Living Contradiction(9781785831775)

Provider: Crown House Publishing
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Description Describes how one teacher lost himself in his rigid commitment to upholding standards, and charts his research-led journey to find a better way.

Crown House Publishing's website
Categories Secondary, Leadership and Management, Teaching and Learning, Teaching staff, In school
Learning outcomes for participants/users and, where relevant, pupils or students

In this candid account, presented in the form of a dual narrative, Warren describes how he adopted a persona infused with control and intolerance as his authoritarian approach to suppressing conflict in the secondary school classroom became increasingly incongruent with his personal values and aspirations as an educator. Then, through undertaking his action research project and engaging in a process of reconceptualisation under co-author Bigger’s mentorship, Warren began to explore how he could redefine his classroom leadership and authenticate his teaching practice – without compromising standards or authority. Living Contradiction investigates the efficacy of Warren’s modified approach and tells the story of how he overcame the incessant demands of tension and disruption by becoming ‘confident in uncertainty’.

Suitable for teachers, NQTs, and policy makers, Living Contradiction is a resonatory self-examination of teacher identity and a significant contribution to the debate about how schools and classrooms are run.

Evidence underpinning this approach

Grappling with both the philosophical and the pragmatic, the authors offer two distinct perspectives in their commentary on Warren’s journey – supporting their interspersed critical reflections with thought-provoking insights into the methodology and outcomes of Warren’s research project. The book is split into five parts and is punctuated throughout with expert surveying of a wide range of related research that challenges the status quo on the effectiveness of punishment and authoritarianism as approaches to behaviour management. 

"Studies have shown that the predominant teacher response to disruptive student behaviour is reactive and punitive, rather than proactive and positive. The reactive approach does little to decrease disruptive student behaviour." 

Source: Clunies-Ross et al., 2008; Kameenui & Sugai, 1993

How users/participants can evaluate success

Values are in vogue in education: they are stated in school policies across the land. They are a list of what the school wants people to think about them and their educational aims – that they are caring, effective, and ethical in rooting pedagogy and all educational processes in positive relationships between teachers and pupils. Amidst the reality of classroom life, however, the very best of intentions can be compromised as the insidious influences of power, pressure, and responsibility come to bear.

In exploring how schooling should be as much about developing motivated citizens as encouraging qualifications, Living Contradiction goes in search of answers to the question that all educationalists must ask: ‘What do we want our education system to do for our children?’

Follow-up activities and support

Sean Warren PhD began his career in education in 1988. He proceeded to work with young people in Papua New Guinea, Romania and the United States. Back in the UK, his diverse experience incorporated many roles in education. Sean‘s current interest involves the use of technology to inform classroom observation and professional development.

Contact Shaun at:

Stephen Bigger PhD began his career as a secondary teacher and from 1981 was a lecturer in education in teacher training institutes, in Scarborough, Oxford and Worcester, ending as head of department and head of research in education. Over that period he produced three books in collaboration with colleagues, made chapter contributions to others and wrote many articles and book reviews.

Contact Stephen at:

View Sean and Stephen's blog:




Reviews provided include: Suzie Grogan, Dr Richard Woolley, Dr Matt O'Leary, Jack Whitehead, Dr Geoff Teece, Clare Gammons, Charlie Carroll and Ann Miller.

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