This blog is created to support conversation generated from and about the learning process for MA Professional Practice (MAPP) in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries (ACI) at Middlesex University.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Ideas, theory and theoretical frameworks

I had a campus session with BA students last week. I felt some of what I wrote-up about it might be useful for you too.

We talked about ideas and theory.
What do they do? In the first module you are introduced to three ideas:
-       The idea of reflection
-       The idea of networks
-       The idea of communication (via the web particularly)

These ideas are threads that will run through the whole of the course. They are not taught pieces of information to memorize and write about at the end. They are ideas to stimulate your thinking about your own Professional Practice deeply or differently. Therefore, the order you are introduced to them is not important but we had to choose an order (that is the one in the Module handbook). So, do not think of them like a tree building up from starting a blog at the beginning of Module one and layering up to handing in an artefact in Model three – this is like a tree model.

 Instead think of them all as equally feeding your understanding of your Professional Practice – like a rhizome.

each idea is a shoot that connects underground. You cannot see the connections from above ground. Your study is about finding the connections. So it is not about climbing a tree of ideas we have put there for you. It is about nurturing ideas, looking at them carefully and finding the connections between them. Connections that will be different for different people because all your professional practices are different.

So at the end of each module what you hand in is the result of looking carefully at the ideas that manifested during the term. And then making connections between those ideas and your professional practice.

So that being said; what is theory?
Theory could be thought of as what someone else has come up with having done that process of looking at ideas carefully and making connections for themselves. So you can link your connections with connection (theory) someone else has made and published about. They have spent more time looking carefully so you can often be guided by (their) theory.
BUT theory is not a justification for you to do what you want!!

Theory is a specific set of connections someone has made. You can’t pick and choose – “I will cite Smith about this connection and ignore that connection she made.” !!

Theory is not a neat bag to wrap-up your actions in. We talked about theory being like the bones not the skin. Theiry is at the core of your actions

Theory indicates what you can do – you are following a set of connections to see what they are like and how they lead you can’t chop and change. You can notice where they differ for you or the situation you are in. So if theory is partly going on someone else’s ride (which you need to do because that someone else has spent a great deal of time thinking about ideas you are just finding out about), what is stopping you from crashing. If someone else is driving the bus how do you make sure you don’t end up in an accident???

-----Ethics. Having looked at ethical issues means you are aware of where you are not willing to go on the ride. It means you are prepared for possible issues and it means you have drawn a line in the sand as to where you are not willing to go with the theory. Ethics is not about a set of rules it is about being aware of and thinking about the consequences of what you are doing. We said
Ethics is a response to what the theory indicates.

All this was talking about what is called a theoretical framework. The framework from which you are thinking. We went to the library to look at Journal Articles. To see if we could spot the theoretical framework the authors were working with. This was looking at the bibliography* which shows whose theories the author was riding. Then reading the introduction or abstract to see what parts of the theory journey the author was on board with, what changed and what questions they had about it. (*That is what a literature review is partly for to share the places you are constructing your ideas from, to show the rides you have taken as you have thought about things.)

We watched this Ted talk. It tells us a lot about – believing /following a theory, using ethics, how ethical issues change for you depending on which theory you are following, how looking at an idea carefully changes your own personal practices and how conversation and discussion with others also looking at ideas carefully helps you better define where you stand.

Please discuss on this whole post in the Comments below:



  1. Thanks for this Adesola, I found it really interesting and helpful! With regard to the chat this Sunday, I will be travelling so not able to probably 'speak' much in the discussion but can certainly listen in! Please can you therefore add me to the 5pm chat. Thanks. Michelle

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