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What is Theory and Why Does it Matter?

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1 What is Theory and Why Does it Matter?
Emily K. Schulz, Ph.D., OTR/L OT 606

2 Purpose of Theory “Theory explains how some aspect of human behavior or performance is organized, and thus it enables us to make predictions about that behavior” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.1).

3 Major Structural Components of Theory
Concepts A general idea derived or inferred from specific instances or occurrences Principles A rule or law concerning the functioning of natural phenomena or mechanical processes

4 Concepts and Principles
(1) Help us understand or explain what is going on around us (2) Help us predict future events Can be: correlational or “dark clouds are often accompanied by rain” causal “If you stand in the rain without an umbrella you get wet” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.2-3)

5 Definition of Theory “A theory is a related set of principles, each principle being a statement that ties two or more concepts together, usually in a correlation or causal way” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.3) “A theory is defined as a set of interrelated assumptions, concepts and definitions that presents a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relationships among variables, with the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.3).

6 A Schematic of the Hierarchy of the Building Blocks of Theory
Principles Concepts Phenomena

7 Assumptions Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition

8 Assumptions “it is important to be aware of the assumptions underlying a particular theory so that one may evaluate it thoroughly…” “it is important … to maintain an attitude of flexibility about one’s assumptions and realize that the results of truth seeking might lead one to change an assumption from time to time” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.4).

9 Relationship of Research to Theory
Research is a process that allows one to determine “whether the principles relating concepts in any particular theory are valid.” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.4). “…therapists who use theoretical principles to make practice decisions and then observe the results are engaging in a process of testing those theories and, in so doing, may generate new ones” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.5)

10 Relationship of Research to Theory
“The development of a solid theoretical and concrete knowledge base of the profession requires that occupational therapists become more knowledgeable about theory and more conscious about the kinds of thinking and problem solving in which they are already engaged, and that they then record and share their findings” (Miller & Walker, , p.5).

11 3 Stages of Theory Development
(1) Speculative Period the field puts forth theoretical models to attempt to explain phenomena (2) Descriptive Period the field gathers facts through research to describe what is really happening and to test theoretical models (3) Constructive Period old theories are revised and new ones developed that are grounded in facts rather than based on speculation. (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.5).

12 Scientific Inquiry and Paradigm Shifts
Kuhn (1962) introduced the concept of a Paradigm. A Paradigm is the accepted viewpoint in the scientific community. It is a closed system of methods and concepts which exclude opposing perspectives that do not fit into the system.

13 Scientific Inquiry and Paradigm Shifts
Scientific research always works within a certain “paradigm,” or viewpoint. During a period of ‘normality’, (i.e. when a paradigm has been accepted as the norm) researchers work to refine theories and develop the implications of the theories. Any anomalous results or facts found in the research are excluded, overlooked, ignored, or shelved.

14 Scientific Inquiry and Paradigm Shifts
Over time, the number and impact of these anomalies builds up. A crisis is triggered - scientific attention is turned to the previously ignored anomalies. Basic assumptions and opinions from the old paradigm are over turned. The old paradigm falls into disrepute. Eventually, a new way emerges and science is again reworked under the new “paradigm”.

15 Process of Theory Development
(1) an individual may have many facts and then develop a theory to explain relationships among them (2) a person may have a flash of insight that suddenly gives him or her a whole new perspective about the relationship of certain concepts. Ayres used both of these processes to develop her theory of Sensory Integration. (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.5 &6).

16 Complexity and Scope of Theory
Theories range in complexity and scope along a continuum, from: Narrow in focus, dealing with specific phenomena that are fairly easily defined (Example: Sensory Integration). Broad and complex and attempt to explain major areas within a discipline (Example: Model of Human Occupation) (Miller & Walker, 1993, p.6 & 7).

17 The Scope of Theory 1. Grand Theories or Comprehensive Theories - “describe sets of phenomena with wide boundaries encompassing a broad range of phenomena” (Mosey, 1996, p.167). 2. Middle Range Theories - “describe sets of phenomena that are more limited in scope; including only a small portion of the physical universe. … They are… the most frequently used as the foundation for sets of guidelines for practice” (Mosey, 1996, p. 167). 3. Abstract Empiricism - “describe sets of phenomena that are narrow in scope and include a very limited number and range of phenomena… [they] often describe phenomena in the here and now” (Mosey, 1996, p.168).

18 Types of Theory Boss, et al, (1993).

19 Paradigms, Models, and Schematics
Paradigm = A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline. Model = A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics Schematic = A structural or procedural diagram, especially of …[a] system.

20 Paradigm - a Description
A paradigm: Consists of basic assumptions and perspectives that unify a field. Defines and gives coherence or wholeness to an entire profession. Speaks to the nature and purpose of the profession. Is general and does not provide specific strategies for practice. (Miller & Walker, 1993, p. 13).

21 Model - a Description A Model (or fundamental body of knowledge) is:
the typical way a profession perceives itself the typical way a profession perceives its relationship to other professions the typical way a profession associates with the society to which it is responsible characterized by a description of the profession’s philosophical assumptions, ethical code, theoretical foundation, domain of concern, legitimate tools, and nature of and principles for sequencing various aspects of practice. (Miller & Walker, 1993, p. 13).

22 Schematic - a Description
Organizes the body of knowledge in the field. (Miller & Walker, 1993, p. 13).

23 Levels of Theory Theory = conceptual framework used when trying to explain, describe, or predict phenomena of concern to occupational therapy. Model = a conceptual framework or theory that is at the broad and complex end of the theory continuum.

24 Theory: Why Does it Matter?
To validate and guide practice To justify reimbursement To clarify specialization issues To enhance the growth of the profession and the professionalism of its members To educate competent practitioners (Miller & Walker, 1993, p. 7-11).

25 Theory as a Unifying Foundation
“…possessing an understanding of the major theories that influence practice in the field is a goal to which each occupational therapist can aspire, not only to be well educated and better able to communicate, but also to be better able to define oneself as an occupational therapist and have confidence that what one is doing with patients, with students, and in research is well founded” (Miller & Walker, 1993, p ).

26 Three Types of Practice Frameworks
1. Process Model (Ex: OPPM; also the OT Practice Framework) – provides an overview of the intervention process and describes step by step what therapists should do in general terms when providing intervention. 2. Conceptual Model (Ex: MOHO, OA, PEO, EHP) – guides the therapist’s thinking when assessing what is occurring within the person on a abstract level and helps therapists to make clinical decisions about what the best approaches to take regarding the person’s adaptation, the environment, occupation, function/dysfunction etc. 3. Treatment Approach for remediation or to address specific components/issues: (SI, Biomechanical, NDT, PNF, Allen Cognitive Levels)

27 Questions and Answers ?

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