What is Theory?

A theory can be thought of consisting of an object (phenomenon/empirical observation/belief/fact or property thereof) that is sought to be described/explained/predicated/predicted, the context within which it is situated and a coherent set of ideas (medium/message). A theory provides insights on interpreting an object in a given context through a set of propositions, conjectures, opinion, hypothesis or observations. The strength of a theory depends upon multiple factors such as generalizability, falsifiability, testability, predictive power etc.

Aspects of theory

Theory has the following aspects:

  • object (what is it attempting to describe or explain or predicate or predict – phenomenon, empirical observation, belief, knowledge – and/or its property, state, interaction with others) e.g. the process of learning, planetary motion, human behaviour, political trend, organizational success, neural networks, scientific induction, connectivism
  • context – what is the context of the object that is sought to be described (prior experience, empirical observation, conjecture, epoch/time, relationship to others)
  • medium/message – a coherent set of ideas – the why, whether, what, when, where, if and / or how explanation/description or set of propositions

I tried to put down some examples:

  • How does learning occur in a connective world?
    • object – attempts to describe or explain or predicate a mechanism for the phenomenon of learning
    • context – memes, social networks, connectionism, web 2.0, connectivism
    • medium – how – knowledge is a pattern in a network
  • how to ride a bicycle
    • object – attempts to describe or explain or predicate a mechanism for the skill of riding a bicycle
    • context – quality of roads, gears, mountainous, competition
    • medium – how – guidelines and tips
  • Why does open source work for education?
    • object – open source
    • context – education, industry, free movements, commons, open-ness
    • medium – what – is open source, why – does it work? for whom?
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