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Theory Matters: Representation and experimentation in education



This article provides a material enactment of educational theory to explore how we might do educational theory differently by defamiliarising the familiar. Theory is often assumed to be abstract, located solely in the realm of ideas and separate from practice. However, this view of theory emerges from a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions of separating meaning from matter that are taken to be foundational, when this need not be the case. Drawing upon what variously might be termed materialist, performative or post-human positions, the article suggests that it is possible to re-enact theory as a matter-ing practice—of matter and meaning. The assumption of a separation that divides theory from practice is challenged in this article, which suggests that theory matters by being entangled with the material and that a separation of matter from meaning is an effect. This approach enacts things as matters of concern by contrast with the representation of objects as matters of fact. In this way, educational theory becomes a form of responsible experimentation rather than simply a representation of others. Some implications for education are outlined.