A beginning of an account of the Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) action research and inclusion group with a contribution from Jack Whitehead

Marie Huxtable DRAFT 2nd Nov 05


The B&NES action research and inclusion group started life September 04 and over the year has had a changing membership with each member having unique and changing relationships with the group. The progression of the group can be understood by its influence on those who have been involved and the contribution individuals have made in their turn. But it also feels as though the group has an identity and life that is independent yet shaped by those who have formed it. It is this account I would like to start with.

To give an account sounds rather as though the group is mine which feels very inappropriately egotistical. To give an account of the ‘group’ as a parent feels different. I don’t want to stretch this analogy too far but I would like to experiment with the idea to see if it helps me look in a way that is not egocentric but does enable me to acknowledge my influence and improve my practice while understanding that I am only a small part of the whole and it is an inclusional relationship.

The idea came to me after talking with Chris J recently. A parent has particular responsibilities and pleasures in nurturing and supporting the learning and growth of the other while recognising, respecting and enjoying the influence of the other in their own learning and growth. A parent knows that they are only one of many who influence the growth of the other but that does not detract from the special relationship they have and enjoy. The closeness and nature of the relationship changes and the other has a life beyond the relationship with the parent which in turn spores and influences other lives. The understanding of ‘parent’ is not restrictive. Some may be ‘birth’ parents others may be surrogate, foster, step or adoptive parents, and others maybe in-loco-parentus and you can have a whole raft of parents during your life. You can also parent many ‘others’, each contributing something unique but entwined.

My work seems to consist of the establishment (or giving birth to) and subsequent nurturing of many groups and connections. It has been difficult for me using other framings to recognise, acknowledge and understand my influence and hence improve my practice. Looking at my work as a ‘parent’ of connections, conversations, enquiries, learning opportunities… using a living educational theory and living values as standards of judgment action research framing offers me a different way of understanding how I am accountable. I have been dissatisfied with previous approaches to monitoring and evaluating educational practice in the field of ‘high ability’ and related interests such as ‘Thinking’, ‘creativity’, learning beyond the curriculum, and I am hoping through this experimentation I might start to develop a more appropriate framing. 

A first step is to see if this helps me give a useful account of my part in the B&NES Action Research Inclusion group.

The group comprises:

The group has many parents but the most significant from my point of view are Chris J and Jack and my account of the group and my part in it is bound up with the influence these two people have had on me. So, I am but one of many parents; other ‘parents’ may have a very different story to tell but perhaps telling my story will help me and others add to the understandings of the ‘group’, what it offers and invites, and how I can help it grow benignly to make a significant contribution to our attempts to live satisfying, productive lives.

Like all entities the ‘group’ has its roots in the history of its parents that stretch before its inception, conception, gestation, birth and subsequent growth and development. Again, like all entities, it has the potential for influence during and beyond its life whether brief or long, colourful or apparently uneventful. In giving an account of the group I must therefore give some account of the root it has in my own history and the influence it has beyond the immediate.

As I said before, the group seems to have an existence as a developing entity although the constituent members change. There have been learning support teachers, behaviour support teachers, parent liaison officers, EWO, inclusion manager, educational psychologists, administrators, Head of School of Education from Bath Spa University, head of EMS, members of school improvement and the strategy team. The meetings have ranged in size from 3 to double numbers. Unlike an entity the group does not have a rigid boundary. There are other conversations and explorations I am involved with some of which are closely intertwined, such as the action research accredited module that Jack is running for teachers, and the ‘Pause for Thought’ Heads group, some with a more distant connection. I will come to that later.

The inception

Like most accounts I will not start at the ‘real’ beginning. I will start at the conception which is relatively easy to define. At the Inclusion Support Service Education Development Plan planning meeting July 04 Gail Quinton (Head of Service, Inclusion Support Service) offered the opportunity of developing an Action Research Project – Learning and Learners; which was wonderful and anxiety provoking in equal measure. I was excited by the possibility of being able to progress a part of my work that I have not been able to do before.

I have become increasingly aware of the contradiction between what I exhort others to do and what I actually do myself. I say children should engage as active enquirers, pursuing their questions of personal interest, in a disciplined manner, within a time frame and with a valued outcome. I say that children can most successfully be helped to explore their abilities and potential passions for enquiry through engagement in different learning opportunities. (ref Renzulli). I say that they need role models, a supportive context and we should find ways of overtly valuing positive attitudes, attributes and achievement. I say the principles underpinning successful learning for children holds true for adults. I am good at telling others but not so good at doing myself; walking the talk.

I have been working to extend the opportunities for children and the teachers and assistants, employed by schools, to be introduced to new ideas and engage as active enquirers. The APEX Saturday workshops, the B&NES focus days for teachers, the collaborative creative enquiries are some examples.

Schools as organisations are also becoming more aware that they need to do the same, but what about those in the central staff? A few are involved in their own enquiries through professional development but rarely share what they are doing. I have been seeking opportunities to engage my colleagues in education as active enquirers and to contribute to the development of B&NES as a learning organisation.

I am very aware that I have not been involved as an active enquirer myself and as I said before I have been looking for alternative ways of understanding, monitoring and evaluating my work as I am not satisfied that the models I am familiar with through psychological research or the DFES.

The opportunity Gail Quinton offered me through the action research was therefore a golden moment.

I was not very familiar with the action research frameworks but what I did know suggested they were consistent with problem or enquiry focussed models that I did know and value and that seemed to frame the ‘disciplined’ enquiries I was proposing for children. I can give more account of the influences of Jo Renzulli’s school wide enrichment model and Belle Wallace’s TASC (Thinking in a Social Context) another time. The anxiety? The usual questions of doubt; can I do it, what do I know, what if I fail…? But really nothing to loose except a bruised ego.

The birth

So what did the Action Research Inclusion group look like when it was born? It was respectable enough, ambitious but fairly quiet, traditional looking with an air of pleasant sobriety as you can see from the description in the EDP.

The first EDP contribution was written with Gail and K if memory serves me and is as follows



PURPOSE:  To build the capacity of schools regarding inclusive practice through Action Research.          

TARGET GROUP(s):  Primary, Secondary and Special (All Educators) 

SUCCESS CRITERIA (including intermediate steps)

By July 2005:

1.      Six schools will have undertaken an action research project with a view to improved understanding of issues around inclusion and lessons for improved practice.

2.      Inclusion Support Service Teams will be aware of the nature and benefits of action research on inclusion and how to support schools in undertaking the research

3.      A range of examples of Action Research projects relating to inclusive practice will be publicised ‘on the website’, Name and Acclaim’, authority conferences etc.

4.      Accreditation opportunities will have been identified for the Teams and Educators.

Vision for the future: all schools will be engaged in action research regarding inclusion


Behaviour Support Plan







 1.      Training session will be held for ISS teams on Action Research models, and how it could inform their work with schools.

 2.      Work with Bath Spa to sign up Accreditation Opportunities.

 3.      Identify schools that might be able to build on/develop inclusion via action research.

 4.      Identify six schools where a research partnership could be formed with a member of ISS.

5.      Action research projects to take place.

6.      Identify schools with examples of good practice and disseminate.

 7.      Review project


 September 04


September 04


September 04


October 2004

  November 2004-May 2005

June 2005

 June 2005

 Marie Huxtable


Marie Huxtable


 Marie Huxtable


Christine Jones

  Staff involved in projects

 Marie Huxtable WJ?


Although it looks as though I was a single parent Chris J rapidly became a co-parent with joint custody; she was volunteered without giving her permission at the time but I knew she was doing magic with the Inclusion Quality Mark and action research would fit well. I had worked with Chris J in our previous lives as SENCO and school psychologist and knew how stimulating it was to work with her. What I hadn’t appreciated at the time was how significant an impact she would have on me and the development of the work.

Being a co-parent to the group with Chris J and now Jack has radically affected my thinking and practice beyond this group and the accounts of both are significant for me to understand and improve my own practice.

Chris J and I arrived at an initial plan in Sept 04, had a go, revised in the light of practice, regrouped a number of times and increasingly with Jack to our current place.

The first steps

Chris J and I devised a plan which she summarises as:

Session 1      What is Action Research?

Session 2      Action research methodology and process for practice

Session 3      Data sharing, analysis and hypothesis generating

Session 4      Mentoring and supporting Action research in schools

Session 5      Participants to share progress, access help as they need to go forward and provide support to colleagues

The meetings were initially scheduled fortnightly, 4.00 – 5.30. We thought we stood more chance of getting people to come if it was out of school time and we didn’t think we would get a weekly commitment. The initial plan would take us to February when we would regroup and see where to next on the basis of experience. Coffee was offered and we tried to create a conversational space rather than a formal ‘training’ type of setting.

