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S141 Introduction to Social Work The System/Ecological Perspective What is a Theory? Definitions of Theories A group of related hypotheses, concepts, and constructs based on facts and observations that attempt to explain a particular phenomenon. Theories offer a framework to test certain facts: understood as discrete observations and measurements -- quantifiable or verifiable measurements. An explanation of how certain facts fit together. Theories tell which facts are most important for understanding phenomena and which relationships between facts are most relevant. Theories provide the meanings that we attribute to facts. According to Ambrosino, Heffernan, Shuttlesworth, and Ambrosino (2005), a “Theory is a way of clearly and logically organizing a set of facts or ideas” (p.47). Theories are relatively abstract, systematic, and communicable. They must be consistently: Inclusive: have the ability to explain facts in an event in exactly the same way each time the theory is applied Generalizable: have the ability to draw the same conclusion about similar events. As Ambrosino et al. (2005) state, “the more a theory can be generalized beyond the single situation it is describing or explaining, the better it is as theory” (p.48). Testable: have the ability to be tested in some accurate way to ensure validity Types of Theories Descriptive Theories : String together observations in a way that helps us describe a process that leads to an event. Explanatory Theories : Help us understand the relationship between casual sequences and antecedents (the why) and further help us use facts to form new explanations. 1
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Models Models differ from theories in that they provide a whole set of theoretical proposals and assumptions (based on theory) for how the world works. A representation of reality Models are representations that serve as metaphors or analogies for understanding ourselves and the world around us. Models and Theories Models: are less abstract than theories, they are seen as methods of practice, e.g., practice models. Practice and theory are inseparable and effective practice is predicated on sound theoretical foundations. That is, as practitioners we need to embrace theories that are congruent with social work and fit our own orientation as practitioners. For example, if you are working with a female and you are coming from a psychodynamic perspective, you will probably be focusing mainly on her inner traits and searching for deficiencies. If you are evaluating a case from a feminist perspective, you will be assessing the private issues within the context of public issues as how
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This note was uploaded on 11/23/2010 for the course SWK S141 taught by Professor Danielnavarro during the Fall '10 term at IUPUI.

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