The role of theory in educational research. II part

Chapter 5: The necessity and violence of theory
Chapter 6: Bringing theory into educational research

How to use theory in doctoral research? I have no idea!! So lets start to do some research 🙂
“[…] the absence of theory leaves the researcher prey to unexamined, un reflexive preconceptions and dangerously naive ontological and epistemological a prioris” (Ball, 1995).
So no way to do this. If one is willing to undertake a research one of the core conditions of any research is to do reflective thinking and get in touch with good and well founded theory in order to be critical but with theoretical foundations.
Definitions of theory:

  • A system of logical statements or propositions that can explain the relationship between 2 or more objects, concepts, phenomena, or characteristic of humans (variables)
  • Represent attempts to develop explanations about reality or ways to classify and organise events, or even to predict some occurrences of events
  • Theory are a kind of explanatory devices
  • It can take the form of a hypothesis to be tested. It is a kind of tentative explanation of a phenomena that one needs then to prove and see if the way one thinks the relation between the variables are going to relate to each other is in effect so. e.g: I have a theory of how young students can improve their understanding to the calculus and the learning or improvement of the digital literacies.
  • Explanation is a way of theorising that seeks to explain the phenomenon while seeking validation through empirical evidence (the data)
  • Theory in education seeks to demonstrate the characteristics of explanations and interpretation.
  • In a poststructuralist approach theory operates as an interpretative device, a lens through which to see the phenomenon under study
  • “Theory offers a language for challenge, and modes of thought, other than those articulated for us by dominant others. It provides a language of rigour and irony rather than contingency. …The purpose of such a theory is…to make them (categories) seem less self-evident and necessary, and open up spaces for the invention of new forms of experience“(p.266. Ball, 1995)
  • Theory is a tool for de-familiarisation, denaturalisation, diffraction and, deconstruction. “A diffractive lens to re-conceptualise or reconstruct some aspects or our work”. Theory used as a diffraction lens serves as a heuristic device
  • Theory serves also as a platform from which to launch critique. […]our statements or conclusions only make sense within an academic community when they are situated in a theory that provides them with intelligibility. (From Ball’s statement)
  • A major theme of poststructuralism is instability in the human sciences, due to the complexity of humans themselves and the impossibility of fully escaping structures in order to study them (Facault, Derrida, Deleuze are some of the major figures). A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object.
  • Theory constructs a set of epistemological limits. It empowers and constraints
  • Theory is a means to find ones own voice in the field of research

The researcher looks at aspects missing within his theoretical position, that is looking at what is that my theory is not doing regarding my object of study and look which theories out there can do the work and in doing so the researcher is filling a theoretical gap regarding how to address the particular phenomenon.
Example: Kalervo realised that existing policy analysis frameworks were not adequate to capture what he felt was significant about relationships between cities, education policy and  identity (that is his object of study). Ball suggests that ‘education policy research lacks a sense of space; either in not locating policies in any framework that extends beyond the national leve, or in no accounting for or conveying a sense of the locality in the analyses of policy realisation’. The researcher, Kalervo, developed a spatial approach to policy analysis, using cultural concepts of space and place, drawing on work of theorists such as x, y, w. For that he had to read the geography literature although it was his area. You have to delve into many subjects in order to find conceptual support for your research.
In my case I am looking at complexity and complex adaptive system in order to explain and analyse the dynamics that are going on in the classroom and outside of it during the process of crafting the PLE. Complexity will offer me theoretical support to explain the learning dynamics that happens while building the PLE and learning digital skills. As well as to see into the learning experience of the learning of mathematics using the PLE as a workbench for learning.
162353367In which tradition can I locate my study? Is TEL a tradition?
There is a gap in existing theory to give account about how the learning is affected with the use of web 3.0 technology instead of mathematical technology (Geogebra, calculator, etc).What theory am I challenging with my research? Traditional cognitivism learning theory? Solo learning? Traditional teaching (I teach how I was taught).In what tradition is my work situated? Is an empirical grounded study through many case studies? Or through other methodologies more suited to the nature of my study? What is the nature of my study?
“Once one locates oneself within the theoretical or methodological landscape, rigour may often be determined by the extent to which one’s writings embody, and remain consisten with, the principles of the theoretical stance adopted.” (p. 82). It gives you a particular kind of commitments within your field of research.
Theory constructs the scholar and illuminates the data
Link to the notes of the article: The theory question in research capacity building in education: Towards and agenda for research and practice

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