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«HOPE UNIVERSITY Living Legacies: Valuing Lives of Service How can educational influence continue beyond classroom practice and sustain a sense of ...»

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How can educational influence continue beyond classroom practice and sustain

a sense of value, purpose and meaning for mature practitioners within a culture

which privileges the external world over the internal?








Thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements of

Liverpool Hope University for the degree of Doctor of Education.

1 I declare that, except where explicit reference is made to the contribution and/or influence of others, that this thesis is the result of my own work and has not been submitted for any other degree at this University or any other institution.

This thesis is available for library use on the understanding that it is copyright material and that no material from this thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement. I believe the content of this thesis to be legally allowable under copyright legislation.


Doctor Joan Walton Professor Bart McGettrick Primary Supervisor Secondary Supervisor 2 Abstract This thesis makes two original contributions to knowledge. Firstly, I introduce and develop the idea of a living legacy contending that their creation encourages experienced, mature practitioners to reflect upon and record integrated aspects of their personal, professional and academic knowledge in ways that are of benefit to themselves, fellow practitioners and education generally.

My recognition of the potential value of creating a living legacy is initially located within a personal narrative of my search to find value, meaning and purpose beyond the end of my classroom practice. As my sense of value and values were predominantly located and expressed through work, vulnerability to external factors, including constructions of aging, were acute. Over time these damaged the grace and resilience that sustained my value-led service whilst its threatened end provoked an erosion of my sense of meaning and social role. My responses to these explore what may enable resilience and rekindle grace, and successfully finds a new outlet for my educational influence in the creation of my living legacy.

Secondly, in creating my own living legacy I recognised a quality of relational being at the core of my practice which influenced my narrative inquiry. I termed this empathetic communion and responsiveness and offer this as an original, living standard of professional and academic judgement for others to adopt, and by which my claims to have established empathetic relationships in my practice and my narrative research can be evaluated.

My findings reinforce the desirability and potential benefits of encouraging experienced practitioners to create their own living legacies as the knowledge generated is located within the macrocosm of the international attrition of mature teachers. Simultaneously my research shows the value of empathetic communion and responsiveness as an original, living standard of judgement in educational practice and narrative research. My conclusion is that without living legacies, significant and unique contributions to knowledge are being lost to present and future generations.

–  –  –

As my thesis is located within the interpretative paradigm with my research grounded in the internal, sense-making constructs of my lived experience I here define some personal expressions/constructions.


The external world I refer to includes: [1] the observable, measurable and predictable factors of academic, positivist research; [2] professional factors, such as title, financial reward and institutional status; and, [3] cultural constructions of physical states and appearances.

The internal world includes the meanings taken from lived experiences, practitioner values and personal constructions of self.

GRACE [See: Post-Viva Preface]


[See: Post-Viva Preface] SPIRITUAL For me, spiritual refers to an inner consciousness and a reflective search for meaning, value and purpose in life. Also, these are about connection to a source/chain of being expressed in each life. I believe that while we know a separate existence, one from the other, we are but different expressions of one lifeforce/source. Believing thus, empathetic communion and responsiveness towards other is a necessity for me because I am the other in different form and expression.

Equally, self-transcendence is enabled because I have nothing to gain and everything to lose in another’s suffering. Thus, my spiritual, humanitarian and socio-educational values are synonymous.

8 SUBJECT-KNOWER-I & KNOWING-SUBJECT-I The subject-knower-I encapsulates the pursuit of external, empirical knowledge and what I term the ‘knowledge creed’. The ‘knowledge creed’ is based on passive acquisition of subject knowledge which is then appropriately regurgitated. For me, even the cognitive process involved is impoverished by this narrow reliance upon memory and recall.

Alternatively the knowing-subject-I represents the internal, interpretative nature of personal, embodied knowing. This process includes the active ownership of knowledge in which information received is understood through personal association. This enriches learning and memory with dimensional depths of emotion and personalised, cognitive constructions.


Youth-centeredness describes my perception that within western society/cultural uniqueness and value are conferred more on the young than on the elders.

–  –  –

This preface is presented as a separate response to viva recommendations to portray the viva as an essential part of the journey of the thesis. In my viva the opinion was that overarching themes, theories, concepts and implications needed highlighting at the outset and in the conclusions because they were being lost in the journey format.

In response I here clarify the overarching journey structure, themes of living legacy and grace, and provide a clearer definition and clarification of my concept of empathetic communion and responsiveness to other and its process in my research.

Also, I provide a brief summary of the two main findings of my research that my concluding chapter expands upon.

Journey Structure

My thesis using a journey structure makes two original contributions to knowledge.

