Relationships with Theory 4 – Dr. Nicola Whitton

Thus far in the ‘Relationships with Theory’ series we have had insights from Tony Brown, Cathie Pearce and Maggie MacLure.

In this post Dr. Nicola Whitton describes how she uses theory:

For me, theory is about trying to better understand the complexities of the world, and the multiple perspectives that lie within it. It’s not simply trying to explain or predict, but a tool with which to explore the different ways in which the world might be conceived. In this respect, theory is an abstraction of reality, or rather an abstraction of many different realities, but I don’t see that, in itself, as problematic. The issue for me is about how we use theory, or what we believe it can do for us, not in its essence.

My work comes predominantly from a social constructivist perspective, influenced by theories such as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, Wenger’s Communities of Practice, and Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory. For me, theory is a way of abstracting, of simplifying, of challenging, of offering differing perspectives, of representing in different terms (I think the ‘visual’ is very important), and of providing a basis upon which to critically interrogate a phenomenon.  Theory is not just a way of understating ‘what is’, but a starting point for considering ‘what might be’ and ‘what should be’.

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