Chapter 5 – Paradigms – A Third Component

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If the meaning of paradigms is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


 The paradigm is a shared set of assumptions, the way we perceive the world; water to fish. The paradigm explains the world to us and helps us to predict its behavior.

-Adam Smith

Today, “paradigm” is a buzzword and people use it loosely. But it is not a loose idea.

– Joel Barker 

Concepts describe our world to us. Principles associate concepts and make them into something useful. Next, we will cover the final component of the ConPriDigm™, the paradigm. The ConPriDigm™, (Concepts, Principles and Paradigms) is a construct that just happens to be the domain name for this blog. A chapter will be dedicated to the ConPriDigm™ — in the book.

We have all heard someone say, “Our school system needs a paradigm shift”, or perhaps “our political party needs a paradigm shift”. But, what exactly is a paradigm.  You can’t shift one unless you have identified the current one…and understand it.

A paradigm is a collection of principles with an overarching purpose. Paradigms aggregate principles by providing rules for their application. However, the principles must meet the Principle Effects criteria established in the previous chapter.

The architect of the paradigm was Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996).  He received his M.S. and PhD in physics from Harvard University. Kuhn developed a passion outside his box: he wrote extensively on the history, sociology and philosophy of science. Perhaps, his seminal contribution was his book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962) in which he introduced the paradigm.

Kuhn’s key argument was targeted at the scientific community and relied on his premise that all scientific research, resulting in theory, is impacted by rules that are universally accepted. The rules may be written or unwritten and may be subjective. It is important to think of Kuhn’s concept of a paradigm in the context of the title of his book.

The books subject matter is focused on the aspects of scientific revolutions; major departures from the way people think and apply knowledge for solving problems plaguing mankind. Kuhn felt that scientists can never divorce their subjective perspective from their work; thus, our comprehension of science can never rely on full objectivity, we must account for subjective perspectives as well. It is the belief of this writer that the subjective aspect of the paradigm lead Kuhn to defining the paradigm in many different ways and rightfully so, an objective purview would have been rather straight forward.

A conceptual pattern for the abstract concept of subjectiveness would yield the following specification.

Subjectiveness can lead to a partiality, tendency or inclination that bears on our conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities. Mental processes and activities result in our perception, learning and reasoning, which are responsible for our thoughts and feelings. When we are subjective, thoughts and strong feelings begin to change in form and character for a particular purpose. Meaning becomes restricted and opinion is influenced in advance. The partiality may be directed at an object, person or concept that prevents objective consideration. Purposeful consideration may be prevented, in advance, without knowledge, thought or reason and may eliminate the opportunity for objective unprejudiced consideration.

Think about this…

When we don’t recognize the subjective nature of a concept we become prejudiced toward our own perspectives rather than accept any new idea. We can become quite critical.

In my next post – the nature of a paradigm in the context of subjectivity.

Paradigms – Criticism and Subjectivity

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If paradigms are understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


In the context of criticism and subjectiveness, of significance, is a white paper written by Margaret Masterman called The Nature of a Paradigm. Masterman (1910-1986), was a British linguist and philosopher, most known for her pioneering work in the field of computational linguistics and especially machine translation, referred to as artificial intelligence in some circles.

 I believe she confirmed my suspicions that a paradigm is subjective in nature by rather emphatically stating that he (Kuhn) makes paradigm-elucidation genuinely difficult for the superficial reader.  On her counting, Kuhn used “paradigm’ in not less than twenty-two different senses in his book in 1962. The twenty-two “different senses” were strong indications of paradigm subjectiveness. Kuhn knew and understood the subjective aspect of a paradigm.

Willis Harman (August 16, 1918 – January 30, 1997) an American engineer, social scientist, academic, futurist, writer, visionary and author of An Incomplete Guide to the Future (1970) had this perspective. He wrote; a paradigm is “the basic way of perceiving, thinking, valuing, and doing associated with a particular vision of reality. A dominant paradigm is seldom if ever stated explicitly; its exists as unquestioned, tacit understanding that is transmitted through culture and to succeeding generations through direct experience rather than being taught.” Is Harmon just saying in another way that we are dealing with a high level of subjectiveness? If we can’t state it explicitly then how do we even know it exists? How do we shift it?

