you need to be very careful here. However, this bringing to life is something I think that lies at the heart of this article, and, I suspect (although I donâ€™t see sufficient evidence of it) in your practice. I would like a lot more about this â€“ what it means, what values are associated with it and so on. I think this would strengthen the living nature of your practice that you allude to at the beginning.
You then give six ways in which you have learnt and yet I would maintain that I only have your word for it, which isnâ€™t sufficient. Your words need, like anyone elseâ€™s, triangulation for them to be ratified in a sufficiently academic and scholarly and rigorous way. I donâ€™t feel that the text before these six points has enabled me to follow your reasoning here and say, yes, I can see that. I canâ€™t see much at all and this is frustrating for me.
Aesthetically, I like the way you return to the composer and the early values you talked about. This gives the paper a roundness and integrity that appeals to me. It mustnâ€™t, however, deflect me from my primary concern in reading the paper that there isnâ€™t enough evidence to convince me, but I feel itâ€™s there, lurking around the perimeters of your thoughts and reflections. Iâ€™d like to see it, please.
My thoughts are, after reading the paper several times, that I like the promise of it. I think what youâ€™re writing about is important and can become something valuable for the wider educational world. However, I have serious reservations about the degree of validity the paper attains. It is not, for me, rigorous enough, but I believe in the promise of its validity and reliability! I feel that it can become a paper for inclusion in EJOLTS, but I, as one reader (I am not talking yet as the chair of the editorial committee, but as an interested reader) donâ€™t find enough in it of substance to think that it merits publication yet. I would really like it to be revised and resubmitted and I sincerely hope, Sigrit, you will do this.
Best wishes, Moira Laidlaw, January 15th, 2007.
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Kok, P., (1991), â€Rigour in an Action Research Enquiry,â€™ paper for the International Conference on Classroom Action Research Network,â€™ Nottingham University, April 19-21.
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