To give it a higher profile and to involve those above we asked the Director of Education to give some input for session 2. He had told me he had learnt about various methodologies as part of his masters and was willing to share that with us. Chris White was also willing to help by giving some input and support. I had worked with him a lot and was keen to make the connection between B&NES and Bath Spa University where possible. Chris J had undertaken action research enquiries before so I took courage from her and she would lead the input for the first session. I had done a lot of work in years gone by as a school psychologist setting up support groups and felt comfortable facilitating even if the actual content was not so familiar.

The plan was conventional, safe and covered the bases and Chris J and I felt fairly confident that the programme offered something that some of the people in ISS would think useful and would want to engage in. Initial publicity was through email and invitation via team leaders.

Five people joined us for the first meeting 22nd November 04.

We took notes at the meeting and circulated them afterwards. I include those from the first meeting as they illustrate how we tried to engage people, their interests and their response. I have annotated to make them clearer for other readers and to link with future developments

Action Research inaugral meeting 22nd Nov 04 4.00pm – 5.30pm

Five present

Marie set the scene

-       walking the talk – children, teachers, schools are being encouraged to research their own learning and develop as collaborative learners, they face the same challenges, this can give us insights, increase our skills and provide role models

-       a number of schools are engaging in research and this will enable us to support them better as we increase our own understanding and skill

-       collaborative learning communities powerful in supporting change

-       in EDP

Chris J introduced AR – what and why is it relevant  and provided handouts

Comments recorded show people were making the link to their work as we had hoped

– links with monitoring our service

– similar to business process re-engineering (BPR),

– will provide motivation to reflect as we say we should

- fits with team types and makes the best of strengths in the research group

Chris J has been involved with other projects e.g. amalgamation of schools – looked at provision of special ed of 4 children as focus, gave confidence to teachers starting to include pupils with special needs in the classroom

– fits with shared ownership

– database

Chris J and I briefly touched on other cross authority initiatives that would link with the AR and other people might want to be involved in or at least be aware of

PASS (Pupil Attitudes to Self and School)

Creative Enquiries (teachers and children as collaborators in learning – creative writers and mathematicians)

Inclusion Quality Mark (A dozen schools and a number of the ISS were involved in the pilot)

3 people talked about their Wave 3 Literacy project

-       Paired reading, reading in context

-       Phonics

-       Paired writing

Test – 20 weeks intervention – retest, training

Threw up questions e.g. how to bring about change in school as well, how to support LA progression, how do school improvement and pupil services work together, reading improved but less apparently spelling - why

2nd stage is being worked on, how is programme being used, how can it be rolled out…

A team had introduced talking partners

Agreed action

Between meetings (we wanted to try to maintain momentum between meetings)

-       What else are we doing and our teams

-       Share a database of which schools are involved in what

-       Send out invite to others – to see what nibbles we get

Next meeting (we wanted to value what people were doing, encourage them to share and to take the AR to the next step)

-       Sharing what group members are currently doing e.g. wave 3 intervention

-       Sharing ideas that people would like to start but not sure of,

-       BPR

-       Schools AR data base –

-       P.A.S.S and TASC – Marie, Chris J

-       Next step for building the support group for action research

Looking at the notes I think you can see why I feel that some people saw it as a ‘show and tell’ opportunity rather than an opportunity for mutual support with the enquiries they were involved in, I felt they did not want to question what they were doing and if they did not have connections with someone else’s work they appeared to have little interest. But at least some links were made by some people and there was interest in continuing to the next meeting.

Then the chinks began to show. The Director was not able to do the next meeting and we have not managed to get him to join us subsequently. I was disappointed as I thought it indicated the work was not of high priority or interest above Chris J and me at that time.

Not to be deterred Chris J and I revamped the programme based on what was agreed at the first meeting. I again include the notes from that meeting as you can see how we were still not really engaging most of the people and this was still seen as a ‘show and tell’ exercise

Action Research meeting 1st Dec 04 4.00pm – 5.30pm

5 present and one joined to share what she was doing

Notes from last meeting OK with a couple of changes

Action since last meeting

What else are we doing and our teams? – people are doing as they can

Share a database of which schools are involved in what – PASS list sent out with notes

Send out invite to others – to see what nibbles we get – others invited

EDP2 not published yet – so people not received copies of AR bit in the EDP -

Todays meeting

Sharing what group members are currently doing e.g. wave 3

– worked on writing in Wave 3. Produced guidelines for teaching assistants to follow across any activity, clear, precise method based on DFES material. Anticipate growth in self esteem and writing confidence and competence. Have a before and after to show progress, ‘p’ levels, examples of work – some moved up a level, a few not. Spelling, Sound Discovery and writing part of the package. 4 focus schools over 20 weeks. Hypothesising that confidence is key – it has short achievable objectives, introduced to assistants putting them in position of learner.

Two people working together now bought in by 2 schools, running course for LA based on intervention. LA need confidence to approach teachers, LA feeling more confidence, enthusiastic, had problem broken down

Proposal being put. May follow up with LA – how have they done it in the classroom, what have they managed…, how does SENCO, literacy coordinator work together – time on task did not relate to improvement seen in Primary Strategy presentation in Birmingham, increase in LAs not linked with rise in attainments. Hypothesis – what this project has done is teach LAs to support cognitive engagement rather than finishing work for child or giving unchallenging tasks not related to objective

- thinking about where next

Sharing ideas that people would like to start but not sure of, – started the ball rolling. She has spoken to line manager and Chris J about exploring parent school partnerships through Inclusion Quality Mark. Has a questionnaire to sample parents views and looking at ways of processing data, and Chris J has questionnaires for pupils

Schools AR data base – introduced

- had starting a spread sheet noting practice

Chris J has started one

- offered some information

Marie has various information

folders on intranet for LBSS could log in there

Process review

Change order of agenda

More equitable management of time

Next time

Could do something on P.A.S.S and TASC enquiries – Marie, Chris J

Next step for building the support group for action research


Chris J to ask line manager about position on EDP2 , inform others , Adviser, consultants,

Meeting with line manager re shared data base

Chris H et al taking Wave 3 proposal to other

Next meeting 11th Jan

Share what, where, how

BPR  - not yet scheduled but everyone interested

There is some evidence of engagement, a sharing of information, the beginnings of an understanding that it had something to do with research and there was a willingness to involve other people. However I think you can see why Chris J and I knew the original programme was inappropriate; it was taking much longer for people to feel engaged and begin to understand what action research was about. It is a big shift from the other framings where the researcher, the subjects and the enquiry itself are seen as contaminants rather than integral to the understanding. LEA staff are also usually in the role of supporting others in their change rather than understanding themselves as part of the change let alone researching their own practice. Chris J and I had a rethink.

The first metamorphosis

A new year saw the first significant change in the nature of the group. The agenda for the group meeting 11th January 05 reflects our move in thinking away from a predetermined training schedule to a more open sharing and questioning as to the purpose of the group and one more responsive to the needs of the members.

Agenda 11th January 05

How action research can transform practice.      Dr Chris White                                                                                                                                               

Discussion of method of action research projects. (Please bring along your projects or any ideas you have on a project you are about to undertake)

What is the purpose of the group?

How can group support each other in their research?

Future needs of the group

Future dates

This was also the first meeting Jack joined. Meeting Jack and going to his Monday conversations created a seismic shift in my thinking. Jack joined the B&NES group meeting 11th January 05 and noted the work in his Monday conversation notes 17th January 05. My email to Jack 12th January notes the subsequent change in the group and the first real move I made towards looking at my practice in the way I was exhorting others to do. It also reflects the need I recognized for considerably more sensitivity to the emotional challenge that talking about what is important in your work presents.

Email to Jack from me

Many thanks for your contribution to our group in the making. I really appreciated your involvement. Between you and Chris W I feel there is a vitality that was missing before. I am usually in a facilitating position in such groups and I was very aware that this time I was trying to get a better understanding of what I am trying to do. I am concerned on reflection that I didn’t inadvertently make some people feel uncomfortable when what is needed at the moment is a

growth of confidence.

This theme of the need to provide a space for people to feel confident and the growing understanding of the place that the affective domain plays in understanding and improving practice comes through in an email to Jack and his response 17th January 05

Part of the email to Jack

‘Do I need confidence to practice a public voice or do I get confidence from practicing a public voice?

Where does the sense of unease come from? Does it limit our access to learning opportunities and restrict our aspirations?

How do we invite people to go into those uncertain places? It felt rather like that is what I wanted to happen on Tuesday at Riverside.’

And part of his response

‘I can show you how I do it through an interest in what the other cares about and connecting that to what they are passionate about in their workplace.’

