A Glossary

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Constellation of Values

Living-theorists’ work is unique in the sense that the living values exist as a rule within a constellation of values, i.e. a particular set of connections between living values. This again, contributes to the uniqueness of a living-theory account.

Dialogical focus

Many living-theories contain examples of dialogue, either through text or on social media (Youtube). Dialogical focus is seen as a necessary inclusion of the voices of those most affected by the changes taking place in practice.


This is a term beginning to be used in theories of International Development (Briganti, 2015). In one sense it supercedes the notion of sustainability, which has connotations of preserving the status quo. Generativity is the quality of a process which can move beyond keeping something going and can find new creativity and inspiration from the processes already experienced. It presupposes that not all outcomes can be planned for, and looks to the creativity of individuals and groups to breathe new life into what is happening. It is closely linked to reflexivity.

Living Contradiction

This takes place when someone espouses particular values but doesn’t manage to live them fully. For example, Laidlaw (1994 - 2017) asserts that democratic practices in education are liable to lead to improved learning. However, she documents many occasions when she acted against her espoused democratic values of equality and fairness in the classroom and elsehwere.

Living Theory

This is the paradigm as a whole. Living Theory is a vehicle through which individuals can live out their values more fully in their practice in order to improve it for the benefit of themselves, others and the social formation in which that practice takes place. Each living-theory is unique, as it will contain insights chosen by the living-theorist into the improvement through practice of issues including some of the values of fairness, justice, equality, compassion, love, hope, tolerance.


This is the individual undertaking their own living-theory enquiry.

Living Standards of Judgement

Values are often seen as fixed points. In Living Theory values, which then become the standards of judgement by which one evaluates the quality of their achievement in a particular process, are perceived as alive and developmental; they are not static, or citadels to be aspired towards, but existing in an internal and external set of dynamic and dialectical processes. They develop over time (Laidlaw, 1996). Most living-theory accounts contain overt references to the development of the enquirer’s values over time in their own particular practice and social formation in which the researcher lives and works. Living Theory asserts that researching this the disparity between espoused values as living and dynamic, and the actions apparently taken on their behalf, is seminal to all living-theorists’ work.

Living Theory asserts that this dialectical process is seminal to all living-theorists’ work.


In Living Theory, this is not the same as reflection, which is often undertaken after the event. Reflexivity is the ability to be aware and reflect in the moment, whilst an action is taking place. This requires often long periods of reflections-on-action as well as reflection-in-action (Schön) in order to move more closely towards the clarification of values being brought into the workplace. As values act as the living standards of judgement (in whole or in part) by which actions, processes and outcomes are judged in living-theorists' work, then a heightened ability to develop values directly in practice over time through reflexivity becomes a vital dimension of a living-theorist's enquiry.

Social formation

This describes the context and social constructs (organisations, institutions) in which the living-theorist’s practice takes place. The social formation is seen as exercising an influence over conceptualisation, social and cultural norms, assumptions.