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My first stab at a theory?

Earlier this week I drove to Dubai for a cohort meeting with my advisors – and after grumbling to myself as I made the near two hour journey, in the end it was worth it to learn that there are always other ways of looking at research, and as a virgin researcher – often better ways!

The key questions highlighted included:

  1. Think about all the objections you can get, even down to the title of my presentation and the meaning behind every word!
  2. What is the fundamental thing I am researching?
  3. What is special about what I am researching?
  4. What is the theoretical advance I am proposing to make, and why is it important to humanity?
  5. What do we know and what don’t we know about the domain under research?
  6. What’s similar and what’s different between theories, ideas and concepts?

In hindsight, I now feel that sometimes I am wasting time.  I jump down deep rabbit holes to see if a lead or a concept is interesting or applicable to the research scope.  I am reading incessantly, presently I have 11 books, and numerous articles on my desk calling out my name for attention.  Am I wasting time?  Not sure, probably not, but it certainly feels inefficient.  I recently spent probably 3-4 weeks working on getting to grips with values and looking for instruments to measure them, and even communicating with the creator of one instrument.  Only to find then a couple of weeks later that I would look in another direction i.e. The Theory of Planned Behaviour – only to hear finally that this also has some serious critics and perhaps serious defects.

My advisors came to the rescue during our discussion with some tips for me to help in this regard:

  1. I first must spend time looking a broader text books for psychology, sociology, business, etc. to see what stands out for relevance.
  2. I must read four star and three star journals, where other journals are ‘could reads’ [although as an aside here, I can see this is difficult in new areas of technology where they have not reached the level of credibility in academic practice] – sounds like Kuhn’s normal science, what is acceptable and what is not! :o)
  3. I will now spend time unpacking the subject areas and theories before looking for a measuring instrument!

I’ll give these a try.  I will admit I liked our discussion very much, I was never uncomfortable nor upset, – and while I wanted to jump in and reply with immediate compelling responses, thankfully, I largely held back and listened to the alternate points of view coming from the more experienced ‘eyes’.

Overall, the message was to go away and dissect what we know, where it works, what are the important criteria/factors, dimensions etc. simply put I need to unpack the subject areas.  All of this seems very useful and worth the long drive.

As a result of the meeting, I had a real sense that my presentations to date had not been clear to others,  so this weekend I spent all of it trying to create a model of what I am really thinking about.

The satellite propositions can be summarized as follows:

  1. Sustainability Education is a unique and a critical issue for humanity.
  2. Fun based learning can improve learning effectiveness.
  3. Effective learning leads to improved behavior intention.

The helicopter propositions can be summarized as follows:

  1. Sustainability Education is complex, difficult, and can lead to a sense of pessimism for students.
  2. Using 3DVW can help alleviate that pessimism
  3. Using 3DVW can improve role play effectiveness
  4. Safe discourse, solution focus and improved role play leads to increased empathy, optimism, and understanding
  5. Leading ultimately improving sustainability behaviour intention


I am really happy with the result, and it can be downloaded to look at in more detail from the link below.  Is it the beginning of my first theoretical model?  Not sure – but it could be a nice place to start some focused unpacking of my research proposal.  As always, love to hear your thoughts.

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