Living Educational Theory research

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Living Educational Theory research is a form of self-study research in which practitioners research questions that are important to them to generate their values-based "... explanations of their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others, and the learning of social formations." (Whitehead 1989). Researchers present accounts of their work, which describe and explain the growth of their personal living-educational-theory and which also contribute to the main body of Living Educational Theory. They use various research methods drawn from methodologies such as Phenomenology, Ethnography, Narrative Research , Case Study, Grounded Theory (Cresswell, 2007), Autoethnography (Ellis & Bochner, 2000), Living Theory Research (Whitehead, 1989) Action Research (Rowell, Bruce, Shosh, & Riel, 2016) and Phenomenography (Tight, 2016). You can justify your creation of a living theory methodology in the creation of your living educational theory in relation to these methodologies[[1]].

Living Theory research is distinguishable by the form of logic, epistemology, explanations, standards of judgement and units of appraisal that support and inform its validity as a research paradigm. The relationships / distinctions between these terms are clarified in A Living Logic For Educational Research [[2]]. Living Theory research is also characterised by the exploration of living contradictions in order to improve practice.


The evolving history of Living Educational Theory research can be seen in publications dating from 1967, many of which can be freely accessed from the website [3].

Whitehead’s 1985 [4] paper presents his notion of a living form of educational theory and in his 1989 paper [5] he coined the term ‘Living Educational Theory’ to denote a distinct form of theorising and research whereby an individual produces an "... explanation of their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others and the learning of social formations".

Practitioners' living-theory accounts

An individual’s living-educational-theories (living-theories) are living, that is they are evolving and they are lived as they are embodied and expressed by the researcher through their practice. Researchers’ living-theory accounts provide explanations and standards of judgment of ‘improving practice’ in terms of their relational and ontological values that are clarified as they emerge and evolve through their research. A 'living-educational-theory’ is the particular/unique living-educational-theory generated by individuals to explain their educational influences in learning in enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’. An individual’s living-educational-theory account includes evaluations of past learning and an intention to improve practice in the future in ways that are not yet realized in practice. Improvement in practice is understood as practice that contributes to a world in which humanity can flourish and is expressed in the values-based living standards of judgment (Laidlaw, 1996) [6] of the Living Theory researcher.