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Sample Rewrite on
Theory to Policy to Practice and Back, Fall 1999

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: September 17, 1999
Latest update: July 30, 2003
E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Site Teaching Modules Theory to Policy to Practice and Back, Fall 1999
Sample with Jeanne's suggestions for providing a more in-depth response at mid-semester to the theory to policy to practice question. Link added September 17, 1999. Updated July 30, 2003.

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, July 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Sample ReWrite for Mid-Semester Corrections to
Theory to Policy to Practice

Subject: Theory to Policy to Practice
Classes: Agencies/Criminology

Original e-mail:

1.  Relantionship of theory, to policy, and to practice. Theory are the ideas you want to be done; policy is making the rules; practice is when the idea is actually being done. For example, in a classroom, the teacher's theory is to have control of the class; therefore, the policy will be a set of rules that states what is expected from the students.  Practice will be taking place, when the students are acting properly and paying attention and, of course, the teacher has full control of the class.

2.  Moving a discussion from the practice level to a policy or theoretical level, would help us accomplish the fact to have less problems.  By looking at the practice we can then realize whether the policy is working or not.  If the policy is not working, we are most likely to change it in order to get our theory done.


Text and Comments:

  1. Relationship of theory, to policy, and to practice. Theory are the ideas
    Jeanne's edit: Theory is a collection of ideas

    jeanne's edit: theory is; data are.

    you want to be done;

    jeanne's edit: To "be carried out, be realized, be emphasized" would be better choices than to "be done." To carry out, to realize, to emphasize, are active verbs that give a more accurate picture of the expectations than simply "to do." Try to enrich your writing with verbs that suggest actual activity.

    Also, "to be done" is passive. Your writing will benefit from using the active voice. In this case, you could indicate who you expect to do this. For example, "theory is a collection of ideas and generalizations that legislators expect agency personnel to translate into rules for dispensing the services legislated." Now we've got "expect", "translate," "dispense." Active verbs. And now we have actors instead of the passive voice: "legislators," "agency personnel."

    policy is making the rules;

    jeanne's edit: "making the rules" does, in fact, convey the correct impression. However, as the semester rolls on, and you gain in sophistication, you will want to reflect that added sophistication in your answer. For example, you might want to say: "Policy is the organized approach of the agency or organization to a strategy of implementation for the legislated services and/or requirements." Terms of art:

    • implementation = carrying out
    • strategy for implementation = plans to carry out
    • legislated services = services provided by law
    • organized approach = strategy

    practice is when the idea is actually being done.

    Jeanne's edit: Good. The concept of the actual concrete exchange of goods, services, or ideas reflects well the practice level.

    Use of the passive voice "is being done" should be avoided because it gets wordy and counters the direct voice most common in everyday speech.

    Also not a good idea to define any term by "the term is when" Try "practice is the phase in which the idea is implemented."

    For example, in a classroom, the teacher's theory is to have control of the class;

    Jeanne's edit: I would not call having control of the class a "theory." I would call it a goal or an objective. A theory is an interconnected set of ideas that tries to generalize patterns of relationships and behavior. A goal is that behavior or object you wish to achieve, such as a quiet classroom, an attentive classroom, a buzzing with activity classroom, maximum profits, a good work environment, etc. Goals are not theories. They are end points. They are what you are trying to accomplish.

    Please note that the extent to which you need to be specific and accurate in your choice of language is more important in academic writing than in general writing. Part of the reason for that is that the university houses many authorities, wears the cloak of authority, and so, must be particularly careful to be as accurate and unbiased as is possible within the social setting given. If we say "theory" when we mean "goal", we will weaken our ability to accurately communicate our knowledge, and eventually weaken the authority of the university. Over the semester, we would like you to try for increasing accuracy in the language you use.

    therefore, the policy will be a set of rules that states what is expected from the students. practice will be taking place in the actual activities and techniques used in the classroom, when the students are acting properly and paying attention and, of course, which provide the teacher with control.
    Jeanne's edit: "policy will be" - passive voice; change it.

    "practice will be taking place" - passive voice; change it.

    "acting properly" is vague and does not let us determine for ourselves what the students are doing and whether we think that what they are doing is in fact a valid educational goal.

    Jeanne's edit: What about the teacher who doesn't want to "control", but wants "interactive" learning, wants students to be excited about learning, wants students to try new and creative ideas? Think on that one for your mid-semester response to this question. Is the goal for the teacher to have full control of the class? or for the students to participate actively in their own learning?

  2. Moving a discussion from the practice level to a policy or theoretical level, would help us accomplish the fact to have less problems.
    Jeanne's edit: "to have less [fewer] problems" is too vague. Try returning to the concept that moving a discussion to a higher level of generalization and abstraction helps to reduce the affect involved.

    Term of art: "affect" = emotional component attached to learning (Edward T. Hall, The Silent Languge)

    For example: "Removing ourselves to a higher level of generalization helps to lessen the affect associated with the discussion, with the lesson, with the argument. That leaves more discretionary energy for actual rational or referential (meaning discussion that refers to recognized sources of authority for those taking part in the discussion."

    By looking at the practice we can then realize whether the policy is working or not. If the policy is not working, we are most likely to change it in order to get our theory done.

    Jeanne's edit: The above is a good example of the feedback issues. If we attend in good faith to the validity claims of those who must follow the rules, then we have some measure of how well the policy is working in translating the theory.