What makes a good theory? Hospitality, integration or neutrality? #cck11

Sui Fai John Mak: “Is Connectivism about personal possession of a theory with principles, beliefs, values, and rules (the normative practice) only? Isn’t it about participation, interaction, communication (of values, beliefs) based on openness and mutual respect when applied in practice? …”

You have to distinguish between different types of requirements that a theory must meet. There are cognitive requirements that a good theory must meet, and you have ethical or moral demands on research and application of a theory. A the truth of a theory has to do with validity and truth, and not for “hospitality”.

Sui Fai John Mak: “Theory is neutral in itself, though, as we could all sense it through the lens of scientific theories – as some of them are based on laws of nature.”

Theory is not neutral. It makes a lot of difference which theory you adhere to. That is the importance of a good theory. If a theory is not based on reality it is a wrong and invalid theory.

Ken is quoted by Sui Fai John Mak; ” “An integration of the various schools of thought, to encompass the qualities you have noted above, may not be possible. Each school basks in its own self-image, and can only have an image of its-self, when it can distinguish its-self from the other schools. And no school openly welcomes another, they all compete for the most admirers and apply their individual hosting rules to new-comers and guests.”

Integration of different views on the truth is logically impossible. You ask to do something which is impossible. It’s not about the psychology of the supporters of a theory, but it is the truth of the theory.

(Image: De tijd en het geduld ontsluieren de waarheid, Janssens, Victor Honoré.


4 thoughts on “What makes a good theory? Hospitality, integration or neutrality? #cck11

  1. Hi Jaap. I would agree about the difficulty of integration of theories. I would agree about the lack of neutrality of theories. I have difficulty dismissing the hospitality aspect of theories, especially as pertains to theories in the social sciences (including education). Economic theories, racial theories etc. can be very inhospitable to some groups of peoples. Truth is not always as objective as you imply here.

  2. Hi Jaap,
    I have written a response to your post. May I share?
    If theory is not neutral, then would it be a good theory (based on a scientific approach)? As I have shared in another comment, theory which is biased may not be reflective of reality then. So, a learning theory would be invalid if the learners don’t agree with the principles espoused by the theory or fail to follow the principles outlined in the theory, right? Are there any absolute truth in such a theory then?

    If a theory is not based on reality, is it wrong and an invalid theory? Are the theories – behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, social constructivism and connectivism based on reality? To what extent were theories based on reality? There were empirical findings to support those theories. With the introduction of technology and Web2.0 were all those theories still reflective of what is happening in learning in a global context? What criteria would we use to judge if a theory is right or wrong and invalid?
    Here is my previous post on reflection of learning theories and practice (please see my comments for the link)
    So, we may have great or “good theory” that satisfy all conditions as you have mentioned. However what happens when it comes to reality?
    “Integration of different views on the truth is logically impossible.” What are those different views on the truth? What are “truths”? Are those beliefs? What we need in a theory of learning is an explanation of what and how learning occurs amongst learners, not just the perceptions of educators.

    “There are cognitive requirements that a good theory must meet, and you have ethical or moral demands on research and application of a theory. A the truth of a theory has to do with validity and truth, and not for “hospitality”. When it comes to cognitive requirements, whose requirements do we need to consider? Educators or learners? When we check on the validity and truth of a learning theory, aren’t we basing upon evidences of researches? So it is not a matter of hospitality, IMHO. However, if learning is lacking mutual respect from educators and learners (i.e. part of the affective domains), then would learning still happens? This relates back to the affective domain under cognitivism.

    It is difficult to integrate theories, but it doesn’t mean that this is impossible. Aren’t we having a conversation trying to “integrate” these theories in practice?

    Thanks again for your comments, and I appreciate your feedback too.

  3. Thank you for your questions and remarks. It takes some time to understand your views. @Ken, in my view truth must be objective. Some theories are inhospitable, because of the very reason they are not objective and not true.
    @John social-constructivism and constructivism are not based on a sound philosophy, they are based on a remarkable philosophy that denies or questions reality. (Alan Sokal wrote a book about the fruits of such theories.) Learning needs mutual respect, I agree. And part of this respect is that teachers do their utmost to use trusted and scientific correct means to teach. Nobody is the owner of the cognitive requirements of scientific sound theory, just like nobody is owner of any ‘connectivist’ information.

    Why is objective truth so important?
    If truth is not objective and grounded in reality, as some post-modernist ‘scientists” want us to believe, than any theory can be right. Than right wing politicians can ignore claims of objective truth, than dictators are right because their theory is subjective and it works. It is not honest of these post-modernists to steal the only weapon of the poor and oppressed: objective truth.

    Again I appreciate your comments, and I think with you that teaching and learning is important, especially for the people with little opportunities.

  4. “What makes a good theory? Hospitality, integration or neutrality?
    #cck11 connectiv” was indeed a relatively excellent post, .
    Continue posting and I’m going to keep on reading through! Thanks for the post -Young

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