Theory is a reflection of thought (Dictionary.com). Academics have not been able to agree on a definition for educational theory. There are too many differences of thought to come to a single definition. There are too many different views of what entails knowledge. The rules for thinking are too vast. The procedures for how thought is formed are too widespread. There is no consensus as to how these occur, just acceptance that they do. Academics are not bound as other professions are to explain their theories. Scientists have to prove theories through experimentation. They need to follow the steps of the scientific theory. Academics are not bound by such conformities. They are free to have individual thoughts, freedom of expression, differing opinions. Why, then, would academics want to be confined to a definition of a theory (Thomas, 1997).
Thomas is in the minority when searching through the files of online library resources. Most academics do believe that there is such a valid entity as educational theory. Cascle (2004), states that it is impossible to distinguish between theory and practice. Cascle continues that “theories and interpretations have effects in that they reproduce, institutionalize, canonize or change certain traditions, manners, and customstheories are always dependent upon the social and political context.” The context of both educational and action research follow the same rules.
It is common for educational theorists to study the history of their discipline. The widespread practice of educational theorists is to study education from an educational perspective and not from a perspective of knowledge. While conducting these studies, educational theorists use a variety of theoretical approaches to study the history of education and the history of the discipline of education. Both of these approaches demonstrate the professionalism of education, lending itself to have validity in having educational theories (Cascle, 2004).
With the increasing use of the internet, education is more widespread than ever. People that have never been able to be educated in a traditional classroom setting due to a myriad of reasons can, all of a sudden, have access to education at all levels. This is helping education evolve, and educational theories are evolving with it. Bingham (2011) argues that with all of the advances in education, educational ideas have not evolved, and calls for a needed change. Too many educators, it is argued, are doing the same thing and not adapting adequately with the times. In particular, Bingham points out how society has been transformed in a knowledge-based society. The current educational delivery methods need to reflect this change (Bingham, 2011). When tying this into Thomas’ argument, Bingham’s emphasis is that people do think more for themselves than ever before, much like Thomas says that educators do. However, Thomas reflects on the thought processes of educators whereas Bingham is reflecting on the thoughts of the masses, or potential or current students.
Bingham’s reflection of educational theory can also be reflected in the number of cyber charter schools that have developed in the United States. A record number of parents no longer believe that the public school system is doing the best job it can in educating their children. Instead, parents are taking over supervision of this task, but leaving the actual delivery of material to teachers via the computer. Together, parents, teachers, and the students use the internet as the main delivery module in education. Parents will give a wide variety of reasons as to why they have chosen this route such as child safety, more customized lessons, child health, and such. In the end, it is cyber charter schools that are seeing explosive growth in the country. Parents see themselves as doing the discipline and moderating parts of the teachers’ job and the teachers provide the content. These are the types of teachers that align with Bingham’s theory (Bingham, 2011).
Thomas wrote in 1997. The article was an adequate reflection of a valid point of view of that time. Bingham’s 2011 article is a valid demonstration on how a period of only 14 years can transform a society. Globalization has grown in this short period. Education has become a globalized commodity with the rapidly increasing commodity of internet education. Bingham mentions “Today it is the role of the educator to be a ‘guide on the side’ while students access knowledge for themselves.” This is not a quote that one would have read in an article written by Thomas but is certainly applicable today. As Cascle would continue studying the history of education, the role of the electronic age and its influence could not be ignored. It is a part of what education is today. Whether one believes that education has theory or not, one cannot deny that education does evolve, has evolved, and will continue to evolve. Because of the different viewpoints that academics have on theories and what constitutes thought, there will probably never be a consensus. What there will be is progress, and from that progress, society will benefit.
Bingham, C. (2011). Two Educational Ideas for 2011 and Beyond. Studies In Philosophy &
Education, 30(5), 513-519. doi:10.1007/s11217-011-9253-8
Cascle, R. (2004). The Educational Theorists, the Teachers, and Their History of Education. Studies In Philosophy And Education, 23(5-6), 393-408.
Thomas, G. (1997). What’s the use of theory? Harvard Educational Review. 67(1). 75-104.