I include the notes from the meeting 28th January 05 as they show not only the more open and responsive form the meetings were beginning to take but also the experimentation with a different form of documentation. Previously the documentation was in the form of ‘minutes’ or notes, but the question of the purpose of documentation was raised. Who should take notes, why, for whom? Lynn commented at one point that not being able to rely on someone sending notes meant she had to listen more carefully at the time. The reflections from the 28th January 05 meeting was an attempt to invite others into the documentation process to further build a shared understanding. This is a composite following a response to an initial email.

Action Research Inclusion group meeting 28th Jan 05

5 people present

The conversation focused round ‘too much to do in too little time’ which arose from a brief description (narrative) of why someone was late to the meeting although they had wanted to come to the meeting. We shared the different experiences we had of when that has happened and tested out different explanations we each had for the problem and their validity - cultural pressures, personal ‘agendas’ such as wanting to feel needed, not wanting to let people down……each had a different ‘take’, there was challenge but it felt like challenge to the explanation rather than to the person. Other issues arose, such as: the difficulty of trying to change your practice for the good eg to develop a good life/work balance if it is against the culture of the workplace, whereby you may be expected to work all hours; the use of time – managing time – learning to work faster and more economically in order to achieve a better life/work balance; the difficulty of breaking the pattern of habit of how we work; guilt featured strongly in the session; people creating their own pressure, their own busy lifestyle because of their nature. Are these people able to change, to break away from the security they feel in the way that they work and to take the courage to step into a ‘no man’s land’ with all its uncertainties – even though eventually it may be for the better for self and those we live and work with. We talked about different ideas about different ways forward – trying out a different role, coming to terms with personal traits that you do not want to change but make change in work practice difficult…….Someone commented it felt like therapy. It felt therapeutic in the sense that I owned my own problem and the solution, but therapy focuses on the individuals needs alone rather than exploring the impact beyond self. If I continue to rush to action then I am continuing to model the sort of behaviour that is the antithesis of learning and in turn I put pressure on others to continue in unproductive activity.

We agreed to continue to explore using the structure and discipline of action research to understand some of our own motivations and experiment with change and how that impacts on our work.

Between this meeting and the next we will try to have coffee moments to continue the conversation begun and add to our narratives.

We felt that the expertise of Chris and Jack help with finding focus for action and their facilitating approach was in sympathy with supporting us in moving on from anecdotes to learning.

These sessions are proving to be enjoyable and thought -  provoking. Looking forward to seeing you at the next session:

MONDAY   7th FEBRUARY   4.00 – 5.30   Room 1

I hope you get a sense of the change in character of the group; less impositional and more invitational, less mechanistic and more in sympathy with an action research ethos. The membership of the group at this time was very small and only Chris J and I have continued however the growth of the group in other ways is quite noticeable at this time through this documentation and subsequent emails.

The meeting of 7th February 05 was very small and focused on the work of a head of a service and how she empowers her team while maintaining a sense of wellbeing. She didn’t come again which seems to reflect the group still had some feeling of ‘show and tell’ of earlier times but what she excited us with was very much in the spirit of the move to trying to understand what we each value and express in our work.

Another conversation I was having at the time concerned inclusionality and the relationship between teacher, learner and enquiry and my thinking is caught in the email to Jack 23rd 05 (you might have gathered by now I have discovered emails help me think and articulate more clearly than just trying to reflect alone)

Email to Jack from me

You sent

You offer acceptance of me for what I am and push at the boundaries of what I could become. You accept ideas, puzzlement and confusion from me as part of a process of me coming to understand but the understanding reached seems always a new understanding for us both. I think I've seen our work as collaborative parallelism - which was part of the correspondence between you and Erica.

I am really excited by this. I originally saw this as an excellent description of what a child should be able to expect from their teacher but after lengthy discussion with a friend who is enthusiastically engaging with me on my enquiry I think this is also a good description of what a teacher should be able to expect from a child in enquiry focused learning. Each has aspects of being teacher and learner although the emphasis of roles is not the same for each.  The teacher has the prime responsibility for inviting the child into the space (thanks to the provider of that concept for me) for enquiry, making the processes of enquiry accessible, extending the skills, experiences and knowledge that the child can progressively bring to bear on the enquiry but the teacher also has ‘rights’ and expectations as a learner in the enquiry. Our discussion progressed over 4 hrs and was on the back of thinking provoked over the previous week so it is difficult to sum it up concisely yet but ‘Collaborative parallelism’; is an excellent term to describe the whole process. We developed a picture but I am no artist and I am a decidedly messy thinker so I do not expect it means anything to anyone else at the moment but I include it anyway.

It has implications for how I look at points that have arisen such as – numerous efforts have been made over years to teach teachers to ask questions rather than give answers with the same result. If we try to follow through ‘collaborative parallelism’ the problem then becomes how can we as teachers make accessible to the learner the questions we are asking of the enquiry, how can we share the construction of the question at the centre of the enquiry with the child so we also are engaged in learning,…The teacher in the classroom is the adult and the learner the child, but it works the same for me if teacher is the more experienced in the discipline and the learner the comparative novice. This is now how I am understanding the inclusion action research group. You and Chris W are the teachers but I would understand you also as learning from the encounter and the rest of us as the learners but we would also be expected to contribute to the enquiry process.

A conversation between myself and Chris J before the group meeting when we gate crashed the end of the psychology service meeting and had an unprecedented number at the group took us into new territory. We had an amazing discussion about what we understood about inclusionality and how it influenced our work over a cup of coffee and took the enthusiasm and determination to try to try to work from where people were and their point of passion into the meeting. The response of the group was very interesting. It was so pleasurable that the issue of feeling guilty about enjoying yourself at work surfaced and at least one member felt it was self indulgent.

The meetings continued to open up and explore what we meant by inclusion, those moments that give us a buzz at work (Lynn’s term) and what light they threw on what we each value.

The nature of the group changed subtly over time and has been commented on by – ‘deeper, not better or worse but different’. There was an energy that was noticeable every time we had a meeting, irrespective of who came,

The EDP review in April 05 focussed the mind back to the original plan.

15th April 05

ACTIVITY: ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT– LEARNING AND LEARNERS PURPOSE:  To build the capacity of schools regarding inclusive practice through Action Research.          

SUCCESS CRITERIA (including intermediate steps)

By July 2005:

1.      Six schools will have undertaken an action research project with a view to improved understanding of issues around inclusion and lessons for improved practice. 15

2.      Inclusion Support Service Teams will be aware of the nature and benefits of action research on inclusion and how to support schools in undertaking the research. 16

3.      A range of examples of Action Research projects relating to inclusive practice will be publicised ‘on the website’, Name and Acclaim’, authority conferences etc. 17

4.     Accreditation opportunities will have been identified for the Teams and Educators. 17


1.      Six schools will have undertaken an action research project with a view to improved understanding of issues around inclusion and lessons for improved practice.

Where we are:

A lot of schools and teachers are engaged in Action Research in some form and are different points in the process. Some have a very obvious question focused on inclusion but as Action Research is about ‘how can I improve my practice’ all such work must come back to deepening an understanding of inclusion and how that translates into changed practice as it is fundamental to what we are working for.

Do we need to collect specific data on who is doing what? We did think about this early but the mechanisms then would have required one person and a lot of questionnaires etc. which few have the motivation to complete. It therefore did not happen formally but the informal knowledge of at least some of the group has grown. Formalising that knowledge now may help to inform the whole group, open access to those not yet involved, and progress the engagement of B&NES LEA staff

We have direct knowledge (there a lot more – see map) about some of the initiatives that incorporate action research in some form – (some teachers and schools are involved in more than one) e.g.

-       Inclusion Mark

-       5x5x5

-       BLN

-       Primary Networks

-       P.A.S.S.

-       Challenge Award

-       CEDES

-       TASC

-       Creative enquiries

If we start a folder in the Southwest Grid for Learning portal which Inclusion and School Improvement people could access, this list could be grown by everyone

Through this we could:

-       See the growing picture of who is doing what

-       Know which schools and teachers are willing to share their work in progress

-       Improve our understanding of what Action Research ‘is’

-       Begin to look at what schools find helpful

-       Improve our practice as mentor, critical friend, collaborator, consultant … to support schools developing as inclusive learning communities

Action needed:

-       Decide if this is a useful approach to try and if so

-       Talk to -  about ICT logistics

-       Marie and Chris J to start a billboard as a trial

-       Share with next group meeting and get their perspectives on it

2.      Inclusion Support Service Teams will be aware of the nature and benefits of action research on inclusion and how to support schools in undertaking the research

Where we are:

We have direct knowledge of some research (there are others) that Inclusion Support staff are involved with in some role e.g.:

-       A lot of Inclusion staff (list) working with Chris J supporting and mentoring schools on Inclusion Mark

-       - and Marie are involved in the CEDES project

-       Twilight AR – 6 people, have come when diaries have allowed. 2 people came to first couple but have withdrawn (work pressures) but they are involved in research projects with/in schools – unclear whether action research. Chris White (BSU) and Jack Whitehead (Bath University) are now part of the group as collaborators, consultants and supporters and also come whenever diaries allow. The last meeting was the first time 5 people joined a meeting. The program has been reviewed and revised progressively in the light of each meeting.

