What is Living Educational Theory (Living Theory) research and what are living-educational-theories (living-theories)? A brief resume
‘Living Educational Theory research’ (Living Theory) (with upper case) refers to a lexical definition of meaning which distinguishes Living Theory research. Living Educational Theory research could also be thought of as the process that a practitioner researcher engages in to create their valid account of their 'living-educational-theory'. A 'living-educational-theory' is an educational practitioner's explanation of their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others and the learning of social formations’.
Whitehead’s 1985 paper presents his notion of a living form of educational theory. In his 1989 paper he had progressed his thinking and coined the term ‘Living Educational Theory’ to denote a distinct form of theorising and research whereby an individual produces a valid account of their living-educational-theory.
Individual practitioner-researchers' living-educational-theories (sometimes abbreviated to '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-educational-theory accounts provide valid 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 an educational practitioner to explain their educational influences in learning as they research questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’. An individual’s living-educational-theory account includes evaluations of past efforts to improve their educational practice and an intention to improve practice in the future in ways that are not yet realized in practice. Improvement in educational 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) of the Living Educational Theory researcher. A researcher's account of their living-educational-theory research will included their embodied and ostensive expressions of meaning in explanations of their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others and the learning of the social formations which are the context of their practice.
Living Educational Theory research is a form of professional educational practitioner self-study research in which practitioners research their practice to generate valid accounts of their values-based ‘explanations of their educational influence in their own learning, the learning of others, and the learning of social formations’ (Whitehead, 1989). They use various research methods such as Action Research, Narrative Enquiry and Auto-ethnography. Living Theory research is distinguishable by the form of logic, epistemology, explanations, standards of judgement and units of appraisal.
There appears to be some confusion about what distinguishes Living Educational Theory research, the questions it can be used to answer, the purpose served and the knowledgebase the knowledge generated can contribute to. Living Educational Theory research is a form of professional educational practitioner self-study research. The meaning of ‘self-study’ here is that of a practitioner recognising and accepting professional responsibility for their practice, understanding, improving and explaining it and generating knowledge as a contribution to an educational knowledgebase we can all draw on. The knowledge generated is of the form that can be publicly validated, for instance using Habermas's criteria. That is distinguishable from 'self-study' as a form of self-inquiry to improve the person we are and want to be and to generate a theory of our self. A Living Educational Theory researcher may draw on what they learn through self-inquiry but of itself it is not enough to constitute a living-educational-theory.
The evolving history of Living Educational Theory research can be seen in publications dating from 1967, many of which can be freely accessed from http://www.actionresearch.net.