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You are a stranger among us: exclusional and inclusional practice in research communities

Rev, Je Kan Adler-Collins
The Healing Nurse Programme, Fukuoka University, Japan

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 16-18 September 2004


Since the proposal for this session submitted by Sarah Fletcher and I, events occurred outside of my control that required the original submission to be modified.

Sarah Fletcher’s withdrawal with her note to the practitioner-researcher e-list on the 11th September:

You may have noticed that my draft symposium paper has recently been removed at I apologise for this necessary move, on legal advice. Similarly I will not be presenting my joint paper with Reverend Je Kan Adler-Collins. I am grateful to my co-presenters for their understanding and kind forbearance...

Because of my experiences at Fukuoka University with the inclusion of my curriculum of the healing nurse and my pedagogisation of a living theory approach to action research I will focus on my learning from my self-study which shows inclusional practices transcending tendencies to exclude. My paper is in keeping with the original proposal.

It is the intention of this paper to pose some questions that can be taken under consideration and reflected on. In so doing the issues of exclusionary practices and their relationship to academic freedom can be raised to a higher level of transparency and debate. I hope to show how living inclusional values can transcend the negative practices of exclusion.

As I speak about this I am conscious of message, incorporated in his explanation of pedagogic discourse, where he talks of what he sees as the two types of discourse, these being the thinkable class and the unthinkable class (p.30). He believes that there is a potential discourse gap between these two classes and stresses that it is not a dislocation of meaning, but it is a gap.

It is this gap that I find so interesting and challenging. I refer to this gap as the primordial space in which original thinking and enquiry can evolve outside the power controls of the gate holders of what is or is not acceptable knowledge.

To many, my development of a healing/reflective curriculum for nurses falls clearly in the unthinkable category with a total rejection by the western medical model of its values and philosophical base.

Usually such rejection and in some cases hostility is based on the criticism of: "Where is the evidence and proof of healing?" Surprisingly some of the most persistent scarification and criticisms have come from fellow educators within Nursing who see such a curriculum as undermining the drive to have Nursing accepted as a science grounded in empirical research data, enriched with its canonical concepts of controlled experimental design, repeatability, generalisability and rigour.

I am faced with the following paradox; my curriculum design strength is its grounding in western educational theories and concepts. I use reflective journals, portfolio evidence, critical thinking skill, Information Technology with web based interactive tests, Classroom evaluations and web multimedia conferencing.

It was this design that was accepted by the Ministry of Education for inclusion in the nursing curriculum. The subject content included the therapeutic value of touch, understanding of self, the holistic concepts of disease and disease recovery and Complementary Medicine approaches to healing therapy. These found fertile ground with nurse practitioners and students in general. To date however, despite its acceptance by the Ministry of Education, it has been firmly and consistently rejected as being of any academic value by many of my peers.

Not only was the content of the course not understood and problematic for senior colleges but the methodology of teaching and delivering of the Healing Nurse curriculum was that of Action Research. The legitimating of Action research within the academy’s of Japan is still at an embryonic state. Many senior academics still referring to Action Research as being: "Not Research, not scientific." Yet the body of evidence that supports the scholarship of the usefulness of the many different forms of action research is becoming impressive with international sites appearing around the world.

In 1998-9 I was part of the government steering group looking at the mapping of complementary Medicine in the United Kingdom and I was deeply conscious of the divide that existed between claims of therapies and evidence of those claims in terms of efficacy of treatments, training standards and research. Since that time progress has been made and certain therapies have received a degree of acceptance. This acceptance has been demand driven. By this I mean that the public are demanding Complementary and Alternative therapies to be made available as an option in main stream Health Care by service providers. The tensions still remain and many see the science of nursing to be the only way forward for nursing knowledge linked to and reflecting the professional standing creditability of Nursing Researchers and academics.

Others, including myself see Nursing not exclusively as a science or an art but rather as a craft in which we combine the theory of science in the art of practice as a positive outcome as we apply the skills , science and knowledge of nursing to the practical application of the craft through practice.

