Conceptual Frameworks in Learning

A conceptual framework can be explained in the following ways:

• A set of ideas or concepts organized in a fashion that makes them easy to convey and explain to others.

• An organized way of thinking about how a project should take place and why it should take place and how to understand the activities.

• A basic overview of practices and ideas that will shape the way the work in the project will be done.

• A set of hypotheses, values and definitions under which people can work together.

The conceptual framework for any study is the system of concepts, expectations, assumptions, beliefs and theories that support the research. It is the key part of the design. The most important thing to understand about conceptual framework is that it is basically a conception or model of what is to be studied. It is a tentative theory of the things or phenomena that will be studied and investigated. The idea behind the theory is to inform the rest of the design and help assess and refine the goals, develop realistic and relevant research questions and select the proper methods and identify potential threats to any conclusions that may be drawn.

The research problem is part of the conceptual framework, and formulating the research problem is often the most important task of designing the conceptual framework. It is an integral part of the conceptual framework, because it identifies something that is going on in the world, something that is problematic or contains consequences that are problematic. The research problem is there to justify the study and to show people why the research is important and necessary. In addition, the problem may be something that is not fully understood and it is not known how to deal with it. It is exactly for that reason that more information is necessary.

Here is an example of a conceptual framework for a health promotion project for Hispanic women:

1. Develop and implement a Lay Health Promoter training program for Hispanic women.

2. Develop culturally appropriate health education and promotion materials related to cervical and breast cancer in Hispanic women.

3. Reach out to the Hispanic community and inform them as well as involve them in health promotion activities.

4. Identify and remove barriers to preventative health services for Hispanic women.

5. Promote health through activities that improve cancer screening behavior among Hispanic women.

In the world of politics, conceptual frameworks may be necessary. In political science one may not always be conscious of the progress slowly being made with respect to the search for useful theoretical ideas under the very broad and poorly outlined behavioral umbrella. This is perhaps due to the need to concentrate on the often time-consuming and difficult job of reshaping the tools of research. The need to understand new languages of analysis and become familiar with new methods, data and findings is at times overwhelming. The preoccupation of political science with theory has left the political scientist uncomfortably sensitive to the theoretical implications of behavioral tendencies. Within the very short period of time that the behavioral approach has been persuasive in political research, there have been a number of respectable alternative conceptual approaches for the study of political science. Many conceptual frameworks have been developed and many are still in the midst of being developed.

A community of working scientists has its own unique way of looking at the world. The scientists who are members of the community have their own way of concluding research, their own programs and their own way of interpreting what takes place in their experiments. They have their own theories and beliefs about nature. All these values of these scientists form and shape their conceptual framework of the world. According to the conceptual relativist, the beliefs that make up the conceptual framework of this group are by definition true. Any new beliefs or findings are true if they fit into the accepted conceptual framework. Any particular research finding is true or false only in relation to the particular conceptual framework.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Thinking Game: A Guide to Effective Study
Eugene J. Meehan.
Chatham House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Description: Conceptual Frameworks"
The Psychology of Learning Science
Shawn M. Glynn; Russell H. Yeany; Bruce K. Britton.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Students' Conceptual Frameworks: Consequences for Learning Science"
Essays in Sociological Explanation
Neil J. Smelser.
Prentice Hall, 1968
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Conceptual Frameworks begins on p. 47
Learner-Centered Education: Implementing the Conceptual Framework-Moving from Theory to Action
Woelfel, Kay D.
Education, Vol. 124, No. 1, Fall 2003
Technology-Based Groups: A Review and Conceptual Framework for Practice
Schopler, Janice H.; Abell, Melissa D.; Galinsky, Maeda J.
Social Work, Vol. 43, No. 3, May 1998
Quality of Life as a Conceptual Framework for Evaluating Transition Outcomes
Halpern, Andrew S.
Exceptional Children, Vol. 59, No. 6, May 1993
Analyzing Problems in Schools and School Systems: A Theoretical Approach
Alan Kibbe Gaynor.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Conceptual Framework and Overview"
Studying Educational and Social Policy: Theoretical Concepts and Research Methods/
Ronald H. Heck.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Conceptual Frameworks and Theories"
Conducting Social Competence Research: Considering Conceptual Frameworks
Smith, Stephen W.; Travis, Penny C.
Behavioral Disorders, Vol. 26, No. 4, August 2001
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