Posts Tagged ‘theories’


I’m taking a few days, belatedly, in catching up on missing work. One of the things I’ve been putting off is the up-dating and house-keeping necessary for the course materials we use in our MBA Starter workshops.

This three-day event is divided between the PD stuff – which I tend to improvise on as I go – and seven Study Skills sessions. These sessions have been authored, co-authored, delivered and developed by many experienced hands over the last year or two, so we need to learn from the repeated delivery. As luck would have it, I’m the Module Convenor, so it’s my job to tidy things up while still giving colleagues the freedom to deliver the aims of the sessions in their own voice.

I’ve noticed that when you revisit some details they can reveal connections to you that are somehow overlooked the first time round. One such example is the relationship between “concept” (or construct), “framework”, “model” and “theory”. These form an important part of the language of study and assessment at master’s level, so we have always had a session to introduce them.

It occurs to me that there is a sequence in the four:

  • Concept                     Individual items that represent abstract ideas, or mental objects. Our ability to conceptualise is almost limitless. Concepts are sometimes seen as the building blocks of theory.  Concepts are driven by our epistemology (way of knowing).


  • Framework             The arrangement of concepts in a taxonomy or typology (i.e. a classification of parts) where the order does not affect the nature of the taxonomy (PESTLE is a good example). Frameworks have a fairly loose relationship with theory but can be very effective in narrowing down the mass of data and possibilities to manageable chunks. Frameworks are driven by the same epistemology as concepts (after all, a framework is also a concept), but are always at one level of abstraction away from the concepts they contain.


  • Model                        The arrangement of concepts where the order or position does make a difference. Models can show cause and effect, as well as before and after, relationships. The aim of a model is to achieve accurate description of those relationships. Models may be generated by theory, or may be a step on the road (a guess, in other words) to the establishment of theory. MBAs are attracted to models in order to apply other people’s thinking to a given problem in hand (short cuts). Models are driven by expediency.


  • Theory                       The aim of theory is to explain. Theory tries to map data to underlying tautology in such a way that the steps between them could not be in doubt. Most work in science is the search by various means of inference of more complete theory. A better theory is one that explains more than its predecessor. MBAs are not attracted to theory usually until it’s too late! Theory is driven by curiosity.



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