Research 101

A major part of study throughout our Master’s Program is understanding how to be a smart researcher as well as how to be smart research investigator. We spent some time reading a book written by Daniel Willingham called, “When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to tell Good Science from Bad in Education.” This book helps educators and administrators determine which new educational approaches are scientifically supported and worth adopting through four simple steps:

Strip it: Clear away the verbiage and look at the actual claim. What is it suggesting educators/parents do, and what outcome are they promising?

Flip it: Reversing the statistics. If a study says half of the participants benefitted from said product, that means the other half didn’t.

Trace it: Who created this idea, and what have others said about it? It is common to believe something because an authority confirms it, and this is often a reasonable thing to do.

Analyze it: Why are you being asked to believe the claim is true? What evidence is offered, and how does the claim square with your own experience?

Decide: You’re not going to adopt every educational program that is scientifically backed, and it may sense to adopt one that has not been scientifically evaluated. *

With this new knowledge, we took time to study programs/theories/products by using this process. I have to say, I was shocked to learn that so many programs/theories/products that I have heard of have minimal or skewed data to support them. I think it is so easy for us (as educators in the year 2016) to constantly be looking for new programs/theories/products to support and improve our instruction. But how many of us are using some sort of evaluation theory, like Willingham’s, to decide whether or not it is worthwhile or even worse, detrimental.