Masterman called Kuhn’s book “scientifically perspicuous and philosophically obscure”. Masterman is highly critical of Kuhn but in spite of that criticism, she takes his concepts and expands them in a very didactic fashion. She sees a Kuhn paradigm as a set of scientific habits that form the basis for successful problem-solving which may be characteristically; intellectual, verbal, behavioral, mechanical, or technological.  In Masterman’s reality, any or all of the characteristics may apply depending on the type of problem which is being solved. I believe that Masterman identified what she would agree was indeed a paradigm. For her, a paradigm preceded theory.   For Kuhn, the current accepted theory, that has undergone unprecedented change, is the paradigm. Following are her thoughts taken directly from her white paper. She felt that Kuhn’s paradigm was sociological in nature as opposed to philosophical.

The only explicit definition of paradigm, in fact, which Kuhn ever gives, is   in terms of these habits, though he lumps them all under the name of concrete scientific achievement. “Normal science’, he says (p.10), means ‘research based upon one or more past scientific achievements that some particular community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice’.  These achievements are (i) ‘sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity’, and (ii) ‘sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to solve. Achievements that share these two characteristics I shall henceforward refer to as a paradigm’. Thus, by assigning the central place, in real science, to a concrete achievement rather than to an abstract theory, Kuhn, alone among philosophers of science puts himself in a position to dispel the worry which besets the working scientists confronted for the first time with professional philosophy of science, ‘How can I be using a theory which isn’t there?’

Masterman sees Kuhn’s sociological paradigm as prescient to theory because it is something concrete and observable: i.e. a set of habits. Kuhn as well as other theorists closely associated a paradigm with a theory.  For the purposes of this book and as the third component of a ConPriDigm™ the paradigm will indeed precede theory and…become theory.

Next post – another perspective from Joel Barker, a consultant, teacher and advertizing executive, his clients included IBM, Monsanto, General Mills and more.

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Acknowledgements: Willis Harman Margaret Masterman

Paradigms – The Business of Discovering the Future

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If the meaning of paradigms is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.



According to Joel Barker, paradigms give us the added advantage of being able to create a valid set of expectations about what will probably occur in the world based on our shared set of assumptions. Barker asserted that the paradigm was just as applicable to organization dynamics as scientific revolutions. Barker’s definition of a paradigm;

A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written or unwritten) that does two things;

(1) it established or defines boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.

He adds that a paradigm is used to solve problems and predict future events. Barker is author of Paradigms – The Business of Discovering the Future

Barker uses the game of tennis as a good example. Essentially the rules of the game help each player solve the problem of overcoming the opposing player and scoring more points. In fact, the first principle or purpose of any game is to win. Imagine a game without the first principle. Based on Barkers definition what would be the purpose of a paradigm? Barker pointed out that for most situations our success is easily measured by our ability to solve problems. If we just use his definition we might come to the conclusion that the purpose of a paradigm is two­ fold; establish boundaries, and behavioral characteristics that will lead to success. His definition has wide implications but only if we add the third component to his definition; it tells us how to behave inside the boundaries to be successful solving problems. If we are playing tennis for the first time and we are never given a purpose for accumulating points the activity would quickly become circular and very boring. My point is that any discussion of paradigms must include the concept of purpose.

Let’s go back to the first paragraph in this section of the chapter and extract the real purpose of a paradigm in Barker’s own words -“to create a valid set of expectations about what will probably occur in the world based on a shared set of assumptions.” The expectation is a purpose and the shared set of assumptions is a set of principles. We will make use of, associated concepts, principles and purposeful paradigms from multiple knowledge domains to build the ConPriDigm™ Theory.

Next post – The connection, Paradigms and Theory.

Paradigms – The Connection with Theory

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If the meaning of paradigms is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


Paradigms are often seen as different concepts to different people. Paul Davidson Reynolds wrote an exemplary book that was first published in 1971, A Primer in Theory Construction. His book was intended to be as an introduction to the way theories are constructed, stated, tested, and connected together to form a scientific body of knowledge.  Reynolds asserted that there is a natural order of things when considering ideas, paradigms, Kuhn Paradigms and theories. First in the series is the idea that the originator puts together utilizing abstract statements that are considered part of scientific knowledge. Once the “idea” is documented, according to the rules and regulations suggested by Barker, the “idea” moves on to the category of theory.