Such opposing views are evidence of the continuation of paradigm wars as referred to by:

where he states;

"The fact is that ours is a field characterised by paradigm proliferation and, consequently, the sort of field in which there is little consensus about what research and scholarship are and what research, reporting and scholarly discourse should look like." (p.19-25)

(Schön, 1995) wrote:

.Introduction of the new scholarship into institutions of higher education means becoming involved in an epistemological battle. It is a battle of snails, proceeding so slowly that you have to look very carefully in order to see it going on. But it happens none the less. (pp.27-34)

In setting the context of this paper I need to make explicit the values base that I am using and by so doing making clear how they could be biasing my accounts.

I am a Shingon Buddhist Priest and Nurse Tutor in Japan. I therefore do not wilfully subscribe to actions that will cause pain and suffering to others. I consciously seek to live a life of non-violation of another in thought, word and deed. Living such values is often problematic and I can at times see that I am a living contradiction for no matter what moral, ethical or philosophical space I hold , my practice through force of circumstances or lack of mindfulness can bring about situations where I am not living my values. In this paper I will use examples of this and how I sought to resolve these issues through the formation of loving and compassionate relationships. Critical analysis of these relationships will be included in my narrative and you will be invited to engage with me to see if my claims to know are valid.

Through the transformatory process of critical reflection of my lived experiences, I turn these experiences into my living epistemological values as standards of judgement. My ontological values move and give purpose to my life.

Through my narrative I can transform the lived ontological values into communicable epistemological standards of judgement. In some sense I am taking a risk. By risk I am thinking of understanding of entering an Abyss of the unknown.

In speaking to this conference I am indeed entering the unknown, for I am extremely conscious that the spoken word is not the received word. However, language in the form of verbal presentation backed up by textual representation is the medium of our communication and therefore has, within it limitations, to communicate actual meaning.

I am an action researcher and use living action research as my methodology to research my practice as a nurse and an educator. An action research approach is to ask questions of the nature of "How do I improve my practice?" I am asking the question "How do I improve my understanding of exclusionary practices in academia?"

I am hopeful that this process today will help us to engage with the questions in a new way that will lead to a greater inclusional awareness of exclusional practices in academia.

I suspect that exclusionary practices are not unknown to members of this audience; I also suspect that most of us have at some time been exposed to them. I ask my self "Why is this so? Is it part of our academic life? If so why?

The following questions that are useful in focusing us on the issues of Exclusional practise. These are;

  1. How do educational communities exclude the voice of others in dialogue?
  2. Why do education communities engage in exclusional practice in research?
  3. What does living such exclusion mean for an individual and educational community?
  4. How does pressure to publish contribute to exclusional practice in research communities?
  5. How can we learn from research relating to inclusional practice to prevent exclusionality?

While seeing that the above questions focus on exclusional practices they offer little indication of the answer and the very questions are exclusional in their framing. Rather than trying to address these questions from their exclusional positional stance I wish to engage with the ideas of Bernstein, Peck and Rayner in a way that recontextualises them to an inclusional form of educational research that will allow me to address the important embodied issues of the questions rather that of their negative framing.

Let us take a few moments to examine Rayner’s ideas.

In Rayner’s view Inclusionality is an awareness that provides a relationally dynamic framing within which to view reality; this framing provides a perception of space and boundaries as connective, reflective and co-creative with the vital role of producing heterogeneous form and local identity within a dynamic Universe. Space is experienced as a vital, dynamic inclusion within, around and permeating natural form across all scales of organization, allowing diverse possibilities for movement and communication. Boundaries are experienced inclusionally as pivotal, relational places; places have reciprocally coupled insides and outsides, which communicate through space-including, and hence permeable or holey, intermediary domains.

Rayner believes that the logical premise of ˜Inclusionality" is that of distinct, ever-transforming relational, and hence incomplete, places. He says that;

"When space is included in our perceptions of boundaries, it becomes inseparable from the energy that makes us alive. In the relational dynamic framing of Inclusionality, we feel ourselves, with others, as inhabited places with distinct but not discrete expressions who are ever-transforming through the dynamic, reciprocally breathing relationship of inner with outer through intermediary space" (Rayner 2004).

