#ATTI80: The Final Theory

WOW! Crazy to think that #ATTI80 is now over!!!

Over the past 80 days I’ve broken down 8 theories, gone through 13 dry erase markers, 1 container of Clorox wipes, utilized 2 whiteboards and, to close us out, have created 1 theory.

123567Yes, I’ve created theory, so let those pigs fly!

Now, this has been percolating in the back of my mind for months and even years of seeing my cohort work with theory during and after grad school; after engaging in many conversations with Graduate Assistants, colleagues and friends in the field; after observing the journeys of SAPros; and my own journey and struggle with theory. Over time, I’ve noticed some general patterns emerge on how individuals engage or have engaged in theory.

I’ve also observed how individuals many times cannot understand how or why someone may reject theory, or challenge it or perhaps why they are head over heels in love with theory. For me, I think it’s important as we develop, that we understand and acknowledge we are all at different places in theory engagement and that we shouldn’t chastise one another for our interpretation, use and level of engagement with theory. We each have our own story in how we encounter theory and theory engagement and I conjecture that it is just as much of a journey of development as identity or leadership development in many cases.

So as I progressed through the #ATTI80 Project my musings, observations and conversations seemed to formulate into a more structured understanding of theory engagement and I figured, why not close this great project out than to draw it out?

Therefore, I’m pleased to introduce you to:

Brian’s Theory of Theory Engagement!

Brian's Theory

In the Theory of Theory Engagement, there are chapters of engagement an individual may experience during their professional journey. There is no sequential order and many times, individuals will experience these chapters several times or even simultaneously. Due to my experience and hearing those of friends and colleagues, this theory is built on engagement with Student Affairs theory.

The Chapters are:

Rejection Chapter: This is a point in time (often when an individual is first introduced to theory) when they reject the need or role of theory in Student Affairs practice, normally due to negative experiences with those practicing theory, not necessarily with theory itself.

Embrace Chapter: This is a point in time when a individual works with theory without question or challenge.

Acceptance Chapter: This is a point in time of reconciliation and an individual confronts their resistance to theory and begins to accept the importance and role of theory in their work.

Learning Chapter: This is a point in time when an individual openly learns and engages in theory. Many times this is referred to during the Graduate School time, but also during proposal submission times and when building new programs.

Application Chapter: This is a time when an individual is fully engaged and applying theory to their work. Most often this is a chapter which overlaps other chapters such as Embrace, Learning, and Critical.

Critical Chapter: This is a point in time when an individual challenges existing theory as flaws are revealed.

Education Chapter: This is a point where an individual adds to, creates, and shares theory with colleagues, students etc. For some it’s during the conference season, while others consider their Doctoral programs this time period and even others consider it during times of teaching and faculty level positions.

As with every theory this is not perfect, but my goals for this is to perhaps provide better context and understanding for each of us when it comes to theory engagement and how to approach one another when working with theory.

Sometimes our hatred or love of theory tends to tunnel vision us. We begin to assume that another person’s level of knowledge and engagement with theory is the same as ours. When in all honesty we are each at different levels and different chapters in our theory engagement. And that’s PERFECTLY ALRIGHT.

So to those who are rocking out the theory and live and die by it…keep rocking on!

To those who reject theory…consider why and perhaps it’s the way you were introduced to it rather than theory in general.

To those who struggle with theory…keep going!

And to those who put theory to practice…be kind, be gentle and use purposefully! 🙂

And if you need either 1) help remembering the chapters and/or 2) if you really master understanding the chapters and able to use them to aid in your work and interactions with colleagues and others in the field you’ll totally be a R.E.A.L. A.C.E.!!

Hope you enjoyed the #ATTI80 Project and thank you so much for following it this summer!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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