Welcome to our seminars and workshops. We hope you will find the following information helpful.
We are placing here some of our key ideas, and indicating where you can find further resources from our published work.
We hope the ideas and extracts below will act as prompts to begin our discussions.
First let us introduce ourselves.
Jack Whitehead is a lecturer in Education at the University of Bath. He has been working at Bath for thirty years. His main purpose there is to contribute to the reconceptualisation of educational theory from its propositional form to a living form. The evidence in the living educational theories of practitioner-researchers flowing through web-space from http://www.actionresearch.net justifies his belief that individuals can create their own living theories in enquiries of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' Living educational theories are constituted by the explanations that individuals produce for their educational influence in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.
Jean McNiff is Professor of Educational Research at St Mary's University College, London. Her main purpose there is to influence the development of new institutional epistemologies that celebrate the idea of practitioners as theorists of their own practices. She also works internationally, encouraging practitioners in a range of educational settings to find ways of influencing new forms of practice through the development of new forms of theory. Her work carries implications for thinking about social justice, peace education, and the development of sustainable international relations.
Some of our key ideas are as follows.
Jack has been developing this idea since the 1970s. At that time, he rejected a view of educational theory as a system of propositions, and began developing the idea of theory as a living form of practice, something that people do, as they offer descriptions and explanations for the way they work, live and learn.
Here are some extracts from key works that explore this idea.
From the front page of http://www.actionresearch.net
In a living educational theory approach to action research, individuals produce accounts or explanations of their educational influence in their own learning in enquiries of the kind, 'How am I improving what I am doing?' in contexts where they are seeking to live their values more fully in their practice. The living educational theories of professional educators usually explain their educational influences in the learning of their students and can also explain educational influences in the learning of social formations. You can access these ideas further from www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/writings/livtheory.html
á Placing the 'I' at the centre of educational enquiries – How do I improve my work?
á Experiencing oneself as a living contradiction when one's values are denied in practice
á Engaging in systematic action-reflection cycles that involve the imaginative response to living contradictions in the creation of action plans to improve practice; acting and gathering data on which to make a judgement; evaluating and modifying concerns/tensions; planning and acting in the light of the evaluations.
á Producing explanations for one's own learning that include democratic evaluations of validity.
The above ideas are described in some detail in the most widely referenced of Jack's papers:
Whitehead, J. (1989) Creating a living educational theory from questions of the kind, 'How do I improve my practice?' Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 19, No.1,1989, pp. 41-52. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from
á The use of multimedia in communicating the development of living educational theories.
The University of Bath changed its regulations governing the submission of research degrees in 2004 to allow the submission of e-media. Marian Naidoo's doctoral thesis I am because we are (A never ending story). The emergence of a living theory of inclusional and responsive practice, presented a video-narrative to communicate the meaning of a passion for compassion in the creation of a living theory. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/naidoo.shtml
The Jack Whitehead's Writings section of http://www.actionresearch.net includes the following presentations by Jack and Margaret Farren on the use of multimedia communications in the development of living educational theories with their living and inclusional standards of judgement.
Whitehead, J. (2005a) Living Inclusional Values in Educational Standards of Practice and Judgement. Keynote for the Act, Reflect, Revise III Conference, Brantford Ontario. 11th November 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.jackwhitehead.com/monday/arrkey05dr1.htm
Whitehead, J. (2005b) How Can We Improve The Educational Influences Of Our Teacher-Researcher Quests? Keynote to the ICTR Conference at McGill University, Montreal, on 16 April 2006. Retrieved 14 |February 2006 from http://www.jackwhitehead.com/ictr05/jwictr05key.htm
Farren, M. & Whitehead, J. (2005) Educational Influences in Learning with Visual Narratives. Paper and Video-Conference presentation by Margaret Farren and Jack Whitehead to the 5th DIVERSE International Conference on Video and Videoconferencing in Education, 5 July, 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2005 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/monday/mfjwwebped2.htm
á Demonstrating the validity of educational theories by transforming ontological values into living critical standards of judgement
The above keynote to the Act, Reflect, Revise III Conference and the Farren and Whitehead (2005) presentation both focus on the process of transforming ontological values into living critical standards of judgement. In addition to these papers Jean and Jack presented the following paper at a symposium of the British Educational Research Association in 2004.
