[Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?

David Corking lists at dcorking.com
Thu Nov 22 17:29:46 PST 2007

Tony Forster wrote:

> Controlled blind large studies are rarely done. This is because the lab
> rabbits are real kids and there are real ethical concerns. We are stuck with
> anecdote and assertion for the large part. We need to critically examine all
> this, as there is little hard evidence.

For better or for worse, our society uses real kids for blind (and
even double blind) trials of medical treatments.

The ethics of a pendulum swinging from 'new math' to 'new new math' to
'back to basics' and on, based each time on anecdote, are, to the
naive observer, as great a cause for concern as giving two matched
groups of children differing curricula for a couple of years.  Perhaps
saying that ruins my chances of influencing education, but instead of
advocating such trials, and dismissing current research methods, my
next step is to understand how, as a society, we should interpret an
anecdotal study.

What are the benchmarks a study must meet to be considered good
evidence to support making a change (to the learning environment, the
learning methods, and even the learning objectives, or even just to an
individual lesson plan?)   Educators like yourself work hard on these
studies to get them through peer review, or incorporated in government
policy, and often aim for to be utterly dispassionate.   So, how
should a concerned parent (or administrator or politician) work with
teachers in their community to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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