Meeting Introduction

Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture
Meeting Introduction: 

Hi - Im Jack Whitehead the Chair of the Education and Learning Virtual Learning Stream for the 8th World Congress and this is my introductory note.

I'm making at least three assumptions about Action Learning and Action Research that I'm wondering if we share.

The first is that action learning includes a systematic action reflection cycles in which we express concerns about what we want to improve; we imagine possibilities for improving practice and chose an action plan to act on; we act; we evaluate; and we modify our actions in the light of our evaluations.

The second is a distinction I make between action learning and action research. What distinquishes action learning from action research is that the systematic enquiry is made public in explanations of learning that are open to public criticism and hence validation as contributions to knowledge. Action Research includes Action Learning, but Action Learning need not include making public explanations of learning for public criticism/validation.

My third assumption for the Education and Learning Stream is that we, individual action researchers, are making public our explanations of our educational influences in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of the social formations in which we live and work. Hence I'll be urging all participants to provide urls to our explanations of our educational influences in our own learning as we work and research to improve our practice and to generate knowledge.

I'm pleased to say that the Weekly Qualitative Report, Vol. 3, No. 26 June 28, 2010 has this to say about where I post the action research accounts of educational influences in learning: 

"Qualitative Research Resource of the Week Jack Whitehead's web site features a wealth of information on master's and doctoral students' action research writings as well as full-text examples of Jack's own work including his 'Living Educational Theory Approach' to action research. "

I do hope that you will contribute to the Education and Learning Virtual Networking Stream with your ideas, questions and/or challenges, additions and urls of your accounts. Looking forward to our conversation.  I usually sign off my e-mails with Love Jack - and here is why:

When Martin Dobson, a colleague in the Department of Education at
the University of Bath, died in 2002 the last thing he said to me
was 'Give my Love to the Department'. In the 20 years I'd worked with
Martin it was his loving warmth of humanity that I recall with great life
affirming pleasure and I'm hoping that in Love Jack we can share this
value of common humanity.

Professor Jack Whitehead                      
Liverpool Hope University        
Hope Park
Liverpool L16 9JD                     Email:

Visiting Fellow, University of Bath.            

See the Educational Journal of Living Theories (EJOLTS) at: 

RAYNER's picture

Evolutionary Learning

Bonjour Jack,


I hoping that my keynote address, 'Sustainability of the Fitting - Natural Inclusion and Educational Enrichment' can clarify the relationship between 'action reflection cycles' and a new understanding and logic of evolutionary processes in terms of 'the co-creative, fluid dynamic transformation of all through all in receptive spatial context'

You can find a paper anticipating my keynote presentation at




Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

Evolutionary Learning

Hi Alan - I do think that your idea of a 'co-creative, fluid dynamic transformation of all through all in receptive spatial context' helps to clarify the relationship between action reflection cycles and a new understanding and logic of evolutionary processes. In particular, in relation to my own research into the nature of educational theories, I think that it helps individual action researchers to develop a language for distinguishing new living standards of judgment in an epistemology for educational knowledge.






Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

Contribution to our global dialogue from Jean McNiff

The latest contribution to the global dialogue and influence of the Education and Learning Virtual Networking Stream is Jean McNiff's paper in the Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Research at:

Jean's account of 'Supporting Teachers Personally and Professionally in Challenging Environments' includes her work in supporting action research with teachers in the UK, Malaysia, India, Canada, the USA, Iceland, South Africa, Qatar, Israel and Ireland.

(do please keep your urls coming with your action research accounts on education and learning from different parts of the world)

Love Jack


Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

'I' and 'We' and the Titles in Education and Learning

I'm wondering about the omission of 'I' and/or 'We' in every title of the contributions to the Education and Learning Stream of the conference. If action research involves the action researcher in an enquiry into their own practice, with others,  shouldn't we expect to see 'I' and/or 'We' in the titles?


FERGUSON's picture


Pip Bruce Ferguson Teaching Developer University of Waikato Hamilton, New Zealand

Hi Jack

You raise a good point. In the case of the paper that Bruce and I have submitted, although the paper is permeated with self-reflective analysis of our own practice, we didn't include an "I" or "We" in the title. Thinking back, I'm wondering if it is the old Kiwi tendency not to want to blow your own trumpet? We have a horrific tendency in this country to cut down tall poppies, and self-promotion is frowned on (which is why our RAE-equivalent is so problematic! Best scores go to the best self-promoters!) Just a thought. Without going back and analysing, I can't say if any of my papers' titles have 'I' in the title.

Warm regards


Susan.GOFF's picture

Is this another "Return" of instrumentalism in education AR?

Hello Jack - yes this was evident to us when we were organising the papers for this stream. It's not the case with all the streams though.

I agree with Pip's thought - which implies to me the unconscious presumption of objectivism in the face of mechanistic and dehumanising organisational cultures. Its about survival, but paradoxically at the cost of humanity! When I have raised the matter of the active "self" in such settings, there is often great fearfulness in talking about first hand experience - even to the extent of having to work at the syntax to ground the discourse to a specific time and place rather than generalised decriptions. The person needs to be supported to value anything they have to say or think. In extreme situations, the idea of reflection is felt as pseudo therapy and self indulgent if not, as Pip says, self promoting. Systemically it passifies and invisibilises the self from the system - so that the "undiscussables" become the place of action - even harder to raise to visibility on AR terms. And if everyone does that then the dominant powers have nothing to worry about! I hope that this will be raised for dialogue and investigation at the Congress.

Susan GoffPresident

Jack.WHITEHEAD's picture

The omission of 'I' and 'we' from enquiry titles

I do hope that the omission of 'I' and 'we' from enquiry titles in the Education and Learning Stream will be raised for dialogue and investigation at the Congress - I'll also raise the issue at next week's conference of the Action Research University at Nelson Mandela University on Action Research: Exploring its transformative potential - see


Until action researchers place their own 'I's at the heart of their enquiries and knowledge-creation, together with others in forming 'we' questions, I'm not sure how the action research community will have a transformative influence on what counts as legitimate knowledge (in the Academy).  


Robin.McTAGGART's picture

I AND we

I think the 'I' AND the 'we' are always important — both together are always fundamental — action research seems shaky without individual and collective action and reflection  on the other. I am not sure that the implications of this require their appearance in titles however. I prefer titles that are euphonious, but perhaps that does not mean omitting I and/or we. 'I Left My Incoherences in San Francisco' may give us some hope.


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