Are those involved progressing their own understanding and practice?

-       in the nature of AR

-       the benefits of AR on inclusion

-       in their work for and with children, young people, and schools

-       Are some ways not effective? Is one way better than another?


Decide how to find out in a manner consistent with developing inclusive practice and AR that can enable us to continue to develop a way forward that spirals up and risk of going round in circles

3.      A range of examples of Action Research projects relating to inclusive practice will be publicised ‘on the website’, Name and Acclaim’, authority conferences etc.

Where we are:

This is dependent on 1. but even with what Chris J and Marie have direct contact with this can be done in June.

4.     Accreditation opportunities will have been identified for the Teams and Educators.

Where we are:

Not very far


Ask Chris W and Jack if they can help

The review was useful and surprising. We had increasingly moved from having the targets dictate the pace or content of the meetings but we had actually made some sizeable strides towards them.  We felt comfortable in as far as the group was moving at a pace that was useful to the participants and supported their change. I had underestimated the time real change takes and looking back the 5 step plan was obviously doomed to failure even if we had appeared to have ‘delivered’ to schedule. The new planning was a way of giving the new trajectory on the basis of evidence but was tentative and questioning rather than attempting to impose another straitjacket.

The value to the authority of action research and the commitment to the work is seen by the it’s’ continued inclusion in the EDP


PURPOSE:  To build the capacity of schools regarding inclusive practice through Action Research.          

TARGET GROUP(s):  Primary, Secondary and Special (All Educators) 

SUCCESS CRITERIA (including intermediate steps)

By 2007:

  1. Six schools will have published their action research projects and identified how they have improved their understanding of issues around inclusion and what lessons they have learnt which has improved practice.
  2. There will be Inclusion Support Service Teams will be aware of the nature and benefits of action research on inclusion and how to support schools in undertaking the research
  3. A range of examples of Action Research projects relating to inclusive practice will be publicised ‘on the website’, Name and Acclaim’, authority conferences etc.
  4. Accreditation opportunities will have been identified for the Teams and Educators.

Vision for the future: all schools will be engaged in action research regarding inclusion


Behavior Support Plan, Inclusion strategy, ‘delivering’ SEAL

Priority 1 – Raising standards

Priority 5 – APEX, Thinking Skills, Widening Learning,








  • Sessions will be held for ISS and SIT teams on Action Research models, and how it could inform their work with schools.
  • Work with University of Bath and Bath Spa University College to encourage teachers to take up accreditation opportunities.
  • Identify schools that might be able to build on/develop inclusion via action research.
  • Support six schools to undertake action research partnership through IQM and CA and publish their work
  • Identify schools with examples of good practice and disseminate.
  • Identify opportunities for accreditation




























At first glance the EDP appears very similar to the first and doesn’t reflect the progress the group had made in developing a culture which would support action research as a way of the individual exploring their values expressed in their work and how they can improve their practice.

The second metamorphosis

The group had given up wearing its metaphorical collar and tie and become more relaxed and confident but we were getting stuck. We had a more open responsive session where people felt they were personally getting something from it but there was no shared evidential base, no public articulation of what we were each trying to do, no ‘disciplined’ enquiry, no real collaboration.

Chris J and I again talked about modeling and ‘walking the talk’ ourselves. We were also concerned that people seemed to need ‘permission’ to come and work in a very pleasurable way. We reasoned that the ‘permission’ would be most easily understood if someone above us joined in which would also demonstrate the importance of the work and give it validity. We begun to talk about what would be useful Gail and Nigel; why would they want to come; want not should.

Chris J led the way in walking our talk in May and the beginnings of change can be seen in the email from Jack following one meeting and Chris J’s response 23rd May 05

' If you encourage Chris to produce an account of her

learning as she explores the implications of asking

'How do I contribute to improvements in inclusionality

in BANES?' I think this could be shared with Gail and

Nigel and the rest of us a couple of days before the

next meeting with an invitation to come and help to

move Chris' enquiry forward and to strengthen the

validity of her evidence-based accounts.'

And Chris replied

Yes. I am up for this. The exercise will help me to pinpoint what I am learning and what contribution I am making!!!

At this stage my account may be quite informal but I am happy to share it and discuss ideas

Chris J brought a substantial piece of work based on her Inclusion Quality Mark work and Jack’s response in June demonstrates how this took us forward with beginning to support more disciplined enquiries. Two members of the school improvement team joined us, one was working on an accredited module at Bath University and the other was in the process of registering. The parent liaison officer had previously completed accredited modules and her interest in completing her masters was renewed. She has subsequently registered with Bath Spa University.

Jack wrote –

I think I showed my enthusiasm for your question (Chris J), 'How do I contribute to improvements in inclusionality in BANES?' and your willingness to focus on the importance of your values in understanding and explaining what you are doing, learning and influencing. I could see that the volume of things to accommodate in  the 10 elements of the assessment framework with 10 or so categories in each element, might be helpful in a 'tick box' form of accountability. I found myself focusing on different 'boxes' and wondering what might be done to produce an evidence-based explanation

of educational influence in learning.  For example in Element 8 on 

Parents and carers, I looked at the box on Parent confident that 

child is valued with the guidance notes:


Parents receive regular feedback about their child's achievement 

through informal and formal reports and reviews plus certificates, 

stickers etc;

I wondered what might happen if we focused some attention on the 

nature of the conversations that could take place over time with 

parents, children, teachers and yourself (ourselves) that could 

develop the idea of feedback into educational conversations that had 

an educational influence in the children's learning?

This might connect with parent liaison roles. I'm not sure if you 

have shared each others accounts - for example the previous masters 

work for the OU,  Sue's report on the enquiry network, Marie's 

analysis of her rationale for APEX - each of these could provide us 

with lots to think about on the 22nd.  See what you think.

The email also demonstrates some of the linking between people and working from their passions – as Jack had previously offered

‘I can show you how I do it through an interest in what the other cares about and connecting that to what they are passionate about in their workplace.’

June 28th saw the group at its most chilled and perhaps an indication of the security it offered can be seen in my confidence to venture an account myself. An extract is as follows:

How do I know I am contributing to children and young people developing informed aspirations and gaining the confidence and competence to pursue them to their own and others benefit?

Perhaps a clue to the standards of judgment I am using can come from reflecting on those moments when I feel a real deep sense of satisfaction (maybe that is what I am trying to achieve – for others to feel that same sense of satisfaction that makes me feel good)

I get a huge buzz from hearing or seeing directly or indirectly the response of children, young people, parents and teachers to the beyond curriculum learning opportunities I have instigated such as the APEX Saturday workshops, the summer schools, the creative collaborative learning days.

It feels as though I have done something useful. Maybe for the vast majority it was a fleeting moment when they enjoyed creating knowledge with others, or they glimpsed themselves as exceptionally able in something valued by others, or they took an ‘I can’ step above where they thought they could stretch - to ‘boldly go’ beyond their immediate backdoors. It is a fond hope that I can cross a person’s path at the right time with an experience that can significantly influence their life for the better. But I believe I can increase the chances of that happening by increasing the variety and opportunities for such encounters. It is that belief that led me to set up the Saturday workshops and subsequently the summer school and creative collaborative enquiries.

…I still believe that life’s success comes from finding your ‘thing’, your ‘passions’, where you might want to devote the time, energy and dedication to.

I am trying to construct my own understandings but I recognise that what I am trying to achieve is not new. The more I read and listen to people the more I realise that it has been said before more eloquently. So perhaps my question should focus on why is it that the same ideas have been expressed by world renowned thinkers over generations and we still insist that the majority of the time in school, and increasingly now university, is dedicated to sterile and unproductive, or even on occasions counter productive, pressures on children and staff?

I must admit that I managed to offer this first account in a way almost guaranteed to avoid anyone reading it but none the less I put fingers to keyboard and put the result in the public forum. For me it offers a very personal landmark in the life of the group. I see other people also struggle and find the courage to try out a ‘public voice’ and perhaps that is one pointer to the growth of the group and its changing character. Nigel joined the group, which has given a message about the value of the work and a very positive lead into the new academic year.

Trying to re establish a group after the summer holiday can often be a testing time but for this group it provided a refuelling break for a transforming lift off in September. For me the summer was a revolutionary time and an increasingly significant part of my own journey and hoped for trajectory, and my developing understandings through working with Jack, gets caught up in the strands in particular and my work in general.

