Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 1997 Issue »

    What's the Use of Theory?

    Gary Thomas
    In this article, Gary Thomas makes a provocative argument against the use of theory in educational inquiry. He examines the allure of theory for researchers and scholars in education, despite the emergence of strong anti-theoretical strands in postmodern thought. Thomas contends that the word "theory" is used to mean many different things in education, and that ideas about theory are thereby confused. He draws a distinction between personal theory and "grand" theory, and argues that both types of theory circumscribe methods of thinking about educational problems and inhibit creativity among researchers, policymakers, and teachers. He concludes by making a case for less structured problem-solving, thought experiments, and "ad hocery," a term he borrows from Alvin Toffler.

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    Spring 1997 Issue


    A Social Capital Framework for Understanding the Socialization
    Ricardo D. Stanton-Salazar
    Accountability and School Performance
    Implications from Restructuring Schools
    Fred M. Newmann, M. Bruce King, Mark Rigdon
    What's the Use of Theory?
    Gary Thomas
    Cognition, Complexity, and Teacher Education
    Brent Davis, Dennis J. Sumara
    Sex and the Teacher
    Should We Come Out in Class?
    Didi Khayatt

    Book Notes

    Growing Up African American in Catholic Schools
    Edited by Jacqueline Jordan Irvine and Michèle Foster

    The Jobless Future
    By Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio

    Learning as a Way of Being
    By Peter B. Vaill

    The Other Angels
    By Patricia L. Walsh

    Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students
    By Donna Y. Ford

    The Timetables of Women's History
    By Karen Greenspan

    Migrancy, Culture, Identity
    By Iain Chambers

    Pushing Boundaries
    By Olga A. Vasquez, Lucinda Pease-Alvarez, and Sheila M. Shannon

    Focus Group Interviews in Education and Psychology
    By Sharon Vaughn, Jeanne Shay, and Jane Sinagub

    The New Second Generation
    Edited by Alejandro Portes

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