The first is the introduction and development of the idea of living legacies in which I contend that their creation encourages experienced, mature practitioners to reflect upon and record integrated aspects of their personal, professional and academic knowledge in ways that are of benefit to themselves, fellow practitioners and education generally. My recognition of the value of creating a living legacy was initially located within the personal narrative of my own search to find value, meaning and purpose beyond the end of my classroom practice. As my sense of value and values were predominantly located and expressed through work, vulnerability to external factors, including constructions of aging, were acute. Over time these damaged the grace and resilience that sustained my value-led service whilst its threatened end provoked an erosion of my sense of meaning and social role. My responses to these took on a journey-like research approach and structure in which I explored what may enable resilience and rekindle grace - in the sense explained below - and successfully found a new outlet for my educational influence in the creation of my own living legacy.

Thus, as my doctorate involved existential sense-making it was not easily accommodated within traditional academic structures. Also, to appreciate the 10 significant place personal knowledge held in the interpretations I and my fellow storytellers made in regard to academic and professional knowledge I needed to tell stories that narrower, academic styles and critical treatments have traditionally marginalised or ‘shrouded in silence’ (Ellis et al., 2011: 274). The journey structure taken aligned with my focus upon existential feelings and cultural experiences. It did so by describing stories of how personal value, meaning and purpose became located within professional practice while health, cultural constructions of age and aging and socio-political changes psychologically threatened them. This brought with it the opportunity to reflect and analyse the road taken, and in the ‘thick description of personal and interpersonal experience... make personal experience meaningful and cultural experience engaging’ whilst drawing upon ‘wider and more diverse’ sources ‘that traditional research usually disregards’ (Ellis et al., 2011: 277). In this way the journey structure is an essential feature of the thesis.

Furthermore, the journey format synchronises with the idea of living legacies because it supports a construction of education as the life-long grounding of academic and professional knowledge within personal experience, cultural constructions and practice. In this way the journey structure used draws from a wide-range of academic and professional theories and cultural constructions, exemplifying how and why one life of service may embody a generation’s narrative, and bring awareness to what may be lost as but one life vanishes without a tangible, public legacy.

Figure 1 offers a visual explanation of the journey structure combining the methodologies used with ideas contained within the thesis. Thus, the knowingsubject-I stands in the middle of a Russian-doll-like construction with two-way arrows demonstrating the formative and influential pathways between culture, other and self. Also, each ‘doll’ evokes a different methodological form appropriate to its sphere. In this way, the sphere of self is explored through evocative autoethnography; the sphere of other through narrative inquiry; and the cultural realm through analytical auto-ethnography that includes a lifetime ranging literature review. Finally, in the two-way arrow traversing all the stacked spheres, the words

–  –  –

Also, from Figure 1 it is possible to understand the journey structure of the thesis.

The outer circle, representing the limits of the Russian dolls, is the place of Heidegger’s (1927) ‘thrown-ness’. This was the journey’s starting point with chapter 1 providing a traditional literature review and other academic requirements in order to partake of the journey. Chapter 2 jumps from this outer circle of cultural ‘thrownness’ to the inner circle of the self, exploring the research phenomenon through the 12 inner world perspective of evocative auto-ethnography. Then, moving-on from this perspective, the research is situated within the relational through narrative inquiry’s exploration of the stories of others. Next chapter 4 returns to the cultural, outer circle of time, place and mind-sets but now the gaze is through the lived-experiences and constructions that emerged through the research presented in an analytical autoethnographic form. Finally, chapter 5 containing the required elements of a conclusion returns to the academic parameters of chapter 1 completing a circular research journey.

Living Legacies

Living legacies are tangible, public formats for experienced practitioners to offer aspects of their embodied personal, professional and academic knowledge grounded in a unique story/journey to honour the past and illuminate the future. My living legacy is my personal testimony of my search for meaning, making sense to myself and others of the practitioner I was. Academically, it provides an authentic, historical record of what was and what has changed. Culturally, it is a political story that reflects constructs and values pertinent to a generation of educators. Overall, it shows the potential of a valued celebration of a life of learning and service that if produced at an appropriate time in service could revitalise the final years of classroom practice to the benefit of many. As such the underpinning assumption is that those in educational service can with passion and dedication ground their professional and academic knowledge in their personal values so that theories and approaches are not only understood and practised but are owned, developed and authentically and creatively expressed in practice. In other words, whilst a practitioner brings personal values, meanings and purposes to professional and academic practice the fusion between them makes original contributions to knowledge possible to the benefit of many.

Grace The theme of grace permeates my thesis. However, it is not the religious grace of my childhood saints and martyrs. I was born into a family and culture in which religious 13 belief and adherence were as Kohlberg (1958) describes strongly ‘conventional’. My mother was a devout, practising Roman Catholic who had internalised authority receiving her moral reasoning from Church doctrine. Simultaneously, her faith was her source of emotional and spiritual strength and resilience. However, in response to what she took from it, she did not question or doubt it and from her I ingested a concept of religious grace as a sanctifying, external force that could irradiate my soul and keep me close to God; a construction that was captured by the magical halo around the heads of saints and martyrs on the holy pictures I collected. While it shone around their heads bent in fervent prayer or tilted upwards in joyful expectancy of being in God’s presence, it illuminated them. As a child I envied their ecstasy of living and dying for something greater yet containing them.

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