For Reynolds, the communication of the new theory and the paradigm happen at the same time. Theory first, well communicated among colleagues, may become one of two types of paradigms according to Reynolds. First is the Kuhn Paradigm. It includes a unique and unprecedented orientation toward the phenomena, a dramatic break with the past existing orientations, and also involves a major shift in research strategy. Kuhn referred to his paradigms as “scientific revolutions.” The second type of paradigm that Reynolds referred to was simply a paradigm. The paradigm represents a definite shift in orientation but is less than a scientific revolution. Please note that for either of these types of paradigms to exist there had to be one in existence in the first place. All theories are paradigms but not all theories are Kuhn Paradigms. A key to our understanding of the paradigm from Reynolds’s perspective is the purpose of a scientific knowledge. I should mention that I am in agreement with Barker in his belief that paradigms are wide spread and are not only applicable to the scientific arena, as perhaps Kuhn had. Reynolds provided us with his perspective on the purpose of a body of scientific knowledge.

The Purpose of Scientific Knowledge is to provide:

  • A method of organizing and categorizing “things,” a topology;
  • Predictions of future events;
  • Explanations of past events;
  • A sense of understanding about what causes events;
  • The potential for control of events.

If scientific knowledge is captured in individual theories or bundles of theories and if all theories are paradigms to some degree then perhaps, and only perhaps, the purpose of a paradigm is the purpose of scientific knowledge.

Next Post: An example…

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Acknowledgements: Paul Davidson Reynolds

Paradigms – An Example

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If the meaning of paradigms is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


We are constantly being influenced by paradigms. Our employers, our place of worship, our county supervisors are all guided by prevailing paradigms.  Our universities provide us with a number of excellent examples. I will use an example that is based on the concept of CURRICULUM. There will be an entire chapter dedicated to the concept/domain but using this example will help make the rather significant and rather vague amount of knowledge that’s available on the concept of a paradigm more palatable. Yes, a concept can also be a knowledge domain. Many universities offer PhD programs in curriculum development and instruction.

Curriculum is a very important concept in our universities. Just as there have been entire books written on concepts and paradigms, there are numerous volumes on the subject of the curriculum.  One book particularly noteworthy is Curriculum Theory, Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns (2008) by Michael Schiro. Schiro taught mathematics education and curriculum theory at Boston College for the last 30 plus years. He received his masters and PhD from Harvard University in curriculum instruction. Dr. Schiro does an excellent job of presenting curriculum theory utilizing concepts, principles and paradigms, although he is careful in his choice of words. On page one, paragraph one, he sets the stage.

For almost a hundred years, educators have been at war with each other over what the nature of the American school curriculum should be. Underlying this war are four visions of what the school curriculum should look like. These visions are based on four ideologies, or curriculum philosophies, that advocate very different methods of achieving those respective purposes. The four visions of schooling have both stimulated improvement in American schools and caused conflicts that have inhibited progress in the development of school curriculum.

The overarching domain is obviously tertiary education however, for this example we have identified the domain as Curriculum Theory. When Dr Schiro uses the concepts of vision, ideology, and philosophy he is, in reality, identifying paradigms within the educational system. We will identify one of the four for our example: The Scholar Academic Ideology, probably the most common in use today.  In the appendix of his book, Dr Schiro provides a Curriculum Ideologies Inventory in which he identifies the purpose for each ideology. The inventory also addresses the following concepts with associated precursory principles: Teaching, Learning, Knowledge, Childhood and Evaluation. He doesn’t identify them as principles; they are just a vehicle to complete the inventory, but they are precursory in nature.

Scholar Academic Ideology

Purpose ( First Principle): To provide a community where the accumulated knowledge of the culture is transmitted to the youth.

Concepts and Principles

TEACHING: Teachers should be knowledgeable people, transmitting that which is known to those who do not know it.

LEARNING: Learning best proceeds when the teacher clearly and accurately presents to the student that knowledge which the student is to acquire.

KNOWLEDGE: The knowledge of most worth is the structural knowledge and ways of thinking that have come to be valued by culture over time.

CHILDHOOD: Childhood is essentially a period of intellectual development highlighted by growing reasoning ability and capacity for memory that results in ever greater absorption of cultural knowledge.

EVALUATION: Evaluation should objectively determine the amount of knowledge students have acquired. It allows students to be ranked from those with the greatest intellectual gain to those with the least.

We have now clearly identified the Scholar Academic Ideology as a precursory paradigm. We have concepts, purpose and rules in the form of precursory principles.

Next Post: Please go to the narration tab.