Enacting a Relational Approach As an Editor

A Self-Study
Self-StudyRelational Teacher EducationLeadershipEditing
Professors assume many roles. Although leadership involves new skill sets and relationships, little is done to prepare us for these important roles. Since Manke identified topical threads in teacher educator administrators’ self-studies of practice, there have been a growing number of such studies. Less common are studies of informal leaders in the academic community. Editing, notably, has received little attention in self-study discourse or more widely. As editors help create knowledge, this self-study by the editor of journals contributes to better understanding and supporting the role. The first objective is to examine ways in which the author as editor has lived out a conception of teacher education as relational. The second is to identify opportunities for extending self-studies of leadership to include the editor role.


Self-study provides teacher educators with opportunities to study their practices in a rigorous intellectual and practical manner (LaBoskey, 2004).

In 2005, I wrote a self-study in which I presented relational teacher education (RTE) as an approach to preparing teachers (Kitchen, 2005). Underlying this work was an understanding that “education is development from within” (Dewey, 1938, p. 17). The seven characteristics of RTE s have been adapted here to frame consideration of the relational dimension of editing:

  1. Understanding one’s own personal practical knowledge;
  2. Improving one’s practice as an editor;
  3. Understanding the landscape of teacher education scholarship;
  4. Respecting and empathizing with authors and community;
  5. Conveying respect and empathy;
  6. Helping authors face problems in their texts;
  7. Receptivity to growing in relationship.

These characteristics are considered in relation to topical threads in administrator self-studies identified by Manke (2004):

  1. Power: Power may be inherent in the position or in the acknowledge expertise of the administrator.
  2. Community: Leaders play key roles in developing and shaping the nature of the community.
  3. Social Justice: Authority provides opportunities to covertly or overtly engage with social justice.
  4. Reform: In an era of reform, leaders have opportunities to alter the educational landscape through their interventions.

The limited literature on academic editing is also considered. Baruch and Konrad's (2008) edited volume "Opening the Black Box of Editorship" is particularly helpful, with chapters on the editor’s role in knowledge creation (Konrad, 2008), communicating with authors (Rynes, 2008), the editor as activist (Jacobs, 2008), and the trade-offs among editorial goals (Starbuck et al., 2008). The importance of rigor in the review process is considered by (Crespo, 2016), who stresses the importance of feedback that is objective, constructive, respectful and recognizes the importance of the author’s voice and choices. English and colleagues (2019) illustrate the importance of focusing on key areas for improvement; they illustrate by discussing their focus on the developmental growth of authors, internationalization, encouraging quality reviewing, and using the forum as a venue for discussion. “Academic journals are increasingly the topic of study, giving rise to the aptly titled field of journalology,” according to Norris (2011). The emergence of journalology represents the recognition of academic journals as “almost educational institutions themselves” for their contributions to the public dissemination of knowledge (Norris, p. 1).

Methods of Inquiry

“Self-study of teacher education practices is a metacognitive and reflective practice conducted by teacher educators learning from experience,” according to Martin and Russell (2020, p. 1049). Self-study, they assert, recognizes teaching experience as being “acquired by investing time in the context of professional action; learning from experience demands reflection-in-action as an alternative frame of reference for personal learning.” (Martin & Russell, p. 1059). This self-study of my work as an editor of books and a journal in self-study is guided by this reflective stance. It is "self-initiated and focused", "improvement-aimed", employs "multiple, primarily qualitative methods", and is made available for "exemplar-based validation" (LaBoskey, 2004).

My data for this self-study are past journal entries and academic papers, as well as my current journal entries focussed on editorial duties. First, editorials in academic journals and books convey my perspectives as an editor as I sought to make sense of the field, offer insights to readers, and guide future authors. Second, in my journal, I wrote entries on the challenges I experienced and the choices I made as an editor. I maintained this journal from March 2021 to January 2022 containing twelve entries, many of which were written while editing or shortly after. These journal entries convey the challenges I experienced and the choices I made as an editor. Third, these two sources overlapped in two chapters I contributed to "Writing as a Method in the Self-Study of Practice" (Kitchen, 2021a, 2021b) in which I included journal entries and insights on writing gleaned from my experiences as an editor.

These sources are subject to critical reflection and analysis through the frame of RTE, as well as themes identified by Manke and academic editors.


I puzzle over my experiences in order to critically reflect on how I drew on relational teacher education to guide my leadership practice as an editor. I also draw on the self-study literature on leadership to help make sense of the challenges I faced. This section is organized around the seven characteristics of RTE (adapted to the editor role), with brief summaries of each and followed by data on practice from my research texts and analysis through the lens of RTE.

