Education and Learning Virtual Networking Stream

My blog is focused on facilitating a global dialogue that enhances the flow of values that carry hope for the future of humanity and my own through action research accounts of our enquiries into improving our practice and generating knowledge. I am thinking of enhancement in terms of increasing activity in our interconnecting and branching channels of communication with digital technology.

"Asking, researching and answering the question 'How do I improve my contribution to the world, and locally?' "

Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

Bob prompted me to develop my suggestion for the ALARA visioning activity for the item "actively working to make a contribution to the world and locally" so here goes.

My initial attraction to action research some 30 years ago was that it appeared to be the only form of research at the time in which the researcher could explore the implications of questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' I began my action research programme at the University of Bath in 1973 to see if I could rectify a mistake in the dominant view of educational theory. This mistake was in thinking that the practical, value-charged principles I used to explain my educational influence in my own learning and in the learning of others were at best pragmatic maxims that had a first crude and superficial justification in practice that would be replaced in any rationally developed theory by principles with more theoretical justification. Paul Hirst, one of the early proponents of the mistaken view of educational theory acknowledged this mistake in 1983.

I proposed the idea of living educational theory to overcome this mistake. A living educational theory is an explanation produced by an individual to explain their educational influences in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of the social formations in which their practice is located.

What I think the sharing of living theories does is enable individuals to account for their lives in terms of their educational influences in learning. Grounding the generation of living theories in asking, researching and answering questions of the kind, 'How do I improve my contribution to the world, and locally?', enables an action researcher to strengthen the validity of their explanation by subjecting it to the mutual rational controls of critical discussion (Popper's idea). I'm suggesting that the explanatory principles we offer in accounts of our lives flow with a life-affirming energy and values that are rarely represented adequately in paper-based explanations of practice. Hence I've been working with visual narratives in my explanations of my own educational influences in my own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.

Just wondering what you think of the idea that we could/should be sharing our explanations of our educational influences in learning as we explore the implications of asking, 'How do I improve my contribution to the world, and locally?'.  I'm in New York this week for the American Educational Research Association Conference with the theme of Research on Schools, Neighborhoods and Communities: Toward Civic Responsibility and then giving a keynote to the International Conference of Teacher Research this Friday (28th March) on Combining Voices in the Gifts of Living Educational Theories. The keynote is part of my contribution to researching the question, 'How do I improve my contribution to the world, and locally?'  I'll post it in the What's New section of http://www.actionresearch.net next week - the homepage comes up with this url, but the server is being upgraded so you can't access the resources from the web-space until next week. Looking forward to sharing ideas.

Love Jack. 

 

 

 

Dianne.ALLEN's picture

A response

Thanks, Jack, for posting this.  I have found it to be a very helpful overview of 'living educational theory', grounded in your experience, and the spelling out of the history of the initial conflict that created the dilemma for you.

As far as I understand Bob's question, and your response, this gives me some guide for what I am about, and how I might improve what I am about.  It doesn't quite give me a picture or vision for what ALARA might be in the future ... but that might just be an expression of what I have found most difficult in this whole exercise.

If I am engaging in improving what I am about, by understanding more of the practical and value-charged principles that I use to explain my educative influence in my own learning and the learning of others, and if all other members of ALARA are doing likewise, will there be something (and something else) that is ALARA's practical and value-charged principles generating influence (contributing, and contributing what) locally and world-wide? 

Dianne Allen KIAMA, NSW

Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

Dear Dianne - I like your

Dear Dianne - I like your question:

 

"If I am engaging in improving what I am about, by understanding more of the practical and value-charged principles that I use to explain my educative influence in my own learning and the learning of others, and if all other members of ALARA are doing likewise, will there be something (and something else) that is ALARA's practical and value-charged principles generating influence (contributing, and contributing what) locally and world-wide? "

 

I'm working with the assumption (it's open to question) that if ALARA members would help each other to generate and share their explanations for their educational influences in learning as they worked and researched to live their values as fully as they can, then we would be contributing to making the world a better place to be. I do stress the importance of seeing ourselves as knowledge-creators in our action research and I do see one of the distinguishing qualities of action research a desire to improving one's own practice.

 

Love Jack. 

 

 

 

Susan.GOFF's picture

Improving, influencing and learnng

Thanks Jack and Di

While I think the idea of improving what I do is a worthy one, it worries me a bit - how do I know if I am/have "improved what I do"? What I believe to be powerful learning for me might be excruciating losses to another - there are consequences on consequences and measurement cannot even begin to know beyond a momentary impression. It seems to me that the question of improvement flip flops between so many shades, depending on the value framework being used to make the judgement. We are reduced to "indicators" or ways of noticing differences which may or may not be telling. Perhaps they simply fragment the whole as we use them. Can we know we improve without making judgement or using measures? When I think I have learned something, I remain endlessly challenged to keep it foremost in my mind as I move from context to context, fearful that my movement between the famliar and the strange will summon habbituated responses from me which defeat that which I have learned (or my sense of improvement). I like the idea of improvement in terms of its embedded hopefulness and the power of hopeful influence that such a comitment brings to any system - including ALARA. However I would need to keep a humble and skeptical eye on the idea of things (me/my practices) improving - mindful of the conditionality of any claim (as Elyssabeth Leigh reminds us) and the partiality of any conscious knowing. So I am interested to ask you Jack and Di - how do you know/learn your sense of improvement? If you ever do know/learn this, does such knowing/learning have the quality of influence that you Di speak of? And if so, what does this suggest for ALARA's field energies should we take this question into our corporate heart?

