Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Does a theory do?

This is coming from a discusion of "Theory" in week four of PLENK2010

A theory is a simplified model of some real world phenomena which tries to encode previous experience with a view to guiding future action.
A really good theory will make wild improbable predictions which turn out to be true. Think things which glow in the dark and the photoelectric effect leading to H bombs here.
A fun theory starts with minute observations of some trivial inconsistency in conventional explanation and replaces it with a much grander structure.
Many theories will cover the facts, few give you a totaly new vision of the existing landscape.

I would sugest
The school of Barbianna
Foucault's analysis of power in the classroom

as examples of theories which do.


  1. Thanks for the Barbianna link. It was a powerful and moving story and interesting to reflect on what has and has not changed from rural Italy at the time when I was still in school myself to the situation faced by my own children here in Canada.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I like it because its a voice not often heard in educational discussions, that of the potentially failing or leaving pupils.