Monday, December 6, 2010

Theoretical Frameworks...

On the off chance that anyone is still reading this blog, I thought I'd post something our group went over in class today. There was a bit of concern around the idea of a theoretical framework, and how to situate your research in one. I know this is discussed in our readings, but at this late moment in the semester, sometimes a fresh voice makes all the difference. As such, I'm going to quote the rather straightforward article I found on this very topic (by Dana L. Zeidler, Ph.D.
Science Education, University of South Florida, no date that I can find...) which reminds me quite a bit of Luker's voice...

"What is a Theoretical Framework?: A Practical Answer

Doctoral students live in fear of hearing those now famous
words: "That sounds like a promising study, but what is your
theoretical framework?” These words instantly send the harried
doctoral student to the library in search of a theory to satisfy
his/her advisor. The search is often unsuccessful because of the
student’s misconception of what constitutes a “theoretical
framework.” The framework may actually be a theory, but this is
usually restricted to research which is attempting to ‘test the
validity’ of an existing theory. Most doctoral research (i.e.,
original research) does not fit into this rubric. So, what is a
theoretical framework?

It is, perhaps, easier to understand the nature and
function of a theoretical framework if it is viewed as the answer
to two basic questions:

1. What is the problem?

2. Why is your approach a feasible solution?

Indeed, the answers to these questions are the substance
and culmination of chapters 1 and 2 of the proposal and completed
dissertation. The answers to these questions can come from only
one source, a thorough review of the literature. Perhaps, a
hypothetical situation can best illustrate the development and
role of the theoretical framework in the formalization of a
dissertation topic.

As an interested reader of educational literature, a
doctoral student becomes intrigued by the importance of
questioning in the secondary classroom. The student immediately
begins a manual and computer search of the literature on
questioning in the classroom. The student notices that the
research findings on the effectiveness of questioning strategies
are rather equivocal. In particular, much of the research focuses
on the cognitive levels of the questions asked by the teacher and
how these questions influence student achievement. It appears
that the research findings exhibit no clear pattern. That is, in
some studies, frequent questioning at higher cognitive levels has
led to more achievement than frequent questioning at the lower
cognitive levels. However, an equal number of investigations have
shown no differences between the achievement of students who are
exposed to questions at distinctly different cognitive levels.

The doctoral student becomes intrigued by these equivocal
findings and begins to speculate about some possible
explanations. In a blinding flash of insight, the student
remembers hearing somewhere that an eccentric Frenchman called
Piaget said something about student being categorized into levels
of cognitive development. Could it be that a student’s cognitive
level has something to do with how much he/she learns? The
student heads back to the library and methodically searches
through the literature on cognitive development and its
relationship to achievement.

At this point, the doctoral student has become quite
familiar with two distinct lines of educational research. The
research on the effectiveness of questioning has established that
there is a problem. That is, does questioning have any effect on
achievement and does the cognitive level of questions make a
difference? The research on the cognitive development of students
has provided an answer to the second question which was specified
at the beginning of this soliloquy. That is, could it be possible
that students of different cognitive levels are affected
differently by questions of different cognitive levels? If so, an
answer to the problem concerning the effectiveness questioning
may be at hand. At this point, the student has narrowed his/her
interests as a result of reviewing the literature. Note that the
doctoral student is now ready to write down a specific research
question and that this is only possible after having conducted a
thorough review of the literature.

The student writes down the following research hypotheses:

1. Both high and low cognitive level pupils will
benefit from both high and low cognitive level
questions as opposed to no questions at all.

2. Only pupils categorized at the high cognitive level
will benefit more from the high cognitive level
questions than from the low level questions.

These research questions still need to be transformed into
testable statistical hypotheses, but they are ready to be
presented to the dissertation advisor. The advisor looks at the
questions and says: “This looks like a promising study, but what
is your theoretical framework?” There is no need, however, for a
sprint to the library. The doctoral student has a theoretical
framework. The literature on questioning has established that
there is a problem and the literature on cognitive development
has provided the rationale for performing the specific
investigation that is being proposed. ALL IS WELL !"

Taken from:

With this, I'll sign off.
Hope this helps anyone still working on this section of their proposal.

Thanks everyone for a great term... and good luck on the rest of it!


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