This study is designed to give new researchers an understanding of the methodological principles and practices of living educational theory research as a tool for improving professional practice. It draws on Jack Whitehead and Jean McNiff's (2006) approach to living theory methodology to improve educational practice. The study was guided by the question, ‘How do I improve my practice while encouraging students to develop critical understandings of key debates in a changing educational landscape?’ I used Whitehead's and McNiff's action–reflection cycle to explain how and why I wanted to address identified problems in my educational practice. This consisted of systematic observation, reflection, action, evaluation and modification throughout the research process. Additionally, I conducted two focus groups with a total of 12 first- and third-year students in the BA programme of Education Studies, which gave me new insights into approaches to teaching and learning that were conducive to students' active involvement in their own learning.