Susan Goff

Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

Improving what I/we are doing

Dear Susie, 

 

"So I am interested to ask you Jack and Di - how do you know/learn your sense of improvement? 

 

Dear Susie - As I look at your question I need to distinguish How I know from how I learn my sense of improvement. My learning of values goes back to parental influence, early childhood and a recognition at the age of 23 that I was responsible for my own values. How I know improvements is related to the values-laden criteria I use to judge what I do. For example, last Friday I gave a keynote at the International Conference of Teacher Research in New York on 

 

Combining Voices In Living Educational Theories That Are Freely Given In Teacher Research

 

You can access this at: 

 

http://www.jackwhitehead.com/aerictr08/jwictr08key.htm 

 

 A video was made of my presentation and on viewing it, together with reading my paper I could see a marked improvement in this presentation over others I have given. The integration of the video-clips at the beginning of the presentation to communicate my meanings of a gaze of recognition, a relationally dynamic awareness of continuous movement and a life-affirming energy, were better than previous presentations - I could judge this from the affirming responses I received at the end of the session. For the first time I set out a new idea in relation to the generation of living educational theories, that they could be generated within the living boundaries of cultures in resistance. In the keynote I reference a paper I gave two weeks ago at the Cultures in Resistance Conference in Manchester where I extended my cognitive range and concerns with this idea, for the first time. I'm seeing this kind of extension in cognitive range and concern as an improvement in the growth of my educational knowledge. In the presentation I also provide evidence of my educational influences with teacher-researchers I'm tutoring on their masters programme here in Bath. Their use of visual narratives, including video-clips of their work with their pupils, enable them to get closer to communicating the meanings of their embodied values and understandings than other forms of representation. They acknowledge my influence in enabling them to see the potential of these forms of representation. These are some of the ways I know that my learning is improving.

 

 I find your question, 'How do I learn my sense of improving?' more challenging and complex. One way I do this is to express my concerns in terms of my values. I move through action reflection cycles as I ask, research and answer questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?'. I gather data as I act and I evaluate the influence of my actions in relation to my values and understandings of my influence in my own learning and in the learning of my students.

 

In the last section of the keynote I draw attention to the importance of recognition in the gaze of the other and give an example of a great violation of this recognition in the life of Gill Hicks when she was injured by a suicide bomber. I tend to judge improvements from the experience of living contradictions where I experience a denial of the values that I believe carry hope for the future of humanity.  I've tried to set out in the keynote the kind of evidence that seems appropriate for judging improvements from an appreciation of both the values one wishes to live and the experience of their denial in practice.  I'll pause here with a couple of assumptions that are open to question. I'm assuming that working together to improve our contributions both locally and globally to living the values we believe carry hope for the future of humanity will help to make this contribution.  I'm assuming that sharing and helping each other to strengthen the validity of our explanations of educational influence in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations (our living educational theories), is a contribution to making the world a better place to be.

 

I'm not sure if I'll be able to make the video of the keynote available on a streamed server, but if I can, I'll be able to use it as evidence in an explanation of my own learning as i seek to enhance my educational influence. Part of this evidence will be in the voices of those I am working with as I combine my learning with them, with their learning with me.

 

Thanks for the stimulating questions. 

 

Love Jack. 

 

 

 

 

 

Dianne.ALLEN's picture

Improvement and Influence

Susie,

I take your points about improvement and measurement, and learning and habituation.

It is a bit like finding that there is no way I can evaluate insightfulness in another's work ... I barely know it in myself. What others often nominate as 'insightfulness' in me I usually think of as fairly obvious to me - if it wasn't obvious to me I could not express it.

Influence: we do influence one another; and greatest influence will be likely to be when we are different from one another, enough difference to make a difference, but not too much difference to be incomprehensible. And it would be my experience that I am influenced, positively, by another when the difference that I recognise in another is also recognised by me as 'improvement' from where I am at, at present, however I evaluate that, and whether I can articulate that evaluation or not, and including my habituations, especially my habituations, if they can be changed to different and better habituations.

So if ALARA is a community of folk, who are looking to contribute, and sustainably, then there needs to be something that I can contribute to influence other ALARA members so that they become a little more like me to contribute in the way that I influence others, and there needs to be something that others in ALARA contribute to me, so that in some ways I am a little more like them and able to influence my world contacts with the changes that their influence develops in me.

 

Dianne Allen
KIAMA, NSW

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