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[Xmca-l] Re: theory not

Hello -

This article was useful to me because I work in a field that is closely linked to Organizational Behavior but is different in purpose, namely, labor education.  The article was published in Administrative Science Quarterly, which comes out of the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell. Its presumed audience is managers and students in MBA programs. The theoretical frameworks that OB builds from have value, but they play out differently when applied to contexts like labor unions or collectives of unrepresented workers who are trying to negotiate with those managers. 

Although the authors of the article doesn't make this their main point, the idea that "theory" is not references, diagrams, lit reviews or predictions etc but is actually some statement or explanation of a relationship, such as causal relationship, is important. When you lift a theory from one context and try to apply it in another context, you have to be very clear about what the theory actually is.

Many OB practitioners are not academics but consultants. (Many are both, of course.)  They charge big bucks to do trainings and offer advice about how to shape organizations. Most of them work with businesses, but some work with labor organizations. They bring with them proprietary materials, sometimes copyrighted, and terminology that is unique to their own consultancies. They back this up with "research." In my experience, however, they do not actually teach their clients the theory that the research is connected to, nor do they share the research. But it's hard for someone sitting in one of the meetings where this stuff is being delivered to ask directly, "What's the theory that the research behind this is based on?"  

In a bottom-up, member-driven organization like a union (a good one), the theory behind what is being proposed has to be lying right out on the table in the middle of the discussion for everyone to see and discuss. Everyone who is part of the decision-making process has to be able to put their hands on it in some way. 

A different take on this:  While this discussion was starting up on XMCA, I happened to be reading the May 2014 issue of the Clarion, the newspaper of the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY. On page 5 there's an article that is related to this discussion and should be of interest to people in education faculties. There's a new teacher certification exam in NY called "edTPA." The evaluation of the results of this test has been outsourced to Pearson Inc., the for-profit education "reform" corporation. A professor (Ruth Powers Silverberg) who attended a meeting about the implementation of edPTA asked about the research it was based on and was told that she could find it on the website. "I went to the website," says the article, "where I found eight articles. One of them was about edTPA. The other seven were on a variety of topics and all but one article had been authored by the creators of edTPA."

I'm mentioning this because this article about what theory is NOT is a good tool for challenging some of the rip-offs that are taking place in what is now being referred to as the "education reform movement."  It's such a big thing that it's being called a movement, not just individual tweaks and fiddles with individual school and community college districts.


Helena Worthen
21 San Mateo Road
Berkeley, CA 94707

On Jun 16, 2014, at 8:40 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Sobering reading, especially interesting to read the views of editors from a very different scientific tradition.
> The type of non-theory manuscript I have found very disappointing in our discipline is typified by one I read recently.
> The authors described a case study, which involved no intervention by the authors, and no pathology: the subject successfully lived through a challenging period in their life, that's all. The authors simply pinned high-falutin labels to various events and relations or cited references to other writers as the story went along. I admit that I was so offended by the fact that all the labels were garbled and the references inappropriate, that I had failed to notice that even if the labels had been correctly applied and teh references appropriate, the paper would still have been without content!
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> Helena Worthen wrote:
>> Mike, i really appreciate your sending this out. I read it pretty carefully this morning and will read it again.  I know that I'm not an adept swimmer in this particular pond, (lake or bay would be more like it) but the guidelines put forth in this article are definitely things I contend with.
>> Thanks --
>> Helena Worthen
>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>> hworthen@illinois.edu
>> On Jun 15, 2014, at 4:14 PM, mike cole wrote:
>>> Paper attached for those unable to open.
>>> mike
>>> <What theory is not-1.docx>