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Education Opinion

This Week’s COWAbunga Award

By Eduwonkette — August 29, 2008 1 min read

This week’s “Comment of the Week Award” goes to TangoMan for his insightful explanation of why education has followed a different trajectory than medicine in its use of evidence, and what role education schools might play in addressing this problem. I would add that superintendents and administrators are bigger culprits than teachers, who are simply ordered to implement their instructional whims. The full comment is here, and an excerpt highlighting the central themes is below:

Here's my hypothesis - teachers don't think like scientists. They're more idealists at heart. They envision a certain role for themselves and they gravitate to approaches that reinforce their idealism. (...) Secondly, the action of "doing something" is preferable to waiting for valid methods to develop, especially when there is a presumption that teachers and methods are all that stand between equal educational outcomes and wide-ranging gaps in performance. The fact that this model of how things works is divergent from reality is little consequence to idealists, for they're driven, when push comes to shove, by belief, not evidence, and that's why they continue to believe, even with little supporting evidence, that the solution is just around the corner and will eventually be found and can then be easily implemented. Further, it's assumed that no harm is done by implementing invalid methods because the teacher doesn't mean to cause harm, as though good intention will inoculate the students from bad practices. (...) Any solution has to start at ground zero, that is, the point where all teachers find common origin, education schools. These institutions must inculcate skepticism into the practitioners of teaching and those who make careers of research....More teachers need to adopt the practice of skepticism and chuck overboard the role of advocate for approaches that appeal to them and the role of progressive educator who is intent on implementing the cutting edge of new approaches (where more emphasis is given to the notion of progress than efficacy.) They need to learn to look at a new approach and find that their first instinct should be to tear it apart, rather than to embrace the approach and try to give it a chance....To put it simply, less embracing and more skepticism needs to be at the core of the education school experience.

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