The third metamorphosis: an emerging imago?

The group meeting 13th September 05 was another springboard but the run-up had started in June and was fuelled by an intricate plait of developing strands and the gathering pace of my own revolution. It is hard – no – impossible to separate them. There was the accredited teachers action research group offered by Jack, the Emotional Literacy strategy, the Heads ‘Pause for Thought’, the collaborative creative enquiries and the maturing of the Action Research inclusion group itself. This so far has only been an account from this parent; the other two (Chris J and Jack) have other strands contributing to the weft and weave of the fabric of the group much of which I am unaware.

Logic dictates that I tell you about each of the initiatives I haven’t mentioned before, describe the interplay between them, and then come to 13th September and proceed to today. Passion says do the last first. So I have written the last bit first (which if you are impatient you can click on and read now) but so not to loose my reader I will now return to a chronological narrative. I will come to the other strands in a bit but first let me continue along the action research for inclusion group path.

If you have a sense of energy and complication then I am succeeding in conveying some of what I have experienced.

The email to Chris J before the 13th September 05 illustrates some of what I mean

Hi Chris

Trying to get a grip! 

Action Research (Conversation cafe) Tuesday, 13th September 05, 4.30-6.00

 Why are we doing this? (at the moment anyway):

·          To implement the AR strategy

·          Support action research and enquiries being undertaken by any individual or team in the Inclusion Support Service.

Who is it for?

Anyone who:

·              wants to support, and be supported with, enquiry

·              wants to learn more about Action Research through practice

·              wants to contribute and benefit from the learning of others

·              likes to think with others

·              are just plain curious


They have been told they will not be expected to talk more than they want to, know anything about Action Research or do anything as a result of our conversation (unless they want to), creative thinking is strongly encouraged but not mandatory.

The response to the Emotional Literacy bit at the Inclusion Support Service Day has been good and reached a couple of more people. When you and I talked we decided the Emotional Literacy and Action Research are separate but interwoven strategies. (I remember a mathematician who did work on fuzzy space and the maths of knitting – shame I don’t still know him)

So – the Action Research strategy

We have the summary of progress that we did July if it is needed but I think we should revise – the spirit is OK but the plan has moved on.

 I think we have a group who will now hang together even though not everyone can come to all the meetings. Having fun and feeling good has the explicit support of Gail, Nigel and Georgie.

 We talked briefly about the function of the conversation café sessions. Could this be a sort of loose framing to get us going?

 ·          Examples of when you have had influence and made a difference as a result of your practice - when in the last week have you felt a buzz from what you have been doing? Might be a heart stopping event or just a small smile raising moment.

·          News on the Action research front - schools, teachers, B&NES, a small personal exploration you are or doing or thinking about

·          How can we support and provoke our own enquiries with schools and children in a way which will... (in other words how should the cafes work, should there be other things such as e based…) keep the energies, commitment, progress understanding and practice…

 We have talked about ‘training’ being integral but also other sessions with specific foci like ‘research methodologies’, ‘evidence gathering and analysis’, ‘action research’ – whatever – which might involve those who don’t want to go down the AR line or might not be comfortable enjoying themselves in the café, cant get to the meetings etc

 On Tuesday I think we are expecting

·          You

·          Me

·          Jack

·          one person  (after 5.00)

·          an admin person

·          a past student with Jack so very keen - will have to go early

·          someone very keen on Emotional Literacy will have to go early

·          someone from strategy

·          a team head

·          another new person


·          from a couple of people


We were to be in Room 4 (but we will probably be better in the behaviour support room which is larger so we can spread out but we will have to do some table moving)

 One person is being lovely and will sort the coffee. I will sort the buns.

 I will bring my own laptop and an external CD/DVD drive and have a projector available if we want to use one. I don’t know if it will play Jack’s CD if he wants to have it to hand. If we don’t need any gear then nothing lost.

 Does this sound OK?

 Are we meeting up before? I am unscheduled from 1.00 onwards and will be in  Riverside all afternoon.

 I will check my home email frequently tonight

 I will email to Jack tomorrow morning early this if I don’t hear from you so he has an idea what he is walking into. He is returning from his holidays today so he might not pick it up. I know it is in his diary but just not absolutely certain where we said we were meeting.

I have put the full email so you can see that Chris J and I had tried to prepare for the meeting so we could be responsive to where we thought people were coming from but maintain the open focus and momentum of the group prior to the holiday. Chris J replied to me at 10.22pm, which says something about the enthusiasm and commitment to the work we both feel, confirming we would meet in the Italian café under the offices, which has been the setting for some of our most productive conversations.

Chris J worked hard to engage people and encourage them to come through personal contact and email. I put up some posters – including, with help, the men’s toilet, so few could say they didn’t know about it.

The potential membership had changed from the first meeting and in fact some of those who said they would come didn’t and some of those who didn’t say they were coming did. A visitor from China who collaborates with Jack also joined the meeting and added a confidence and affirmation for us which only a new authoritative, yet inclusive, voice can give.

I began to experiment with a form of shared documentation with Chris J and Jack and I include a fragment of what I wrote after the meeting so you can get a sense of my thinking, the transformation in my learning that the group is supporting and for you to decide whether you can see evidence that I have begun to ‘walk the talk’ a little more. As I am writing this 2nd November perhaps it also demonstrates how much more confident in the group I have become to feel able to share some of my own thoughts that I have previously kept very close.

Me? – I tried to set myself the task of listening and facilitating but also to put something of me into the conversation. I had spoken to Chris J before about what the café might be about – supporting energy and enquiry. I realized that when she said we should ask people what they wanted I had baulked. How can people know what they want if they don’t know what they want? But she helped me to remember again that I don’t listen, I only want to hear what I am already thinking. For example I find I cut across the end of what people say. I think I detracted at one point by saying that it felt flat and we were dancing a bit around each other. - didn’t feel that and neither did Chris J. I think I was voicing my anxieties rather than listening and responding to others. I will see if this account is any evidence that I have listened better when I see the response of Chris J and Jack to it.

Before the meeting Chris J and I had talked about the purpose of the meeting and how to facilitate it. We got to the point of understanding the conversation café meetings were to maintain energy and support people along their enquiry journeys (and this would be tempered by what we heard other people say they wanted) but there was another function – focused round ‘training’, skills, information, seminar, type event which could not be accommodated in the time frame of the conversation cafes. We were also aware that some people were excluded for a variety of reasons; they did not feel comfortable engaging in an action research or living values enquiry, they could not make the meetings, they did not feel comfortable in the conversation café environment, they did not have the time or could not get to the venue… We had thought that there was another series of ‘events’ that was needed to run alongside the conversation cafes which would be less frequent, but longer, possibly during the day and they would also be fed by other sources as well. For instance ‘documentation’, data collection and analysis, an overview of methodologies, are subjects that could arise from, the Challenge Award, the Inclusion Quality Mark, and could arise from the conversation cafes and a seminar or workshop might progress understanding, knowledge and skill by some dedicated time.

I wonder whether the 6 weekly type public articulation type sessions that Jack was describing and the seminar, workshop type events that Chris and I had played with could or should be brought together in some way?

And next? We will meet weekly 8.00 – 9.00 on Wednesday, starting over initially 6 weeks or so, in Keynsham office. Chris J will pick up croissants and -. Initially we will share our stories of moments of success, to help each other reflect on those stories to understand better what we hold to be important starting to move through an action research cycle and have a more public sharing possibly in the evening or afternoon. - suggested that it should be during the day rather than tagged on to give it importance and energy. Chris J will email around time date venue to the group including those who couldn’t make it but wanted to. I will ask Jack if he can join us and I will start an account as a way of beginning to start the documentation etc asking Chris J and Jack to add to it.

Chris J’s reflections helped me pick up better on what was conveyed in the group meeting and taste some of the energy that continued to flow afterwards but that is for her to write if she chooses.

The invitation to the next meeting was sent round by emails from Chris J and posters and this communication has continued since.

At our last meeting it was decided to hold our meetings more regularly and to hold them in the morning. Therefore our next

 meeting is on  

 Wednesday 21st September  8.00-9.00

  We shall be relating our stories, discussing partnerships and times whereby we have made a difference

  I shall let you know the venue when it has been arranged

Please let me know if you are attending as Kathie and I shall be buying croissants fresh out of the oven from the bakery

 that morning. Homemade organic jam, tea and coffee will also be available.

  Looking forward to seeing you all

   Chris and Marie    

The group is very much part of my own and Jack’s shared journey of enquiry currently which has taken me further in trying to understand how I and others can hold me and us accountable to my and our living values as standards of judgment and my and our living educational theories. It has also given me an opportunity to try to understand my own gifts and talents in a way that might enable me to help others bring theirs more fully into an inclusional community to all our benefit.

