Why Education Research Is Failing Us – Nice way to only half understand education research

Second-Class Science

Education research gets an F.

It goes without saying that effective teaching has many components, from dedication to handling a classroom and understanding how individual students learn. But a major ingredient is the curriculum the school requires them to use. Yet in one of those you’ve-got-to-be-kidding situations, the scientific basis for specific curricular materials, and even for general approaches such as how science should be taught, is so flimsy as to be a national scandal. As pay-for-performance spreads, we will therefore be punishing teachers for, in some cases, using the pedagogic equivalent of foam bats. “There is a dearth of carefully crafted, quantitative studies on what works,” says William Cobern of Western Michigan University. “It’s a crazy situation.”

I love when I hear reports like this. Honestly, this type of trash talk has been pretty much over for years. This is the same trash talked by the old guard who honestly think that the same research done in science labs can be done in the classroom, that fallacy that you can control classroom variables enough for your results to be “pure”.

I’m not saying there isn’t a bunch of junk out there. There certainly is. But to draw this conclusion from this one researcher (where it seems she got all her info) and his one study, is just wrong. Research is like a collage, or better yet, a pointillist painting. Each study is a dot that will eventually form a piece of a grand picture.

I don’t have to see Cobern’s study to know that he couldn’t control for teacher. In addtional, there is always the issue of how one is measuring growth. Methods like inquiry-based instruction result in different learning. It is learning that is more personal and broad. How can you capture this with a multiple-choice test? You can’t.

I’m not going to say that this study is worthless. It is another point on that painting. The creation of this painting is hampered and even harmed every time one of this brainiacs decide that types of research that don’t conform to their ideal of study design (that was perfected in the early 20th century, by the way).

I’ll end by extending her baseball analogy. There is no such thing as the perfect bat. Each batter has their own ideal that is influenced by countless factors accumulated from their genes their memories of lucky bats in their past. THERE IS NO PERFECT BAT FOR EVERYONE. Do you understand?

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