Theory and Practice

Theory and Practice

Part 1

Views on Relationship between Theory and Practice

There exists a strong relationship between theory and application or practice. A theory represents an organization of knowledge in a systematic and logical method. This knowledge helps in solving real life problems. In the last century, there has been a considerable gap between theory and application. According to Kessels and Korthagen (1996), the major reason behind the widening gap between theory and practice is an overemphasis on developing general knowledge at the expense of application or practice. For instance, many theories explain how an educator may develop cordial relationships with students. Some of these include interpersonal theories, behavioral theories, motivational theories, and others. However, an educator may not be able to transform the knowledge presented by these theories into practice. The educator may lack the know-how on applying the findings made by a theory in a particular classroom situation. According to Kessels and Korthagen (1996), this marks a gap between theory and application.

The teacher educator should find ways of applying the theory to practice. Nonetheless, educators often fail to apply the knowledge learned from theory. Failure, in this case, is not the result of propositions made by the theory; rather, this is a failure of application or practice. The basic premise is that individuals may have the scientific understanding or episteme of a theory by lack the practical wisdom or phronesis (Kessels & Korthagen, 1996). An element of scientific knowledge is universality; that is, it generally applies everywhere. It is worth noting that things involving practical prudence are not universal like knowledge, but vary with the situation. Thus, having theoretical knowledge is not enough for an individual, there is need to learn how to apply this knowledge. The biggest problem in the conceptualization of theory and practice is that people emphasize much on understanding rather than developing practical wisdom.

Billig (2014) evaluates classical leadership studies by Kurt Lewin. Lewin’s major assertion is that “there is nothing as practical as a good theory” (p. 1). Kurt Lewin is one of the most influential social psychologists. His theories are the mirror to what a good theory ought to be – uniting theory and application. Lewin asserts that Aristotelian concepts are bad in light of a lack of practicality, while the Galileian concepts are good due to their practicality. Concerning this, good theorists are those who write in technical ways. For the theory to be useful, however, it should be written in a way that non-specialists in the subject could understand (Billig, 2014). This is what constitutes practicality of a theory. Lewin’s theories sought to inform all type of audiences including non-specialists. Writing in technical ways did not promote practicality since only a few individuals in that particular field could understand and relate the meaning of the theory.

In his leadership theories, Lewin applied ordinary language that non-specialists could understand. Lewin popularized the terms “democracy” and “autocracy” instead of using technical terms in their studies (Billig, 2014). The use of ordinary language ensures that the majority can read the theoretical underpinnings and make use of the knowledge they learn in practice. Lewin propounds the idea that the use of ordinary language promotes the practical application of theory. In his study about different leadership styles, Lewin summarized the results using ordinary language and meant for the general audience (Billig, 2014). This is perhaps the reason why his leadership theories generated a lot of interest and wide readership. While writing to the scientific community, one should employ technical language.

How Theory can Guide or Inform Practice

Theory guides or informs practice in various ways. A theory provokes deeper investigation in any field of study. A theory forms the foundation for further inquiry in a particular field of knowledge (Gay & Weaver, 2011). Through the development of a theory, researchers acquire a platform for further development of the field of knowledge. A theory also provides the general framework for analyzing a particular problem further. Moreover, researchers gain a deeper understanding of a particular field of knowledge by developing theories. The theory acts as a platform that enables researchers to learn more about the particular field and expand their inquiry. According to Lincoln and Lynham (2011), theory provides researchers with a comprehensive view or understanding of the practical world. This is because once a theory emerges researchers are able to develop measurable aspects, drawing on relevant data, in order to determine its accuracy and applicability into practice.

Theory lacks a universal meaning or standard. It is in light of this that researchers are able to explore a theory in different dimensions, thus expanding knowledge in a particular area. According to Gay and Weaver (2011), theory enables researchers to develop laws or constructs that help in the understanding of particular phenomena. Theories are subject to rigorous testing and assessments to determine whether it holds. During this period, new insights are developed through reframing ideas or building upon the existing ideas. Testing of a theory is a critical part of its development. Often, researchers employ case studies in testing the applicability of theories. Once a theory is tested, practitioners can choose to apply the theory basing on the perceived benefits. The quality of a theory determines the ability of users to apply it into practice. A theory provides the general direction for action in research. A theory also helps in developing a rationale for decision-making. This is because it acts as a guide to researchers when investigating on various topics.