It has taken me to challenging places which I have only risked in this group. For instance, agreeing that the group could see a bit of the video that Jack took of Chris J talking about inclusion. I thought I was just going to be behind the camera but I should have known better having got to know Jack a little – never imposing or demanding, but always inviting that next risk – what I hope the group is doing for others. Another example; venturing a piece of writing that people actually read, the previous time I had avoided that bit.

Hi Jack

I dont know if this is getting much closer but it is better than I managed to articulate when I saw you.


Why do I do what I do? I want children to grow as people who are comfortable in their own skin, knowing themselves, liking themselves, at peace with themselves, knowing what they want to work on, to improve, and to have the courage to change and accept their own stumbling and that of other people as part of the journey.

I believe that an individual learns what they see themselves capable of learning and what is of value to them. The striving for excellence seems to carry with it a hope of personal fulfillment and when that personal ambition coincides with the needs of others, carries with it a hope for the progression of all of us and ‘twice affirmation’ for the individual.

I believe people (young and old) grow their understandings and create valued knowledge through dialogue with themselves and others. Over the next year I hope to work with Jack to bring people together

with others with whom they have points of shared interests and with whom they can share such creative conversations. Our focus is on working with 4 groups, the B&NES conversation café, the Heads Pause for Thought, the Action Research Teachers group and the collaborative creative enquiry groups (which include children) and opening the channels of communication between them.


What I hope to do for Jack.

- Offer a productive enjoyable collaboration to create knowledge we both value

- Bring accounts (including my own)into the public domain as further evidence and legitimisation through the academy of living educational theories and the importance of living values

- Connect him with educators locally with whom there could be ‘rich’ conversations

- Connect his understandings to other work such as TASC, Primary Networks, APEX, Emotional Literacy, Inclusion… in the hope of continuing to influence educational practice after we are both long gone

- Give him reasons to laugh – rather than sigh

I have included this as an example of how the nature of the group has changed to a space where the tentative toe can be put in the water. The poem that - brought to the group and the account by - is testament from others to the growth of the group.

I realise that this account of the group has become quite personal and perhaps that reflects some of the change of the nature of the group. Is the group a self indulgence? I derive a deep sense of pleasure from being in a space that supports and provokes people who share my values, to explore and experiment with learning, and I derive a personal satisfaction from evidence that I make a difference in a direction I believe is important; which takes me back to my account of the group as a parent. As a parent I feel pleasure from seeing my son flourish and grow and hopefully carry the better parts of what I have tried to offer and hope he has survived my mistakes and I also derive a pleasure from his contribution to my own growth. If enjoying those feelings through my work is self indulgent – then yep, it is an amazing opportunity for me to be self indulgent – and even beats Venetian chocolate ice-cream.

And tomorrow?

The group has taken on a new energy, meets weekly 8.00am-9.00am and other people complain that they can’t make the meetings at that time of day. How about that! People asking for other meeting times as they can’t make the ones scheduled. 

What is our little beastie like now as it begins to wriggle from its chrysalis on its first birthday? Energetic and warm to the touch; everyone says something if they choose in the meetings and there is a buzz of conversation after. Responsibility for the group is spreading, for instance another member of the group has taken responsibility for putting up posters. Inviting; some people who would not usually join such a group are a vital part. Transforming; some people who would not normally speak in a group are contributing and thoughts sown during the meeting have life afterwards. Thoughts taken from the group have been built on in practice e.g. open conversations.

What needs to happen for the group to grow towards being a boisterous toddler?

What are the keys to growth? Essentials: the continued contributions by Chris J and Jack and -. Chris J does a great deal between meetings to engage and encourage participation and building from what was and linking with practice. She brings energy, material and her thinking that makes the group accessible and stimulating. Jack brings the framing, the horizon, the nudging on, the linking of people to their passions and building the webs of understanding between people. - brings an authoritative vision of a living learning organisation and gives the group confidence to experiment. A question that will arise is how can the group build and carry its own understanding and developing practice that will enable it to eventually be independent of its parents and present members.

The group size is important; there are now enough to give a vibrancy. From the work I have done before an average of 10 seems to give an energy to conversations for a group in formation, which allows for the plus and minus numbers that appear each time. One question that needs to be considered is what happens when the group is too big and what about those people who want to come but can not make the timing of this one. Does it reflect a problem with the group if the membership ebbs and flows?

The move to weekly meetings was a bold suggestion by Jack and - but they were right – our beastie needs to be regular in its habits.

While people are contributing there is still a need to grow beyond what is essentially a ‘show and tell’ stage while not forcing the pace. How can we help people find and practice their voice. Articulating to others is an important part of learning whatever learning theory you go with. Many are not familiar or comfortable with the language that is needed to build enquiries but Chris J’s injection of an article and a story has nurtured the skill. The photo that Jack and I brought provoked articulation. Perhaps we could bring further ‘provocations’. Jack’s urging for us to bring our account to the group, to make us accountable – must be right; I can feel the rising panic and the adrenaline rush as I type. How can we encourage disciplined enquiries to be embarked on and shared without frightening off those who are just beginning to gain confidence? -’s suggestion seems to hold possibilities; Jack and I engage in a part of that conversation of holding each other accountable with the group invited to join as they feel comfortable. GULP!

How can documentation be developed that supports and energises rather than hinders and enervates and takes the work into the public domain? Could we play with different technology? Would this be a way of desensitising and learning the skill necessary at the same time?

How can the influence of this group be understood and the strands of understanding plaited in with the other work – to transform the individual, the group and beyond? How do we know that what we are doing is of value and has a life beyond us?


Joining and responding to Marie’s story of the B&NES Action Research and Inclusion Group and moving on my own educational enquiry – Jack Whitehead, 6th November 2005.

Dear Marie and the B&NES Action Research and Inclusion Group,

I’m connecting to Marie’s story with the following responses to her questions:

1) How can documentation be developed that supports and energises rather than hinders and enervates and takes the work into the public domain? Could we play with different technology? Would this be a way of desensitising and learning the skill necessary at the same time?

2) How can the influence of this group be understood and the strands of understanding plaited in with the other work – to transform the individual, the group and beyond? How do we know that what we are doing is of value and has a life beyond us?

I’m offering my response to Marie and the group as part of our commitment to hold each other accountable for our educational influences, with other participants in the group invited to join as they feel comfortable.

1)    How can documentation be developed that supports and energises rather than hinders and enervates and takes the work into the public domain? Could we play with different technology? Would this be a way of desensitising and learning the skill necessary at the same time?

I’m wondering if the following documentation helps to answer these questions. It is based on the idea that each individual is a knowledge-creator and can produce a valuable explanation of their educational influences in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations. When I say ‘valuable explanation’ I mean that it is an explanation in which the individual affirms themselves in their learning to live a productive life and that the explanation can captivate the imagination of others and be useful to others in forming their productive lives. I’ve called these explanations living educational theories to distinguish them from the theories drawn from traditional academic disciplines of education.

My responses to Marie’s questions have a history in that they include my learning from the documentation flowing from the living theory  and masters programmes section of http://www.actionresearch.net .  Before I give brief outline of this learning, I want to share my experience and understandings of a video-clip that I believe shows flow of life-affirming/pleasurable energy with Marie and Chris talking about their influence with each other in relation to their work. I want to share my knowledge of what pupil-researchers have accomplished in Croatia when working with Branko Bognar as a University mentor and teachers who believe in their pupils’ capacities as action researchers.  I want to share my affirmations of inclusionality with Marie through a photograph taken by Belle Wallace and a photograph taken by Mark Potts. I also want to share my affirmations with Moira Laidlaw, and other action researchers in China’s Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching (CECEARFLT) of the inclusional and collaborative meanings of the flows of life-affirming energy in our educational relationships and hope in the future of humanity.

The following video-clip, with its flow of life-affirming and pleasurable energy in the laughter at the end, communicates to me the embodied meaning of the flow of life-affirming energy Marie, Chris and I are experiencing and expressing through our relationships and productive lives in education.


(28.8 Mb – download the divx application from http://www.divx.com/divx/play/download/

When I write about affirmations of inclusionality as necessary conditions for the creation of shared and communicable living standards of judgment, it is such experiences and affirmations that I have in mind. As I move on to respond to Marie’s questions I am wondering if we are sharing this understanding. Your responses will help me to see if we are developing a shared understanding.

Marie asks: How can documentation be developed that supports and energises rather than hinders and enervates and takes the work into the public domain? Could we play with different technology? Would this be a way of desensitising and learning the skill necessary at the same time?

