On a personal note, I joined an Ed.D. course because I wasn’t willing to commit to a Ph.D. before knowing a lot about theory and methods. This course provides me the time and opportunity to investigate the state of the art in these areas. Accordingly, I feel a bit uncomfortable with having to pretend that I have understood theory and methods and write definitive statements about them. I realise that there is a requirement to demonstrate our knowledge in the forum posts, and that—to some extent—cohort members (should? do?) recognise that we are reflecting on and clarifying our tacit assumptions in our posts. I’m not able to ‘define’ theory very well and still have many more questions than answers in this area.
One such question relates to the base assumptions in theory from a Western perspective. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) outline the case that Western philosophy and the resultant focus on methodologies is a result of the Western emphasis on the subject-object divide, or the Cartesian dualism. They argue that Eastern thought has always recognised the “oneness” of existence and claim that Western methodological pluralities fail because of the importance of objectifiying knowledge (i.e. in the form of propositional statements, written documents and other forms of transferable systems). They continue by noting that more recent Western philosophy has begun to recognise the problems caused by the focus on the mind-body duality or subject-object divide. Schon’s (1991) reflective practitioner is one such work that attempts to open up the divide by investigating the space between “technical rationality to reflection-in-action” (p. 21). Ron Barnett’s (2009) excellent distinction of knowledge from attitudinal aspects in learning into dispositions and qualities and how those impact on curricular decisions is another. However, I have been highly influenced by stage theorists, such as Piaget, Kohlberg and more powerfully by Robert Kegan’s The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development (Kegan, 1982) in which the subject-object divide is the critical theoretical base.
My copy of Nonaka and Takeuchi arrived last Saturday. It will take me some time before I can digest the core message and integrate that into my existing cognitive structures, including the possibility of rejecting it. My current position is that the highest evaluation of research is a practical matter. Prabhu (1990) invites English teachers to investigate what is “plausible” for them. This sense of what works is tied in with one’s notions of communities of practice (i.e. who they want to respect their work) and with feelings or not of self-agency (i.e. how much they feel that they can control the extent of their work)—as well as with their understanding of the fundamental conceptions of theoretical stances.
Barnett, R. (2009). Knowing and becoming in the higher education curriculum. Studies in Higher Education, 34(4), 429–440. doi:10.1080/03075070902771978
Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prabhu, N. S. (1990). There is no best method-Why? TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 161–176. doi:10.2307/3586897
Schön, D. A. (1991). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.