Understanding One’s Own Personal Practical Knowledge

I have always appreciated prose that is clear and engaging. Over the course of my academic career, I have devoted a significant amount of my energy to writing articles, chapters, and books. In learning to write well, I have been guided by insightful reviewers and thoughtful editors. When I became the editor of the journal based in my college of education, I recognized that I was assuming a significant level of responsibility for the growth of my professional colleagues. Over a dozen years as an editor, I have come to recognize that editing, particularly in self-study, is a professional practice in need of exploration, particularly as it relates to the personal professional well-being of authors. Today, as the editor of a top-tier journal, multiple books, a handbook, and a book series, I recognize that becoming an editor is to assume an important leadership role in my communities of educational scholarship and practice. In order to attend to these responsibilities relationally and thoughtfully, I have drawn on my practice as a relational teacher educator.

The impact of my personal practical knowledge as a reader on my approach as an editor is evident in “Tips on Writing an Educational Research Article for Brock Education,” I wrote:

First, capture my interest in the first few paragraphs. Too often papers begin "In this paper, I..." or "This is a study of X." While these are direct and to the point, they are BORING. Imagine that I am browsing through on-line academic articles while sipping coffee on a Sunday morning. You want to entice me to read on by hooking me with an important social issue, an interesting problem, or a clever analogy…
Second, tell me why your topic of great interest or importance at the moment. As an editor, I am more likely to work with a manuscript because when has something urgent and important to share with the world…
Third, convey a sense of wonder and engagement about the topic and the research…
Fourth, tell me how your work relates to the larger field of study…
Fifth, provide a thorough analysis of the research findings. Often manuscripts arrive with detailed data or stories but very short sections on analysis and conclusions…
Sixth, write well. Good writing looks effortless but is the result of countless revisions and edits. For complex ideas to become clear and understandable, the author must carefully select the words and phrasings that bring these ideas to life… (Kitchen, 2011, pp. 1-3)

The purpose of this editorial was to make explicit to prospective authors the literary “reasoning that underpins the teaching that they are experiencing” (Loughran, 2006, p. 5). Or, as I wrote more recently, “A well-written self-study should rise above being functional and informative textile to become a precisely and delicately crafted tapestry that artfully tells the story of the research in order to evoke understanding in the reader and, even, prompt changes in practice” (Kitchen, 2021a, p. 3).

Also guiding my practice as an editor is my practical knowledge as an academic writer who has honed his craft through the guidance of reviewers and editors. In particular, the modeling of my academic mentors informs my understanding:

I am inspired by the example of leaders in self-study who supported me as a new scholar. Stefanie Pinnegar welcomed me warmly at my first Castle conference in 2002. John Loughran and Tom Russell encouraged me to submit work to the first issue of Studying Teacher Education. Linda Fitzgerald and Deborah Tidwell collaborated with me in editing my first book. I see myself as following in their footsteps. I know from my own negative experience elsewhere and positive experiences in the S-STEP SIG that the words and actions of leaders make a difference. Responses from people I have supported confirm the power of encouragement by leaders in the field. (Journal April 9, 2021)

Feedback from reviewers and editors has been key to my professional learning and I continue to benefit from such feedback as an experienced writer. My experiences as an emerging scholar have guided my understanding of the editor as leader and, more generally, my approach to leadership in teacher education (Kitchen, 2016).

Improving one’s practice as an editor

As an editor previously, as well as a program leader, I recognized the importance of leadership in improving scholarship and building strong educational communities (Fullan, 1997). In my journal, I wrote:

First, editing has become an important part of my professional work and identity. I currently edit a book series for an academic publisher and am co-editor of the main journal for the self-study of teacher education practices. I am currently editing three books, and recently edited the second edition of the self-study handbook. Second, as I reflect on my work and seek to become a better editor, I notice a dearth of literature on effective editing or editing as leadership in education, particularly in self-study. (March 15, 2021)

