Joan Walton

Joan Walton, PhD

Honorary Research Fellow



Joan is an Honorary Research Fellow with the Alef Trust.  She is also a Principal Research Supervisor on the PhD Applied Transpersonal Psychology programme, and a research mentor for the Conscious Community Initiative. Joan gained her PhD from the University of Bath. Her thesis tells the story of her spiritual journey and draws on the social sciences, philosophy, depth and transpersonal psychology, eastern and western religions, quantum physics, and a science of consciousness. Her first degree was in the social sciences, and her Masters in Race & Education.  She is also a professionally qualified social worker.  Following a career in social work and education, Joan moved into the academic world. She is now in the School of Education, Language and Psychology at York St John University (YSJ), where she teaches and supervises postgraduate researchers registered for a PhD or a professional doctorate.

Joan has an interest in, and teaches, Research Methodologies, especially those that challenge the separation inherent in positivist paradigms.  She has a particular interest in participative dialogue, co-operative inquiry, and other forms of integrating theory and action.  She co-leads the cross-university research group Participatory Enquiry, Action Research & Democratic Methodologies in the Institute for Social Justice at YSJ. Joan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Scientific and Medical Network, a member of the Galileo Commission Steering Group, and is the Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Network for the Study of Spirituality.

Research interests

Joan always had an interest in research which focuses on how to improve practice, rather than just explain (quantitative) or interpret (qualitative) practice. This means that she has spent more time on action-orientated approaches, such as participatory action research and co-operative inquiry.  She also used autoethnography, phenomenology, and more recently, interactional ethnography. 

Joan is interested in exploring the assumption that consciousness is primary, with matter being an emergent process, rather than vice versa, as the dominant materialist narrative would have us believe.  Thus she is exploring the development of participatory methods based on an ontology of a participatory consciousness (where separation is seen to be an illusion), which can generate knowledge that reflects a postmaterialist worldview.  At all times, she is interested in the implications of these ideas for how we live our lives on a daily basis.  So with this in mind, a current enterprise where Joan is actively taking this approach is an intergenerational research project involving older people and young children, which is exploring how to improve the quality of life across all ages.

Key publications

Walton, J., & Darkes-Sutcliffe, J. (2023). Re-imagining education: Cultivating a Triangle of Trust and Relational Pedagogy within a Participatory Paradigm. Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education.

Walton, J. (2021). Social justice and action research: can we collaboratively create a new social movement with social justice at the centre? Educational Action Research, 29(4), 510-525.

Walton, J. (2018) The significance of consciousness studies and quantum physics for creating a spiritual research paradigm. Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 7(1), 21-34.

Walton, J. (2014) What can the ‘Transpersonal’ Contribute to Transformative Research? International Journal for Transformative Research, 1(1), 25-44.

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