Growing Our Theories

Theories are ideas about how things work.  Just ideas.  Hopefully, someone – often the theory developer, then “tests” the theories to see if they are “true” or “correct”.  Theories develop over time, with lots of observation.  We all have them, and we all test them everyday.

We even began testing them early on.  “What happens if I take that toy from my brother?”  “If I pull on my brother’s seat-belt from behind, will he know it was me?”  (I have lots of brothers).  As small humans we push limits and boundaries and buttons as we come to learn how to function in our world.

As I’ve been reading about a variety of learning theories, (the latest being the quantum perspective of learning).  I find that there are portions of various theories that “speak” to me, but not whole theories.  Then I ran across this quote – which is not in a learning theory article – but from a science minded individual

“I call it a theory because it is surely incomplete. And calling it a theory means I expect you will change and improve it. I hope so, because then it will be yours. But at least I can help your theory building along.”

from Gifts of Love by Henry B. Eyring

I love the part in the middle, “And calling it a theory means I expect you will change and improve it.”  It is a work in process, this idea of “theory”.  As a scientist I can put together a fairly decent view of how I think something works, share it with you and then hopefully you’ll join in on the “testing” portion. I like the idea that a theory is changeable.  It is living, growing, improving.

But the part I love best about this quote is “…because then it will be yours.” We each need to figure out what our own theory is, and not let it get stagnant.  We need to share our theories, and help others “grow” their own theories.  Theories are a work in process.

As educators, instructional designers, teachers, etc, we need to be aware of our own theories.  We need to understand how our ideas developed and what influences our ideas.  This helps us move forward and progress.  When we stubbornly cling to or reject ideas without careful analysis of both the ideas and our own ideas that are causing the stubbornness, we limit our own ability to progress, learn and grow.


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