Translating Theory into Practice

There are issues involved in translating theory to practice in the medical field as well as other fields. Olswang and Prelock (2015) identify the existing gap between research a practice as emanating from the lag between the development of a theory and its actual application. The research pipeline involved in the development of a theory is unnecessarily long. In the medical field, for instance, a theory must undergo a lengthy period before the actual application of the knowledge in clinical situations to prevent harm to patients. Once a theory develops, it undergoes rigorous testing both in a select population and to the general population. The entire process may take over a decade before the application of the research findings to patient care. Moreover, during the continuum of transforming theory to practice, there is knowledge leakage, which affects the strength of the theory findings. For instance, during publication and enactment of practice guidelines, loss of knowledge may occur.

Another problem in translating theory into practice relates to the means of disseminating the research findings. According to Olswang and Prelock (2015), relying on journals to disseminate research findings is problematic in that it places greater responsibility on individuals to read, understand, interpret, and apply the findings in their workplace. Practitioners face many challenges in trying to apply findings to research (Olswang & Prelock, 2015). Some of these challenges relate to the willingness of the organizational structure to embrace the new findings and support their application into practice. The administration may not be willing to support the new changes due to either costs or other issues. Another challenge is the relevance of the theory to practice (Olswang & Prelock, 2015). This may make it difficult for practitioners to implement theory into practice. Personal factors may also influence the translation of theory into practice. For instance, the practitioner could be unmotivated to abandon the current practices. They practitioner could also fail to understand the key underpinnings of the theory.

A major challenge involving the application of theory into practice is the relevance of the theory and perceived benefits from the theory. If there are no perceived benefits, it may be difficult for practitioners to translate theory into practice. The benefits of applying theory into practice should surpass the cost of implementing the theory. Skepticism among practitioners regarding the application of a theory may also hinder translation of theory into practice (Olswang & Prelock, 2015). In the recent period, implementation research has emerged with the aim of bridging theory and practice. Implementation science aims at improving the application of proven clinical practices, management interventions, and other aspects of research findings (Olswang & Prelock, 2015). Implementation science aims at bridging the gap between research and application in the medical field. Implementation science eliminates the lengthy period involved before translating research into practice. The overall impact is a closer relationship between research and practice.

Part 2

Theory of current interest

Hertzberg Two Factor theory is applicable in examining how organizations can improve job satisfaction among employees with diverse needs determined by the generational differences. The theory assumes that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are aspects that do not belong to the same direction. In other words, job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites (Hur, 2017). The opposite of job satisfaction is therefore “no satisfaction”, while the opposite of job dissatisfaction is “no dissatisfaction”. Hertzberg identifies factors known as motivators that contribute towards job satisfaction, and a set of other factors known as hygiene factors whose absence in the workplace can lead to dissatisfaction. The motivational factors relate to the work itself and lead to job satisfaction. They include opportunities for development, recognition, achievement, responsibility, work meaningfulness, and other factors. The hygiene factors, if absent leads to dissatisfaction (Son, Lu, & Kim, 2015). They include wages and salaries, status, job security, physical work conditions, interpersonal relations, fringe benefits, and others.

The motivational factors closely relate to the intrinsic factors of motivation. When present, these factors promote satisfaction and motivation levels but when absent they do not contribute to dissatisfaction. The hygiene factors relate to the extrinsic issues in the environment such as job security. These factors do not increase job satisfaction even when present (Bohm, 2012). However, they can lead to job dissatisfaction when absent. Their absence can also lead to lower motivation. The parallel between hygiene factors and the motivational factors indicates that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are on two different dimensions. In addition, this indicates that one factor may solely relate to either the hygiene factors or the motivation factors. Hertzberg’s two-factor theory has successfully been applied in a number of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, banking, insurance, and among others. This highlights its importance as a theory of motivation in the organization.