I am wondering if visual narratives, that communicate the embodied values we believe carry hope for the future of humanity, are experienced by you (as they are for me) as supportive, and energising in your work. I’ve certainly found that playing with different technology, usually with my son, Jonathan, has helped me to learn the skills necessary to the production of the visual narratives and to make them available through web-space. I have also found that watching video-tapes of my teaching helped me to overcome my embarrassment (I have checked with Marie and this is consistent what she is meaning by desensitising) at seeing myself as others may see me and recognising myself as a living contradiction as I could see myself denying some of the values in my practice that I thought that I was living!

Here are two images that have influenced their viewers. The first image is taken from Mark Potts’ (2003) enquiry, How can I use my own values and my experience of schools in South Africa to influence my own education and the education of others? http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/module/mpsa.pdf


“Perhaps it was the optimism that I felt as I spoke with this 17 year old student of Economics about his aspirations to go on to College and be an accountant, followed by the sadness as I spoke afterwards to his teacher who told me that there was no prospect of this because the family was too poor to pay the College fees. In my mind I thought of the opportunities lying ahead of the children in the well-resourced schools that I had seen during my visit. That was the source of the anger that I felt.” (Potts, 2003)


The second image below evoked shared affirmations of meanings between Marie Huxtable and myself. Marie is a psychologist working on educational projects in the Bath and North East Somerset local authority. Our shared meanings are focused on our responses to the expressions in the eyes, face, body and hands of the pupil below as she shows what she has been working on, to the photographer Belle Wallace. Belle Wallace is currently President of the National Association for Able Children in Education (in the UK) and you can access her biography at http://www.nace.co.uk/home.htm?tasc_biography.htm~mainFrame 


Both Marie and I felt a flow of life-affirming energy in our responses to the image and with each other. We recognised this flow of energy between us and affirmed that it carries our hope for the future of humanity and our own. For us, the way the pupil shows Belle what she had produced carries two affirmations. There is the affirmation from the pupil that what has been produced is a source of pleasure and satisfaction. There is the affirmation from Belle and ourselves that we are seeking to enable ourselves and others to feel this quality of pleasure and satisfaction in what we and others are producing. I am associating such affirmations with what I mean by living a productive life in education.


Moira Laidlaw (1996 http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/moira2.shtml )  introduced me to the idea of living standards of judgment. This doctor educator showed me, through her work with her pupils at Oldfield Girls School in Bath, that 13/14 year old pupils could use the language of educational standards of judgment in relation to their own learning and help each other to improve the quality of each others’ learning. We also watched together the three video-clips below from Branko Bognar, on the 7th July 2005 and both felt our understandings of what was possible for pupils to accomplish as the pupils working as researchers in their own learning in a way that demonstrated their understanding of action research processes and validation.

I am wondering if you will find the visual narrative produced by Branko Bognar with the three video-clips below shows evidence of educational influence.  For me it answers Marie’s question, ‘How can documentation be developed that supports and energises?’. Branko’s document is certainly supporting and energising my own work. I am thinking here of the motivational energy that flows with the recognition of what pupil researchers can accomplish when working with teachers and mentors who express faith in their pupils’ capacities and have the understanding and skills to help others to develop as action researchers.

Banko Bognar worked for six years as a primary school teacher in the small Croatian town of Cazma and then later as a pedagogue in the Primary School ‘Vladimir Nazor’ in Slavonski Brod, Branko has now taken up a post in the Faculty of Philosophy at Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, where he has responsibility for the professional education of pedagogues  and teachers.  Here is the letter Branko posted to the 2005 BERA Practitioner-Reseracher e-seminar in response to my request to the participants for evidence of their educational influence:

Dear friends,

I worked hard for two days and two nights to translate and title video recordings where you could see live example of our effort to apply action research in our educational practice.

First video (available at http://www.e-lar.net/videos/Creativity-en2.wmv 11 Mb) was starting point in Vesna Simic’s and my action research. Our shared value is creativity, so we try to find a way how to fulfil this value. We realised that creativity is enough fulfil in her teaching of arts. But she confessed, and we find evidence for that when we analysed video recordings of her teaching, that she realised subject society and nature on traditional and uncreative way. So we decided to improve creativity in that part of her educational practice.

On second and third videos (available at

http://www.e-lar.net/videos/AI2_0002.wmv 30.5 Mb and at

http://www.e-lar.net/videos/Validation.wmv 29 Mb) we could find that children should not be treated only as participants in action research of adults (teachers) but also as co-researcher or standalone researchers. Marica Zovko, class-teacher was mentor to her students and I was mentor to her. Her students evidenced that they understand the processes of action research and know how to apply them to improve their living practice.

Warm regards,


You can also access the clips from:


Action Research – http://www.jackwhitehead.com/A12_0002.wmv

Validation – http://www.jackwhitehead.com/Validation.wmv

As I move into responding to Marie’s other questions I am hopeful that you will find the above documentation captivates your imaginations in ways that supports and helps to energise your own enquiries. Does it engage with your own experiences and ideas about how to enhance the educational influences in what you are doing? 

Marie also asks:

2)    How can the influence of this group be understood and the strands of understanding plaited in with the other work – to transform the individual, the group and beyond? How do we know that what we are doing is of value and has a life beyond us?

I believe that one way the influence of the group could be understood is through:

Producing values-based and evidence-based accounts of our educational influences in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.

I believe that one way we could know that what we are doing is of value and has a life beyond us is through:

Seeing the influence of these accounts being acknowledged and used in the life-stories and learning of others.

I tend to pause when I hear ‘we’ and ‘group’ statements and questions. I find myself wondering if I wish to be included in the ‘we’ spoken by the other.  Before using ‘we’ I tend to check with others that they do not feel any tension in relation to their own identity in my use of ‘we’.  I tend to retain a sense of an individual’s identity and integrity in ‘I’ by modifying ‘we’ to ‘we~I’  or to ‘I-You’  or to  ‘collective~individual’. 

In relation to my contribution to an individual’s or group’s educational influence I imagine that it will focus on the following three original ideas from my educational theory research programme at the University of Bath. The three ideas I am thinking of are:

i)  the inclusion of ‘I’ as a living contradiction in explanations of educational influence as individuals explore the implications of asking, researching and answering questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’

ii) that you and I can create our own living educational theories as explanations for our educational influences in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.

iii) that the living standards (Laidlaw, 1996) of judgment we use in explaining to ourselves and others the life we are living are formed from the embodied values we use to give meaning and purpose to our lives. The living standards are formed in the process of clarifying the meanings of the values we seek to live by in the course of their emergence in what we are doing.

I imagine that you may experience the educational influence of these ideas in your learning:

iv) if you recognize that the story of your own learning includes your existence as a living contradiction in enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’

v) if you acknowledge the creation of your own living educational theories as your evidence-based explanations of your educational influences in your professional practice.

vi) if you recognize that, in the process of clarifying the meanings of the values you are seeking to live by, you are transforming them into the standards of judgment you use in your knowledge-creation. I am thinking here of their use in evaluating the validity of claims to know your educational influences in learning.

I also imagine that you may experience my educational influence as I drawn your attention to (pedagogise) the living theories of others. By this I mean that I intend to draw your attention to the living theories of others in ways that I intend to captivate your imaginations as you engage and integrate insights from the ideas of others into your own learning.

What I am meaning by an educational influence in the learning of others is not a direct causal relationship. What an individual educator does with a pupil or student needs to be mediated through the originality of mind and critical judgment of the learner for me to recognize the influence in learning as educational.

Here are some more details of what I am meaning by living contradictions, living educational theories and living standards of judgment. My interest in hearing your responses to the ideas has a bearing on my reflections on my own sense of living a productive life. If you find the ideas useful in your own life in living values that carry hope for the future of humanity, this affirms my own sense of living a productive life.

Living Contradictions; Living Educational Theories; Living Standards of Judgment. Three original ideas that might influence your own.

1)    Living Contradictions.

I first became aware of my existence as a living contradiction in my educational practice when I saw video-tapes of my teaching in 1971.  I believed that I had established enquiry learning in my classroom. However, I could see from the video-tapes that the way I was questioning the pupils and the way I was organising the learning resources were actually closing down opportunities for them to question!  I found myself asking ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’  in this experience of existing as a living contradiction.  The originality of including ‘I’ as a living contradiction in explanations of my educational influence is related to its challenge to the dominant logic of theory from the Aristotelean Logic of some 2,500 years ago. This dominant, or ‘propositional’ logic claims that theories that contain contradictions are entirely useless as theories. The clearest rejection of dialectical theorizing is perhaps Karl Popper’s ‘What is Dialectic?’ (Popper, 1963, p. 316)

In a self-study of my own learning I engaged with my living contradictions  in the creation of my living educational theory. I found that I could answer a question posed by the Soviet Logician Euard Ilyenkov (1977) – ‘If an object exists as a living contradiction, what must the thought be (statement about the object) that expresses it?’  The significance of the question can be appreciated through the 2,500 year old debate between those who believe contradiction is at the nucleus of correct thought and those who believe contradictions must be eliminated from correct thought. In the living inclusional logic described below I will explain how insights from both propositional and dialectical theories can be integrated and used within inclusional educational theories.

