Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Scientifically-based Education an Oxymoron? Reply to Eubanks

Some blog followers may be interested in a recent post of the above title [Hake (2009)]

The abstract reads:


ABSTRACT: In response to my post "Is Scientifically-based Education an Oxymoron?" David Eubanks (DE) expressed 4 objections, as listed below followed by my responses (RH):



DE: "Surely, the science of learning cannot be compared to something like physics."

RH: The science of learning can and has been compared with physics, with the science of learning being classed as (a) harder, (b) about the same, and (c) less developed, than physics.



DE: "Sweeping the uniqueness problem away is convenient for building theories of cause and effect, but in no way removes the fundamental problem."

RH: Despite the fact that each student is unique, scientific methods have been used in physics to show that interactive engagement (IE) pedagogies featuring active engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors, yield about a two-standard-deviation superiority over traditional methods in class averaged normalized gains g(ave) on valid and consistently reliable tests of conceptual understanding developed by disciplinary experts.



DE: "We can agree to call statistical correlations 'science', but it's a long way from having a predictive theory that deals directly with physical reality."

RH: The results of "2" above are derived from what psychometricians call "quasi-experiments" with control groups (the traditional courses) and are NOT merely “statistical correlations." Although those results, by themselves, do not give rise to a predictive theory, they (a) have now been substantiated in about 25 other physics-education research papers, and (b) are consistent with what's known about brain functioning.



DE: ". . . the assessment profession over-promises what it can deliver, and emphasizes the wrong kind of techniques-namely reductionism and logical positivism--which results in a lot of confusion."

RH: As far as I know, physics education researchers, at least, have never published any promises. Nevertheless, their research has partially stimulated the reform of a tiny fraction of introductory physics courses in the U.S., including large enrollment courses at Harvard, North Carolina State University, MIT, University of Colorado, and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo; and all without reductionism, logical positivism, and confusion.


To access the complete 42 kB post, please click on http://tinyurl.com/mjb3oq .


Hake, R.R. 2009. “Is Scientifically-based Education an Oxymoron? Reply to Eubanks,” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at http://tinyurl.com/mjb3oq . Post of 14 Jul 2009 16:22:55-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold.

1 comment:

dave said...

Hi Ed, I eventually realized we were discussing orthogonal topics. Obviously science can be and is being applied to learning. My reaction comes from the over-marketing by some (best unnamed) entities that seem to provide scientific solutions to outcomes assessment. But these are, of course, two very different things.

There's a steady drip of fascinating psychology articles related to learning (I rely on the science news press since I couldn't wade through the journals themselves). On the other hand, I'm reading a hefty education-centered book on evidence for outcomes that is unconvincing. It's jargony and heavily theoretical without much of what you could call science to back up the claims. Maybe it's not representative, but I think there still is a wide culture gap between what we might call "education research" and what we might call "real science." Your pre-post test work is an exception, but I would expect scientists to import their methods to the study of education. The reverse is not necessarily true.

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