This includes, says Rayner, an awareness of our place as local expressions of everywhere in which we are not alone as we belong with, but decidedly not to, one another, together. Hence Rayner’s belief that our lives become coherent through the connectivity of our common space, unique in our individually situated identities as we both express and accommodate, differentiation and integration. Thus, says Rayner, we can each perceive our natural being as a complex self, a coming together of inner with outer reciprocally coupled through intermediary spatial domains rather than a dislocated, self-centred individual imposing upon and imposed on by others. Rayner believes that this perception may actually enable us to transcend the I/You, Us/Them divides that engender so much human conflict.

He says that instead of engaging in adversarial debate between alternatives, in inclusional ways of being, we can understand life and evolution coupling distinct but not discrete possibilities together through dynamic boundaries. We can then, without contradiction, each love other as our outer self that is interdependent with our inner self, and give precedence to our living space, of which we are uniquely situated expressions, deserving and needing respect. (Rayner, 2004)

If we keep this concept of space in mind we can then revisit the work of with different eyes. Bernstein in his book Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity gives us a means to codify knowledge in what he terms as Pedagogic Codes.

He explains;

"+/- are the strengths of classification and framing ± C/F.

Classification always has an external value because it is concerned with relations. But classification can also have an internal value…. Internal classification refers to the arrangement of spaces and the objects in it….Similarly; framing can have both an internal and external value. The external value of framing refers to the controls on communications outside pedagogic practice entering pedagogic practice." ( p.14)

Bernstein offers a formula of ;

±C i.e / ± Fi.e

E = ( elaborated orientation)

"In this way we can show how the distribution of power and the principles of control translate themselves in terms of communicative principles and spatial arrangements which give elaborated orientation its particular modality" (p15)

in her PhD Thesis refers on page 205 to the ideas of where Scot Peck offers a four stage model of community building.

  1. Pseudo Community and likens the relationship in such a community to a cocktail party.
  2. Chaos, It is human nature to want community and we are driven by out frustrations with superficial relationships of the cocktail party to search for more meaningful relations with others. How ever in making that move we are unprepared for the differences we discover and finding then difficult to tolerate we lurch into chaos.
  3. Emptiness. Here individuals must be willing to put aside their assumptions, to notice and hold them in suspense. It is a place for dialogue, both with others and the self. It may involve letting go of your position or moving beyond it.
  4. Community is the fourth and final stage.

Using the ideas above of Bernstein, Scot Peck and Rayner as a framework I can recontextualise them through my understanding of their meanings. For example Rayner’s conceptions of the inclusiveness and connectivity of space the inner and out being connected by the middle. I see such connectivity as a fundamental concept of my cosmology as a Buddhist. I live my connectedness to all in mindful compassion and respect, seeking the non violation of all beings.

Inclusionality is almost identical to the concepts of Buddhist mindfulness and for me offers the joy of living in a loving space of imagination.

Bernstein offers me explanations of the coding of knowledge and its representation of that knowledge within the western paradigm. In his concept of the two types of pedagogic discourse, Bernstein refers to the thinkable and the unthinkable. The gap, which is between the two different forms, is what he calls the potential discursive gap.

My understanding of this space is what I would describe as primordial. By primordial I mean that the space has the potential for originality and uniqueness, the formulation of new knowledge out side of the control of stakeholders that have the power to define what is thinkable and unthinkable. Not only do they have the power to define such knowledge but often the power to police it.

Peck offers ways of understanding the process of community formation, its different evolutionary stages and the tensions that evolve in each stage. There are many different types of community but all knowledge is created under the social constructs of the community in which it is grounded. Using the above understanding I can look at my practice in my social situation and see the errors of my misunderstandings. I can also see ways of understanding how such errors arose and possible ways of resolving tensions by seeing that people are responding under and to circumstances. Therefore in the effort to seek resolution of confrontational situations I can achieve a degree of transparency of the power relationships, the coded knowledge of society and culture and the stage of the evolutionary development of the community. Analysis of this process, when applied to a situation, allows me to focus on the structure or causal aspects of the tension rather than reducing it to exclusive form of the discrete and making it personal.