Hertzberg’s theory asserts that the hygiene factors and the motivation factors are critical in improving job satisfaction among employees. There exists a positive correlation between job satisfaction and employee motivation levels in the organization. The higher the job satisfaction the higher the motivation levels and vice versa. If there are need deficiencies affecting the employees, they may not perform work optimally (Son, Lu, & Kim, 2015). This may contribute to poor performance among the employees as well as the entire organization. Hertzberg’s two-factor theory can help leaders in determining ways in which they can improve job satisfaction while taking note of the diverse employee needs resulting from their different generational cohorts.

Most of the research literature available on job satisfaction and motivation emphasizes on organizational predictors while disregarding the impact of individual differences. Employees within an organization may perceive motivational factors differently. In addition, employees have different work attitudes even though the tasks performed are similar. The different work attitudes or perceptions toward work are partly occasioned by generational differences. A current view of the theory relates to its application in evaluation of customer satisfaction while using internet or online services. According to Minhee, chunhao, and Moon-Yong (2015), the factors that lead to dissatisfaction are related to the operational aspects and functional performance in the organization. The study also propounds that the different attributes involved in service provision vary greatly in their potential to imbue satisfaction or dissatisfaction upon an individual.

In the last two decades, generational differences in the workplace have generated immense interest among scholars. As such, numerous studies have focused on the subject in an effort to shed more light on the subject. Managers can gain a better understanding of their employees by learning about their generational differences (Lyons & Kuron, 2014). This can increase workforce retention, communication, conflict resolution practices, better employee engagement, and improvement in other aspects of organizational management. Despite the overwhelming body of research available, controversy still exists owing to different theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches concerning generations. It is worth noting that employees within an organization were born in different social-cultural and historical contexts (Hillman, 2014). These groups of people share similar values and attitudes because of the mutual experiences. The shared experiences significantly determine each group’s attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.

Although different generational groups may share experiences, they respond in unique ways due to differences in age. As such, leaders must utilize a variety of approaches in order to ensure that all employees achieve high motivation and job satisfaction. Two major perspectives underpin generational differences in the workplace – the social forces and the cohort perspective (Lyons & Kuron, 2014). The social forces perspective propounds the idea that generations comprise of interrelated social groups that respond to the historical contexts of their time. On the other hand, the cohort perspective views generations as simply groups of individuals born within a particular period. The social forces perspective is the most popular since it takes into consideration the social factors as well as biological factors involved in aging (Lyons & Kuron, 2014). A generation acquires its unique identity when members reach adulthood. This is the period when their shared experiences develop into concrete behaviors and attitudes.

Part 3

Hertzberg Two Factor Theory has been widely applied in examining the concept of satisfaction and motivation in a range of situations. Pandza, Deri, Galambos, and Galambos (2015) examine how Hertzberg’s theory can improve employee motivation and satisfaction at Postal Traffic Department, Novi Sad. The authors assert that motivation is a personal matter. As such, it is impossible to generalize the concept of motivation across all employees within an organization. Pandza et al. (2015) evaluate the factors that motivate employees in the workplace leading to high levels of performance and service quality. These include achievement, advancement, the work itself, awards, and development. The study also examines hygiene factors including company policy, colleagues, safety at work, relationship with superiors, salary, and work conditions.

The findings of the study by Pandza et al. (2015) indicate that employees are motivated to attain better results, something which can be derive from the high means recorded of between 3.3 and 3.9. The work itself and achievement were the most important motivators for the employees in the company respectively, with means of 3.6 and 3.5 respectively. The various factors under achievement were contributing towards the positive reputation of the company, job satisfaction leading to fulfilment, and recognition of one’s achievements. The most important factor under work itself was qualification for the job done. Two of the most important hygiene factors are colleagues with a mean of 4.4 and safety at work with a mean of 3.7 (Pandza et al., 2015). This study helps in linking theory and application by expounding about the key motivational and hygiene factors that leaders should take into consideration. Thus while trying to improve satisfaction and reduce dissatisfaction, leaders must take note of factors under the work itself for motivation and relations among colleagues for satisfaction.