The practice of reflecting—through journal entries, articulating my approach to editing (Kitchen, 2014; 2021a) and this chapter—on my role as an editor through an RTE lens (consciously and unconsciously) has been an important element of my editing process, as it has been in my teaching and to leadership practices (Kitchen, 2016). The limited literature on leadership in self-study and the role of editor reinforces the importance of being mindful of one’s practice. It is important to acknowledge and critique one’s power (Manke, 2004) in order to serve as gatekeeper and validator of knowledge in a humble, relational, and caring manner (Kitchen, 2005). Improving one’s practice also involves a commitment to supporting and building community (Manke, 2004), which I attempt to do, for example, by offering encouraging feedback at or after conference sessions at AERA (Journal, April 15, 2021). It is also important in the role of editor as reformer in the discourse community (Manke, 2004). This commitment prompted a special issue of Studying Teacher Education on social justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by American police and an editorial describing the special issue as:

a response to the structural racism that informs society and its institutions. How can teacher educators address their own inherent biases and unconscious perpetuation of racist policies? How can they address diversity, equity and inclusion in their classes? How can they break free to become antiracists? (Kitchen & Berry, 2022, p. 1)

I have learned—through the process of reflecting on my practice and noting my lack of structured preparation for the role—that good academic editorial practice is also about being fully present and attending mindfully to the mundane matters of editing such as careful line editing, responding to inquiries quickly and nurturing new talent, It is about keeping the ship afloat, navigating a smooth journey, and, on occasion, doing something dramatic and meaningful.

Understanding the Landscape of Teacher Education Scholarship

As a teacher educator, a contributor to academic discourse, and a leader in teacher education communities of practice, I have witnessed many changes in the landscape. In the editor role, I developed a good grasp of the history and emergent themes in self-study. This is reflected in my practice of using the editorial platform to honour the rich history of S-STEP and the broader field of teacher education while challenging teacher educators to deepen and extend our collective scholarship.

This is evident in the preface and section introduction to the "International Handbook of Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices":

This second edition marks a more mature stage in the field’s development. More mature in the sense that it reflects different preoccupations at a later stage of life, one in which self-study seems more rooted and secure. Taking the place of the vigorous and passionate chapters in the first edition justifying our existence are new chapters explaining where we are and what we are doing now as a scholarly community of practice. (Kitchen, 2020a, p. xi)
The publication of this second international handbook is an opportunity to look beyond individual studies of practice to the bigger theoretical, methodological, and practical questions that should engage the field in the 2020’s and beyond. After introducing the other nine chapters in this section, I review the history of S-STEP as a vehicle for improving our practices and the entire teacher education enterprise. (Kitchen, 2020b, p. 1025)

Also, in writing editorials for Studying Teacher Education, it was my practice to go beyond summarizing the articles published in the issue by addressing themes relevant to teacher educators. For example:

Self-study practitioners critically and reflectively examine themselves, their practice and the contexts in which they work. Quality self-studies, such as the six articles in this issue of Studying Teacher Education, are situated in the present moment yet engage perennial questions in teaching and teacher education. (Kitchen & Berry, 2022, p. 1)

Respecting and Empathizing With Authors and the Community

“Each adult learner has his or her own relationship to knowledge, and this relationship is influenced by the social and cultural characteristics of the individual’s life history,” according to Dominice (2001, p.83). This understanding, which has aided me in being respectful to students, has also guided my interactions with academic peers. In my practice as an editor, I deeply respect all teacher educators venturing into, or engaging over time, in self-study. This leads me to engage meaningfully with every submission and to intently engage alongside authors in bringing their insights to life on paper.

For example, in an email response to a recent article accepted for publication in Studying Teacher Education, I began, “Congratulations on an interesting and timely article that addresses issues of the day” (April 27, 2021), as a means of showing respect for their efforts. This is also often the suggestion that followed as they came from a place of empathy with the challenges of writing well. In my notes on the manuscript, I addressed ways in which the writing and organization could be improved to draw out the authors’ insights, such as (1) “attending to some passive writing--better to show action on your part;” (2) “being clear in the opening paragraphs so readers are drawn in;” and (3) “how to avoid blurring dynamics that are supposedly "natural" with intentional actions by educators.

Conveying Respect and Empathy

As a teacher educator, my strength is conveying genuine respect and empathy to students. As an editor, I try to practice living alongside authors as meaningfully as possible.

In addition to being genuinely respectful in my interactions with individual authors, I also intentionally convey these in my public practice in the role of editor:

I take my responsibility as a leader in the self-study community very seriously. I make a point of offering a comment in each session and encourage people to expand on their papers for publication… At one session, a graduate student private messaged me at the end of the session to express her excitement to “meet” me. We then talked briefly after everyone else left the session, with me offering encouraging words… In the same session was a paper by a large group of recent S-STEP scholars. Their work resonated with me, and I also recognized that I might be able to offer them some guidance on being a self-study community of practice. I wrote the leader author an email praising their content, encouraging their collaboration, and offering to be of assistance. Later in the day, she responded with thanks and indicated that they would take me up on my offer. (Journal April 9, 2021)

Helping Authors Face Problems in Their Texts

Carl Rogers, the humanist psychologist, wrote, “This book is about me, as I sit there with that client, facing him, participating in that struggle as deeply and sensitively as I am able” (1961, p. 4). I see education in similar terms, as I have written in my work on RTE (Kitchen, 2005). This is my adaptation of Carl Rogers words to the role of editor: “This self-study is about me, as I sit there with the authors manuscript, facing her, participating in that struggle to convey meaning as deeply as I am able” (Journal, March 15, 2021).

