The Nature of Theories

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The Nature of Theories

Perspective Transformation (Mezirow, 1991), Action Research (Stringer, 1996), and Resiliency Theory (Benard, 2004; Henderson & Milstein, 2003) are frameworks with applicability to systemic change in educational settings. These paradigms represent our best guesses about what occurs in schools and how the variables work together. The organizational principles underlying these theories appear to be fairly universal. Examining them enables us to confirm or disconfirm what we believe to be real.

Thomas Kuhn (1970) noted that research stimulates growth in knowledge by confirming or disconfirming theoretical propositions. Paradigms represent the central ideological core of any discipline and serve to define associated research and practice. Therefore, paradigm adherents routinely engage in efforts to support and develop theories (i.e., formulation of esoteric vocabulary, acquisition of specialized skills, refinement of concepts that clarify and strengthen the core beliefs, and support for workshops, conferences, and publications embracing the core). Furthermore, what paradigm adherents see is what their conditioning through experiences with the paradigm has taught them to see (Kuhn, 1970, p. 113).  In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn discussed how paradigms shift.

From time to time, a paradigm no longer possesses the power, breadth, or depth to explain certain phenomena. Consequently, an anomaly occurs, and a crisis results. According to Kuhn, all emergencies are resolved in one of three ways: (a) the problem that provoked the crisis is handled normally in the context of the research program; (b) the problem persists, and scientists may reach the conclusion that the current state of knowledge in the field is inadequate to handle the problem; or (c) a new candidate for a paradigm may emerge. The processes involved in shifting paradigms can be applied to just about any phenomenon requiring a change of mind or an adjustment in practice. Using Kuhn’s ideas as a lens may prompt us to view an old reality from a different point of view.

In the field of education, paradigms frequently shift because to educate is to change. The enterprise exists to move students from one stage of understanding to another. The pendulum continues to swing between equity and efficiency. Educational stakeholders run in circles and conform to cycles based on outside influences such as politics, culture, economics, and shift in ideology. Unless a system exists to manage change, schools will be in a perpetual state of imbalance.

Center Street Consulting outlines a process for cultivating resiliency in educational settings.  The paradigm is grounded in a theory-based model called Strategic Transformation and Resiliency Theory for Systemic Change (START-SC). The process examines relationships among key variables, including, resiliency factors, perspective transformation phases, and action research strategies for systemic school change and hypothesizes that meaningful change depends on equilibrium among all the components in the school setting. Equilibrium requires renewal. The renewal comes about from resilience. Adjustments must be made continually if educational institutions are to thrive. The model helps stakeholders look at the bigger picture so they can respond to it holistically.


Reed, L. C. (2017). The agape alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming middle schools: A staff development workshop manual. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reed, L. C. (2017). Transforming school culture: A case study approach. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.



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