What Theory Matters
This short seminar will explore differences among theoretical perspectives by asking:
- What does it mean to “have a theoretical perspective?”
- How do you come to recognize different theoretical stances as you read and consider the work of others?
- What are the implications of those differences for scholarly work and social engagement with the world?
One way to take up these questions is to look closely at how scholars/researchers approach the same problem from different perspectives. The course will take as a central text for this examination Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context (Chaiklin and Lave, editors). All researchers in this collection of ethnographic studies address issues about learning, knowledge and social practice. The challenge for the seminar is to inquire into the theoretical stances that permeate these projects — similarly and differently. This will involve attempting to answer the seminar questions as we go along. Besides being more acute readers of academic work by the end of the seminar, students will have (we hope) a hands-on grasp of the craft of social theorizing, and an introduction to contrasting theories of learning, knowledge, context, and practice.