Vast literature available applies the two-factor theory in examining employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Nonetheless, other authors have successfully applied the theory to different contexts. Park and Ryoo (2013) investigate end users’ switching behavior toward cloud computing using a two-factor theory approach. Switching behavior of end users to cloud services reflect their decisions to adopt new technologies. In this study, the duo applies two-factor theory in analyzing the influence of enabling and inhibiting factors during decision-making on whether to make a switch. The study establishes the essence of switching as collaboration support, while the inhibiting factors relate to satisfaction of a user with current technology. Other factors such as switching costs, personal innovativeness, social influence, and others may also come into play.

The findings of the study indicate that availability of cloud services and user support are the most important factors in determining consumer behavior to switch or retain legacy system. While switching costs inhibit users to move to cloud services, switching benefits encourage users to do so (Park & Ryoo, 2013). Factors such as personal innovativeness also encourage users to switch. The duo successfully applies the two-factor model in examining the competing factors that influence consumer-switching behavior. This research goes beyond the usual claims by the theory to show that it may apply in other contexts not necessarily involving the satisfaction and dissatisfaction factors identified by Hertzberg.

The two-factor theory has been extensively applied in evaluating how healthcare leaders can improve motivation among physicians and Registered Nurses (RNs) for improved patient outcomes. Hunt et al. (2012) apply the two-factor theory in evaluating the strategies that nursing homes can use to improve nurse retention. Statistics indicate that as the population above age 65 continues to rise, there is undue pressure on nursing homes due to shortage of RNs to cater for the elderly. High staff turnover in these facilities can detrimentally affect patient care outcomes. The findings by Hunt et al. (2012) indicate that most of the retention programs offered by nursing homes do not have any significant impact on RN retention rates.

The findings by Hunt et al. (2012) show that nursing homes experiencing poor RN retention can reverse the trend by providing opportunities for advancement such as rewarding satisfactory attendance and offering career ladders. This is one of the intrinsic factors identified by Hertzberg. Enriching the benefit packages can also help in RN retention. This application is premised upon an accurate application of the theory. Through research, the authors are able to identify the particular methods that nursing homes can utilize to improve RN retention. This is a good application of the two-factor theory by Hertzberg.

Alfayad and Arif (2017) examine the link between job satisfaction and employee voice from a two-factor theory perspective. The aim of this study is to analyze how employee voice can contribute towards high job satisfaction levels in the Jordan region. There exists a positive correlation between communication openness and job satisfaction in the organization. Communication openness enables employees to raise their concerns about contentious matters affecting them. Once the management reacts to these problems, there is high job satisfaction. The study indicates that employee voice is a critical factor in ensuring job satisfaction (Alfayad & Arif, 2017). Hertzberg’s two-factor theory considers employee voice as a motivational factor. The application of the theory is accurate as it presents practical ways in which the management may improve job satisfaction. For instance, the human resource must develop open communication strategies that encourage joint consultations with the employees to avoid strikes.

Lo, Lin and Hsu (2014) apply the two-factor model in the context of online impulse buying. Their aim is to investigate how business owners can utilize hygiene and motivational factors to trigger a buying impulse. The motivator factors (intrinsic) include the sales promotion initiatives by online retailers such as limited time sales, buy one-get one free promotions, gifts accompanying purchases, and others. The hygiene factors relate to the store design factors such as member confidentiality, product categorization, order tracking, and others (Lo, Lin & Hsu, 2014). The study concludes that the motivation and hygiene factors that influence online purchase behavior are distinct.

This research is premised upon an accurate understanding of the theory. This is because it integrates Hertzberg’s two-factor theory in determining how various factors may influence online purchasing behavior. The application goes beyond the boundaries established by the theory in examining online purchasing behavior. This is because the traditional theory focuses on employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction within the organization.


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