The originality of including ‘I’ as a living contradiction in theory generation, in educational enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ has yet to influence some Academies and colleagues. I am thinking of those who continue to reject the idea that a self-study containing ‘I’, as a living contradiction, in the question and explanation of learning could make an original contribution to knowledge. When faced with this kind of response I tend to point to the 19 doctoral studies, already legitimated and available from:


I also point to the masters dissertations and individual units of educational enquiry which address questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ at:


The experience of living contradiction and generating my explanations for my educational influences in my own learning, led me to propose the idea that such explanations formed living educational theories.

2)    Living Educational Theories

The second original idea is that you and I can create our own living educational theories as explanations of our educational influences in our own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations.  This idea emerged from my experience as existing as a living contradiction and my recognition of an error in the view of educational theory that dominated my studies of educational theory in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was the view that educational theory was constituted by the philosophy, sociology, psychology and history of education – disciplines of education. The error in the disciplines approach to educational theory was in the attempt to eliminate the embodied values individuals used to give meaning and purpose to their existence by replacing them by principles from the disciplines of education. 

Paul Hirst, one of the proponents of the disciplines approach to educational theory in the 1960s and 1970s acknowledged this error in 1983 and gave a very clear articulation of my experience in 1971 of the mistake of eliminating such values, or maxims, I used to make sense of my life in education, when he wrote about the mistake of replacing pragmatic maxims in practical experience:

Much understanding of educational theory will be developed:

"… in the context of immediate practical experience and will be co-terminous with everyday understanding. In particular, many of its operational principles, both explicit and implicit, will be of their nature generalisations from practical experience and have as their justification the results of individual activities and practices.

In many characterisations of educational theory, my own included, principles justified in this way have until recently been regarded as at best pragmatic maxims having a first crude and superficial justification in practice that in any rationally developed theory would be replaced by principles with more fundamental, theoretical justification. That now seems to me to be a mistake. Rationally defensible practical principles, I suggest, must of their nature stand up to such practical tests and without that are necessarily inadequate." (Hirst, 1983, p. 18)

I rejected the disciplines approach in 1971 for this reason, while retaining valuable insights from the disciplines in the generation of my own explanations of my educational influences in my own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of social formations. My move to the University of Bath in 1973 was based on the decision to see if I could contribute to a reconstruction of educational theory from the ground of such explanations that I called living educational theories. The paper of mine that is most often quoted in relation to living educational theories is:

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


and this can be read in conjunction with the Presidential Address I gave to the British Educational Research Association in 1988 on: 

Whitehead, J. (1989) How do we Improve Research-based Professionalism in Education?-A question which includes action research, educational theory and the politics of educational knowledge. : 1988 Presidential Address to the British Educational Research Association. Published in the British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 15, No.1, pp. 3-17, 1989


You can follow the growth and extension of the idea of living educational theories from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/writing.shtml and in the living theories of others at:




My most ambitious multi-media presentation to date is in the October 2004 issue of Action Research Expeditions at:


and you might enjoy responding to this presentation in the ‘Discuss this Article’ Forum on the web-site.

Having proposed the idea of living educational theory I wanted to legitimate this idea in the Academy. I recognized the importance of being able to communicate and legitimate the standards of judgment in this new form for knowledge. The unit of appraisal appeared clear to me. The unit was an explanation that an individual produced for their educational influence in learning. Hence my interest in legitimating living standards of judgment.

3)    Living standards of judgment

Moira Laidlaw (1996) originated the idea of living standards of judgment. My original contribution lies in the process of transforming the experience of embodied ontological values into living epistemological standards of judgment. It may be that the ideas of ontology and epistemology feel alien to you. My reason for highlighting their importance is that I associate the values we use to give meaning and purpose to our lives as ontological values. These are the values that I think ‘we’ seek to live.

The significance of transforming or producing our standards of judgment from our values is that we use these standards to evaluate the validity of our claims to know our educational influences. The significance is related to the view of oneself as a knowledge-creator, as a contributor to the knowledge-base of education. The transformation, from the experience of embodied values into living and communicable standards of judgment, occurs in the process of clarifying the meanings of the embodied values in the course of their emergence in practice.

Here is one of my beliefs that is open to question. Do please bear in mind the tentative way I am using ‘our’ and ‘we’. I believe that in our embodied knowledge as we relate to all the pupils in a class we know how to do something of vital importance. I think we know how to be inclusionally responsive. I think we live with this value and skill as a living standard of judgment.

By inclusionality I am meaning that we live with a relationally dynamic awareness (Rayner 2005) of the multiple relationships that constitute  our educational relationships in the groups and classes that we teach.  I believe that we are relationally dynamically aware of space and boundaries (Rayner, 2005) that are connective, reflexive and co-creative in our educational relationships.

I believe that we live with a relationally dynamic awareness of multiple relations while being able to focus on the needs of an individual.  I think we have a systemic awareness of  interconnecting and branching networks of relationship of the kind you will recognize being expressed by Moira Laidlaw at the end of a class at Guyuan Teachers College. Guyuan Teachers College hosts China’s Experimental Centre for Educational Action Research in Foreign Languages Teaching. Action researchers in the Centre are working on the development of collaborative, living educational theories with their collaborative, living standards of judgment.

The following 9 MB video clip will take several minutes to download using Broadband (10 minutes on my system) and opens in Quicktime.






More still images from the classroom with Moira Laidlaw at Guyuan Teachers College in China on the 15 October 2004 can be seen at:



There is much original work to be done in representing and communicating the meanings of such an inclusional awareness and its expression in living standards of judgment.

The most recent original contribution to the development of inclusional and responsive living standards of judgment is Marian Naidoo’s (2005) doctoral thesis with its multi-media visual narrative on a DVD. I think you will enjoy Marian’s Abstract:

I am because we are (a never ending story). The emergence of a living theory of inclusional and responsive practice.


I believe that this original account of my emerging practice demonstrates how I have been able to turn my ontological commitment to a passion for compassion into a living epistemological standard of judgment by which my inclusional and responsive practice may be held accountable. 

I am a story teller and the focus of this narrative is on my learning and the development of my living educational theory as I have engaged with others in a creative and critical practice over a sustained period of time. This narrative self-study demonstrates how I have encouraged people to work creatively and critically in order to improve the way we relate and communicate in a multi-professional and multi-agency healthcare setting in order to improve both the quality of care provided and the well being of the system. 

In telling the story of the unique development of my inclusional and responsive practice I will show how I have been influenced by the work of theatre practitioners such as Augusto Boal, educational theorists such as Paulo Freire and drawn on, incorporated and developed ideas from complexity theory and living theory action research. I will also describe how my engagement with the thinking of others has enabled my own practice to develop and from that to develop a living, inclusional and responsive theory of my practice. Through this research and the writing of this thesis, I now also understand that my ontological commitment to a passion for compassion has its roots in significant events in my past.



I now want to return to Marie’s questions and my tentative contribution to moving Marie’s enquiries forward:

How can the influence of this group be understood and the strands of understanding plaited in with the other work – to transform the individual, the group and beyond? How do we know that what we are doing is of value and has a life beyond us?

 I am suggesting that we all produce and share our living theories 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. I am thinking of our living theories in which we can embrace the experience of ‘I’ existing as a living contradiction and can share our life-affirming energies in the process of seeking to live our embodied values as fully as we can in our professional practice. It is my belief that in co-creating and sharing our living educational theories with each other, through their flow through web-space, we will be enhancing the flow of values, skills and understandings that carry hope for the future of humanity (Whitehead. 2004).


Hirst, P. (Ed.) (1983) Educational Theory and its Foundation Disciplines. London;RKP

Ilyenkov, E. (1977) Dialectical Logic. Moscow; Progress Publishers. 

Popper, K. (1963) Conjectures and Refutations, Oxford: O.U.P.

Potts. M, (2003) How can I use my own values and my experience of schools in South Africa to influence my own education and the education of others? MA Educational Enquiry Unit, University of Bath. Retrieved 6 November 2005 from  http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/module/mpsa.pdf

Rayner, A. (2005) Essays and Talks about ‘Inclusionality’ by Alan Rayner. Retrieved 6 November 2005 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/~bssadmr/inclusionality/

Whitehead, J. (2004) Do action researchers' expeditions carry hope for the future of humanity? How do we know?  Action Research Expeditions, October 2004. Retrieved 1 November 2005 from http://www.arexpeditions.montana.edu/articleviewer.php?AID=80