This practice is made explicit in a chapter exploring my writing process:

As an editor, I give considerable attention to helping teacher educators craft their writing to engage readers. For an upcoming book on diversity, I received a self-study by two teacher educators on their experiences as South African of colour. Their stories were powerful, but the chapter needed work. As their two ‘story pieces’ were titled “A Tale of Becoming” and “Radiance,” it occurred to me that these titles reflected the overall message of the chapter. I suggested that these be incorporated into the chapter title and that ‘becoming’ and ‘radiance’ artfully woven into the fabric of their chapter. (Kitchen, 2021a, p. 13)

Similarly, I reflected on editing a manuscript for Studying Teacher Education:

In editing a manuscript today, I attended to gaps in the writing: name of program, how institutional details fit together.
I also asked for more detail in the methodology section. For example: 'You clearly had a lot of data. I suggest quantifying it in some way so we appreciate the efforts more. E.g., # of pages of field notes, # of journal entries.'
I also asked the authors to expand on their conclusion in order to make connections between the specific study and larger themes in the field (Journal, March 22, 2021).

Through this practice, the importance of rigor in the editing process is balanced with respectful consideration of the author’s voice and choices (Crespo, 2016):

As I figuratively sit beside the author, I sometimes get things right and sometimes offer suggestions the miss the point or are not welcome by the author. While maintaining publishing standards, I largely defer to the authors. But through these interactions—which can be awkward--where clarity emerges for authors and editors. By bumping up against my lack of understanding—whether due to limits in the manuscript or in the editor—authors are able to make their points clearer for the intended reader. (Journal, January 11, 2022)

At the heart of the practice is genuine engagement in writing as a means for sharing important ideas with others. It is my intention that authors see me working alongside them as a peer helping advance their scholarship.

Receptivity to Growing in Relationship

As a scholar and editor, I am receptive to growing in relationship with the authors I support. This, I believe, is reflected in the level of engagement with the editing process documented in the discussion of the six characteristics of RTE above. For example, it is my practice to take time to learn from my predecessors, identify best practices as an editor, engage with important issues in teacher education, offer thoughtful feedback and suggestions to authors, and serve as an ambassador to new practitioners of self-study.

As I wrote in my journal on December 11, 2021:

Over the years, RTE has informed my practice as both a teacher educator and as a leader within my university and in scholarship. Throughout, I have worked hard to be reflective in and on action. I see myself as constantly learning and growing alongside the people I connect with in class and in my scholarly community. Indeed, receptivity to growing in relationship has almost become second nature.


This modest exploration of my experiences as an editor offers some insights into the lives of teacher educators and other academics who assume such informal leadership roles in academia.

First, the results of this self-study into my teacher education practice suggest that relational teacher education is sufficiently robust that it can be applied across teacher education contexts, from classroom teaching to field experience support to leadership in programs and in scholarship. This self-study also contributes to the small but growing literature of teacher education administrator self-study. In particular, it is relevant to the challenges of transition from teacher educator-researcher being an editor. The importance of maintaining and adapting one’s values and skills as a teacher educator to the opportunities and challenges of leadership, including as editor, are considered in RTE as a tool for praxis (Furman, 2012) by professors enacting their visions of education.

Second, if professors are to be successful in formal and informal leadership, and encouraged to develop relational practices in these important roles, more needs to be done to support them. While it is useful to draw on one’s prior experiences as an educator, there is also a need for professional preparation. This certainly should involve the notion of praxis, but also basic management strategies and particular ways to establish policies, practices, and organizational cultures that promote reform and social justice (Cherkowski & Ragoonaden, 2016). Knowledge and practical guidance would help new editors be successful initially and sustain them as they continue in this vitally important leadership role in scholarship.

Third, there is a need for more academics to share their experiences and effective practices in various forms of leadership with a view to developing a body of literature on practice that will help professors thrive in these new and important roles. The self-study community is well-positioned to advance this field of professional inquiry for editors and other leaders in teacher education and beyond.


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Julian Kitchen

Brock University

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