Before I began advanced graduate coursework I never stopped to consider the importance of theory and what bearing it has on practice. The term theory always had a highly academic and conceptual feel to it and I never considered how important it is to practitioners. When I think of the difference between theory and practice, I think of theory being located in a lecture hall in a university, and practice being nicely situated in K-12 classrooms. Little did I know that both are ubiquitous in each location. I endeavor to be a scholar-practitioner and I leaned what the significance is in considering both in what I do as an instructional coach, teacher, and researcher.A theoretical or conceptual framework reflects one’s unconscious assumptions about the world; a person’s world view which in turn affects one’s view of research (Thomas, 2013). As researchers we have assumptions and strong beliefs formed by our lives but we can not contextualize citing the experiences we had growing up or in our present lives. We must become fluent in the theory and research that forms the context of our research problem (Thomas, 2013). Theory is needed for a study to provide context for the research topic and helps to situate the problem in the chosen discipline. Theory assists in framing the problem, purpose, and analytics of a study by providing a context to scaffold and develop a solid research study (Laureate, 2016l).
According to Ravitch and Carl (2016) a conceptual framework makes the case for why a study is significant and relevant, how the study design answers the research questions. The conceptual framework is comprised of several items. The components of a conceptual framework include: research questions, goals, context, the researchers themselves, theoretical framework, tacit theories, structured reflexivity and dialogic engagement, and methodological approach and research methods (Ravitch & Carl, 2016). The conceptual framework creates a link between context, theory, and the way that they study is organized and carried out in relation to all of the influences of context.
Ravitch and Carl (2016) wrote that “the role of theory is central in developing and iterating qualitative studies in formative, ongoing, and summative ways” (pg. 85). Single (2009) wrote that writing research is the process of contributing to a filed where the researcher “shifts from being a consumer of knowledge to a contributor” (pg. 34). The researcher enters into a conversation and that process takes patience, humility, and the recognition of others expertise and work that has come before. Theory helps to add more dimensions and layers of understanding about a phenomenon. Theory helps to deepen and extend our understanding of these concepts by conceptualizing their construction and meaning (Ravitch & Carl, 2016).
Laureate Education (Producer). (2016l). Theoretical/conceptual framework[Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Ravitch, S. M., & Carl, N. M. (2016). Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Single, P. B. (2009). Demystifying dissertation writing: A streamlined process from choice of topic to final text. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Thomas, G. (2013). How to do your research project: A guide for students in education and applied social sciences. Sage.