Whitehead, J. & McNiff, J. (2004) Ontological, epistemological and methodological commitments in practitioner-research. Paper presented at the BERA 04 Symposium 17 September in Manchester on: 'Have We Created A New Epistemology For The New Scholarship Of Educational Enquiry Through Practitioner Research? Developing Sustainable Global Educational Networks Of Communication' Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003800.htm
á Educating social formations with living educational theories
Because all professional practices are intimately related to their social context and these context both influence and are influenced by the actions we take, it is important to contribute to the education of social formations. One of the ways we can do this in the creation of living educational theories is to create cultures of enquiry that support the production of these theories. Jacqueline Delong has demonstrated how this can be accomplished within a District School Board in Canada.
Delong, J. (2002) How can I improve my practice as a superintendent of schools and create my own living educational theory? Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/delong.shtml.
Jack's focus on the importance of educational social formations through the production of living educational theories can be viewed in the e-journal Action Research Expeditions.
Whitehead, J. (2004) Do action researchers' expeditions carry hope for the future of humanity? How do we know? An enquiry into reconstructing educational theory and educating social formations. Action Research Expeditions, October 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.arexpeditions.montana.edu/articleviewer.php?AID=80
Since the 1970s, Jean has been developing the idea of the generative transformational nature of evolutionary processes. She sees educational enquires as just such a process. In her view, each beginning holds its own future already latent within itself, and each living form has the transformational capacity to transform itself endlessly into new versions of itself. She sees this process in educational action research, where people ask questions of the kind, 'How do I improve what I am doing?' and imagine new forms of practice that are transformed versions of previous practices.
The idea of generative transformational processes is grounded in the value of freedom. This theme permeates Jean's writings, and has led to new key ideas, including the idea of the generation of living theories of the practice of freedom. Here are some further developments of the core theme.
á The need for personal emancipation as the grounds for social emancipation.
This involves becoming aware of one's own capacity for internalising normative discourses and taking steps deliberately to emancipate oneself – see McNiff, J. (2005) 'Living with Foxes: learning about self, home and the other': A paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting Peace Education Special Interest Group Paper Discussion Session, Montreal. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from http://www.jeanmcniff.com/Living%20with%20foxes%20paper.htm
á Transforming social relations through the transformation of epistemological hegemonies
This idea has profound implications for the development of new organisational practices, which are grounded in the inclusion of the other, and new forms of organisational theory, where organisations are seen as constituted of the living relationships between people as they strive to achieve their democratically negotiated personal and social goals. The most comprehensive articulation of these ideas is in McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2000) Action Research in Organisations (London, Routledge).
Transforming epistemological hegemonies implies the development of communities of practice in which all are seen as equally competent and accountable for developing their living educational theories. This idea is developed in McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2005) 'Teachers as educational theorists: transforming epistemological hegemonies': A paper presented at the British Educational Research Association 2005 Annual Conference at the University of Glamorgan on the 16th September 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from the 'writings' section of http://www.jeanmcniff.com
á Developing an ecological perspective of educational theory
The idea of generative transformational potential provides the base for a reconceptualisation of theory as a living practice that is grounded in inclusional and relational ways of being. The best articulation of these ideas is in McNiff. J. (2004) 'Every Which Way': A paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting as part of the interactive symposium for the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices. Retrieved 14 February 2006 from the writings section of www.jeanmcniff.com
Jean's work is best accessed through the books she has co-authored with Jack Whitehead. The most recent are
á McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2000) Action Research in Organisations. London, Routledge.
á McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2002) Action Research: Principles and Practice (second edition). London, Routledge.
á McNiff, J., Lomax, P. and Whitehead, J. (2003) You and Your Action Research Project. London, Routledge.
á McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2005a) Action Research for Teachers. London, David Fulton.
á McNiff. J. and Whitehead, J. (2005b) All You Need to Know about Action Research. London, Sage.
á Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory. London, Sage.
á (Watch this space!)
You can find further resources on our websites.
Jack's website is http://www.actionresearch.net
Jean's website is http://www.jeanmcniff.com
You can contact us at our e-mail addresses:
Jack Whitehead: A.J.Whitehead@bath.ac.uk
Jean McNiff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for joining us today.