Theory

Rationale for Equity in Youth Access to the Benefits of Nature

 

This artifact was my final paper for Educ 601 (Educational Research Design and Methodology). We were asked to research a topic in special education and write a literature review. I chose to look at the evidence in support of Attention Restoration Theory (ART) and to analyze the limitations of this theory. I think it is a strong example of my ability to summarize and synthesize literature from a number of related yet different areas of research, and then identify an important gap that warrants further study (Creswell, 2015). This artifact also demonstrates my growth in understanding and familiarity with theories that touch on my research interest as well as a step in my journey of gathering empirical evidence in favour of exploring and defining a new theory of Restorative Education.

 

According to my instructor’s marking sheet, this artifact demonstrates “evidence of critical thinking and reflection,” it includes a “sound rationale for ideas that are well explained,” there was “accuracy in the content” and the “conclusions are solid.” However, from a positivist point of view, a weakness of this artifact is that I did not maintain objectivity or distance from the studies or findings that I reviewed, especially in the introduction. It is not only a description of the literature; I also offered context for my interest in the topic and opinion on the practical implications of the theories and evidence contained in the paper. I interacted with the theories discussed, identified a gap and started to articulate my own theory of special education, “Restorative Education.”  

 

I received feedback that my opinion and experience is not what is required in a literature review. Creswell (2015) stated that literature reviews in the most rigorous research reports do indeed mainly include studies published in journals, but he devotes much of his chapter on this topic to a discussion of the different styles, uses, content and formatting of literature reviews based on what kind of study they are for. Given that this literature review was not assigned as a part of a larger research project, where I would have had a statement of the problem section to introduce context, position and arguments, I can understand why I felt compelled to include more than “just the facts” in this research paper. In fact, a course reading assigned in Education 610 offered the opposite instruction: that to write a “creative” instead of a merely “reproductive” literature review, students must “see themselves in dialogue” with the authors they are selecting to include in their review, to actively participate in their discourse community instead of just reporting on it to a single audience member, their instructor (Montuori, 2005, p. 377).  Montuori validates my conviction in “the importance of seeing the literature from the perspective of one’s lived experience” (2005, p. 379).

 

I think that if I had more space and time in this artifact to explore other problems with the articulation of ART, it could be an even better representation of my understanding of theory in special education. In future I would like to dig deeper into how inconsistent ART studies have been in terms of which exact aspects of attention they measure. In trying to explain or account for all the potential ways nature can prevent attention fatigue or restore our capacity for directed attention, Kaplan, Kuo, Faber Taylor, and other key founding scholars in ART have failed to establish or measure how exactly this happens in a consistent way. I think this applies to my interest in establishing or popularizing a new theory of Restorative Education. It’s a bit of a catch 22 because while it is important that new educational theories are articulated in a clear manner that allows for them to be measured in a valid and reliable way, it is hard to do this before rigorous research is produced that makes clear the relationships between the variables.     

 

References

 

Montuori, A. (2005). Literature Review as Creative Inquiry. Journal of Transformative Education, 3(4), 374 - 393.