Speaking Flames – A study of threshold experiences inherent in fire-cræft and the affordances of kindling metaphors for the principles they provide for progressive pedagogy

  • Jonathan Michael Code

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This thesis challenges current mandated pedagogy which has an overly instrumental focus on credentialism and education for employability. An alternative view of education is explored, initiated through the practice of fire-craft. Deliberations on the process and affordances of fire-lighting lead to the identification of principles for a progressive pedagogy for which kindling is both method and metaphor.

First steps were undertaken in this research through life-writing, an auto-philosophical lens which sought to understand how learning fire-craft has contributed to my own praxis as an educator. Introducing facilitated fire-lighting into a variety of pedagogical contexts sparked further questions. These sought to understand how kindling, when undertaken as a collaborative task, contributes to the personal and professional development of teachers.

Questions posed in the first half of this enquiry were considered through an analysis of findings gathered from three domains: 1) narrative accounts of my own encounters with fire and self-education in fire craft (first person perspectives); 2) unstructured interviews or ‘fire talks’ with individuals or small groups who participated in kindling sessions (second person perspectives); and 3) a critical engagement with literature in which fire-lighting is discussed in terms of kindling in education and kindling in relation to education (third-person perspectives).

Deliberations on research findings lead to an identification of seven distinct but interrelated stages inherent in the kindling task. Each stage was then considered for its educational principles that, taken together, contributed to the generation of a theory of education-as-kindling (EK). EK is a living theory of education that encompasses dimensions of making (cræft) and metaphor (meaning-making) and re-evaluates human ontology for contemporary educational purposes. I conclude with the proposal that teacherly actions like kindling are ‘instances worth a thousand’; unique and contextual activities that can inform a broad array of progressive pedagogical concerns.
Date of Award28 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor) & Trevor Grimshaw (Supervisor)


  • kindling
  • progressive pedagogy
  • threshold concepts
  • threshold experiences
  • fire lighting metaphors
  • crafting
  • ontological discontinuity

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