Offering an Inclusional Analysis.

Prior to my evolving an inclusional awareness I would have seen power abuse and academic harassment. Now after applying an inclusional analysis to the problems I see the use of power to respond or control situations that are not understood by the individuals invested with the power to police. I see defense strategies at work, defense of position, of concepts, of ideas and methodologies. What I needed to analyse was the sourcing factors that engendered defensive actions.

In my own case I can see how I was acting and thinking exclusionary rather than inclusionary. By Exclusionary I can see that I failed to:

  1. recognise the influence of "E" as suggested by Bernstein.
  2. take Scot Pecks’s issues of community into consideration in terms of my new university, new faculty, new staff, multi-disciplined paradigms. Starting in a different cultural setting where the usual supporting community had yet to be formed.
  3. understand the coded information, the culture and the procedures at work as described by Bernstein.

In my understanding of the dynamic boundaries as referred to by Rayner my ability to function in community was thrown into chaos. As I responded through the solidification of my dynamic boundaries I entered a cycle of isolation and in the truest sense of Whitehead’s living contradiction (1989) I was living against the values I hold of compassion and understanding as a Buddhist priest.

Inclusional Thinking.

Gage and Schön refer to as the paradigm wars;

" Introduction of the new form of scholarship into institutions of higher education means becoming involved in an epistemological battle. It is a battle of snails, proceeding so slowly that you have to look very carefully in order to see it going on. But it happens none the less" (Schon, 1995, p.27)

The above, while conveying a powerful meaning is easily recognised as having embedded with in it the negative connotations of "War" and "Battles". This gives legitimacy to actions that are acceptable products of war and battles. The concept of winning or losing, killing, taking no prisoners, cruelty and wounding actions and language are exclusionary.

Bernstein reminds us: -"listen carefully, to the use…linguistic, emotional, and cognitive imagination to grasp what is being said in "alien" traditions… either facilely assimilating what others say to our own categories and language….or simply dismissing… as incoherent nonsense."

This I believe shows Bernstein thinking in an inclusionary manner.

Inclusionary Actions.

I had identified that my understanding and actions were contributing to the problems being experienced in my faculty, "What was I going to do?" Inclusionary action includes the acceptance of exclusional practices as being part of the connectedness of every thing. Power is energy, neither positive or negative, good or bad. Rather it is the engagement of people that make a series of choices that inform action that gives the value to the power. To exclude the exclusionary would be presenting the very same situation of yes/no choices. Rayner refers to the excluded middle, the space between yes/no.

It is my understanding that space is not empty. Rather in the absence of distinction, space is uninformed and neutral in its connectivity to all. Therefore both exclusional and inclusional energies are held in neutral space. Consciousness, by and under the action of choice, decides which space it will engage with, positive, neutral or negative.

I could see that I had been engaged in a negative space.

By approaching my Dean and apologizing for my lack of mindful awareness, such action defused what was a tense situation and show us both how we has misunderstood the other. A new space was connected too. By engaging with my Dean in inclusive conversation the space became positive and the issues and problems that were perceived to exist we dissolved by the reduction of resistance in our dynamic boundaries. This resulted in a clearer respectful flow of information and ideas, a resolution of tensions transformed into hope.

I would like to conclude with a quote from the draft thesis of Walton ( 2004)

"If I know that I reside in the imagination of a loving compassionate intelligence, who desires me to live my story out to the full, and will give me full reign to do so if I can handle it, then I can respond to that, with no fear of consequences. I need not fear being adversely judged or condemned for what I do. Given the knowledge I have developed during the course of this enquiry, there is one criterion that I can reliably use to guide me; and that is that, in everything I think and do, I do it in the consciousness that I am interconnected to everything that is." (Walton, 2004)


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This document was added to the Education-line database on 14 December 2004