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Working with EJOLTS

Focus Question: How can I enhance the dialectic of cooperation in my educative relationships? The rationale behind this question is to come closer to an understanding in practice of how to move between my own I and the person I am working with in order to improve the educational quality of the work 'we' are doing.

Celebrating EJOLTS

As a part of the celebration of the first ten years of EJOLTS, this writing is a personal marker in my 40-year educational journey[1]. I embraced teaching as a vocation in 1977, and for the first ten years as a school-teacher, I didn’t formally account to myself or others what I was doing, but it felt right to be working with people in ways that generated hope and a sense of purpose in individuals and groups.


The powerful dialectic between my own educational journey and those of others became integrated more formally as I incorporated the processes of individually-oriented Action Research (Whitehead, 1985), and later Living Theory (Whitehead, 1989) into my practice and theorising. In my doctoral thesis, I evolved the idea of living standards of judgment i.e. that our values are not static, but develop, like us over time and in action. Then, with the completion of my living-theory Ph.D. (Laidlaw, 1996)[2] I was in a more informed position about the significance of taking responsibility for my own learning, as I pursued improvements in working with others within the social contexts I encountered (China from 2001–2007; in the UK with the Open University from 2009 to the present).

Setting up EJOLTS

There was, however, a further step to be taken. The inauguration of an international, refereed journal for living-theories seemed a natural outcome for people concerning themselves with ways of improving their educational practices and with generating and sharing their educational knowledge in social contexts as they celebrated the hope for the future of humanity (EJOLTS, 2017 at Publishing living-theories would enable individuals and the growing community to learn from each other through the practice, writing, theorising, reviewing and management of the processes we were undergoing. Throughout my time with EJOLTS I have contributed papers, and worked on the editorial team and as a reviewer in our open reviewing system (see and I have learnt about the educational value of the democratisation of learning processes for writers, reviewers, editors and groups (Laidlaw, 2017). I have also seen Arianna Briganti (Ph.D. student) flourishing both as a Living Theorist and as a writer for EJOLTS (Briganti, 2015), in which she emphasises a growing merger between ongoing enquiries and Living Theory as a social movement.

My Educational Development through EJOLTS

My own EJOLTS articles (Laidlaw, 2008, 2012, 2015) have enabled me to plot the course of my progress following my six years in China. I began with an explanation of my educational development since 1978. In 2012, I was supported through EJOLTS in difficult times as I tried to come to terms with very painful changes in my life. In the third article (Laidlaw, 2015) I was then in a position to explain the significance to my work of the social and political contexts of my educational development through what I was doing formally at the Open University and locally more informally. Finally, I co-wrote an article with a friend and colleague, Ben Cunningham (Cunningham & Laidlaw, 2017), as we sought to improve our practice by coming to terms with our own living contradictions (Whitehead, 1989).

EJOLTS has been a source of support, inspiration and encouragement throughout the last ten years and this is something I want to celebrate. We have been discussing the importance of forming good-quality questions as the root of enquiries, in order to enable practices that live out one’s core values.

And this is a natural place from which to delve into the bigger arena of Moira's living-educational-theory.

A Response from Jackie: I'm not sure if I'm doing this right in terms of building conversation, meaning and knowledge through the wiki but I thought I might respond to some of the ideas that you have presented in your section, Moira. (I just checked to see that what I had written had saved, as I'd messed this up before). When I first arrived to study at the University of Bath, I felt very much out of my element, especially when Jack left me in his very disorganized (he is saying that it was very organized, just not visibly) office with 5-6 very academic texts laid out for me to read, digest and be prepared to respond to, as he left for a meeting! One of the first people that I met there was you, Moira. you were so kind and supportive and understanding of the 'Whitehead Ways' - You'd say, "He's such a brute!" You read my work, listened to my ideas, helped me to make sense of the readings.

You were just in the throes of completing your doctorate and when I read your work, i was even more convinced that I was over my head! However, with time and patience from you and Jack, I became more academic, more able to understand the advanced theories of others and more comfortable with the academic language. Like you, "The powerful dialectic between my own educational journey and those of others became integrated more formally as I incorporated the processes of individually-oriented Action Research (Whitehead, 1985), and later Living Theory (Whitehead, 1989) into my practice and theorising." In my thesis (Delong, 2002), I describe and explain the transformation in my practice as a superintendent of schools when I learned to improve my practice by asking my principals and colleagues to be my critical friends in the process of improvement. I was able to bring about systemic change and improvement in the school system by creating and building a culture of inquiry, reflection and scholarship.

That was just the beginning of my learning as it continued in postdoc research and writing and through writing, reviewing and contributing to the board of EJOLTs. While I wrote my own opinion of an article, I was always interested in what you thought. I found your responses to writers to be so completely supportive and encouraging, going into great detail about what parts had resonated with you and, gently, how they might make it better. You are such a creative, articulate, scholarly researcher and writer that I throughly enjoy reading everything that you write and share. You make such a significant contribution to EJOLTs!

A response from Jack on the 12/10/18 - Moira is preparing a paper for submission to the EJOLTS review process for the 10th Anniversary EJOLTs issue in December 2018. When this is posted in our submitted papers section, I'm wondering if we might relate Moira's values of creativity and hope to the values we expressed in the special issue of EJOLTS in December 2013, Volume 6, Issue 2[3]


Briganti, A. (2015). Generating my own living-theory: an interim report, 8(2), 76-99.

Cunningham B. & Laidlaw, M. (2017). How can we live out our values more fully in our practice by an explicit explorations of our living contradictions? 10(1), 1-25.

Laidlaw, M. (2015). How I am trying to lead the best possible life: towards a more helpful framing of my practice, 8(2), 35-75.

Laidlaw, M. (2012). Overcoming Culture Shocks: learning to do things differently, 5(2), 44-98.

Laidlaw, M. (2008). In Pursuit of Counterpoint: an educational journey, 1(1), pp. 69-102.

Laidlaw, M. (1996). How can I create my own living educational theory as I account for my own educational development? (Ph.D. thesis, University of Bath. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from

Whitehead, J. (1989). Creating a Living Educational Theory from Questions of the Kind: ‘How do I Improve my Practice?’ Cambridge Journal of Education, 19(1), 41-52.

Whitehead, J. (1985) An analysis of an individual's educational development - the basis for personally orientated action research, in Shipman, M. (Ed.) Educational Research: Principles, Policies and Practice, pp. 97-108, London: Falmer.