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The term "theory" is often used in different disciplines to mean different things. In this episode, Concepcion Godev suggests that having students review what they understand by theory contributes to their critical thinking development.
Hello. This is Dr. Concepcion Godev, Faculty Fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Thanks for tuning in and welcome to Teaching and Learning Matters.
Today’s topic is Do Students Understand the Concept of Theory? In a previous podcast, I addressed the notion of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and how this type of scholarship usually begins with the observation of a learning event followed by reflection and inquiry.
Today’s topic is a great research question to explore within the framework of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The question of whether or not students understand the concept of theory is relevant both at the undergraduate level and graduate level. You may quickly sample what students understand by “theory” if you have your students answer the following questions:
One reason why students may be puzzled about the term theory is that this term is often used in all kinds of courses, from science and mathematics courses to humanities and social science courses. Yet theory is a term used to mean different things. In fact, the lay use of the term is a synonym with “something that is not proven.” This lay use of the term contradicts the academic notions of theory.
Every instructor assumes that somebody else in some other course must have explained the term “theory” to their students at some point. However it is likely that nobody has.
The concept of theory is one of those concepts that can be clarified by having students reflect on it periodically. This reflection will yield most benefits if done in different disciplines, as each discipline understands the term in different ways.
Having students review what they understand by theory will create an opportunity for students to review this part of their knowledge, which is the foundation of scholarship and inquiry in the different academic disciplines. This review process is an essential metacognitive activity that contributes to students’ critical thinking development. Reflecting periodically about what one knows and about the accuracy of that knowledge is a key process needed in life-long learning.
Tune in again and remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.
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