Byron's Babbles

What Is The Point Of A Theory?

Recently, I heard someone say, “What is the point of a theory if no one is going to test it.” It was a great point because that is the point of a theory. A theory is a special language that explains and helps us understand some phenomenon, for example, learning, motivation, or administration (Tosi, 2009). The major function of a theory is to describe and explain – in fact, theory is a general explanation, which often leads to basic principles. This has really got me to thinking that so many times we leave the important part of creating a theory when trying to solve some issue. It is why developing a theory of action is so important.

I love the idea of heuristic learning and strive to create environments in my work facilitating professional development for that kind of learning to occur. Heuristic learning is the ability to discover for oneself while doing something. Therefore, a theory is heuristic because it stimulates and guides the further development of knowledge. We all use theories to guide our actions. Some are implicit, and others are explicit; in fact, many of our personal implicit theories are formal ones that have been internalized Hoy & Adams 2016). I believe that if we want coherence and accountability we must start with a theory of action and then test it. We can start by asking, “What is the challenge you are trying to solve?”


Tosi, H.L. (2009). Theories of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hoy W. K. & Adams C. M. (2016). Quantitative Research in Education – A Primer. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


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