Using Theory to Guide Research: Applications of Constructivist and Social Justice Theories

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Catherine Ennis was an educator, researcher, mentor, and innovator in the field of physical education. As mentor for doctoral students and early-career researchers, she advocated the importance of developing a research agenda to guide and connect one’s scholarship. The central feature of a research plan, she argued, was a guiding theoretical framework that helps scholars interpret their findings and make connections to larger bodies of literature. In this article, the authors discuss Ennis’s position that theory should guide and connect research in physical education and provide examples of how she developed complementary research agendas throughout her career that were connected to constructivist and social justice theories. The goal of both these research agendas was to improve the experiences of children and teachers in physical education programs. In concluding, the authors connect Ennis’s use of constructivist and social justice theories to the ethic of care and make recommendations for teacher education programs.

The authors are with the Dept of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL.

Richards (karichar@illinois.edu) is corresponding author.
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