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Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a Good T hing

Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a Good T hing. Dylan Wiliam (@dylanwiliam). www.dylanwiliam.net. Outline. What does it mean for a practice to be “research-based”? Why educational research falls short

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Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a Good T hing

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  1. Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a Good Thing Dylan Wiliam (@dylanwiliam) www.dylanwiliam.net

  2. Outline • What does it mean for a practice to be “research-based”? • Why educational research falls short • What educational research should do, and how it should do it • The role of teachers in educational research

  3. What does it mean to be research-based? • In a ‘research-based’ profession: • Professionals would, for the majority of decisions they need to take, be able to find and access credible research studies that provided evidence that particular courses of action that would, implemented as directed, be substantially more likely to lead to better outcomes than others.

  4. Important caveats about research findings • Educational research can only tell us what was, not what might be. • Moreover, in education, “What works?” is rarely the right question, because • everything works somewhere, and • nothing works everywhere, which is why • in education, the right question is, “Under what conditions does this work?”

  5. Causality: a tricky issue • Traditionally, causality has been defined in terms of a counter-factual argument • “We may define a cause to be an object followed by another, and where all the objects, similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second. Or, in other words, where, if the first object had not been, the second never had existed.” (Hume, 1748 Section VII) • “If c and e are two actual events such that e would not have occurred without c, then c is a cause of e.” (Lewis 1973 p. 563)

  6. Research methods 101: causality • Does c cause e? • Given c, e happened (factual) • Problem: post hoc ergo propter hoc • If c had not happened, e would not have happened (counterfactual) • Problem: c did happen • So we need to create a parallel world where c did not happen • Same group different time (baseline measurement) • Need to assume stability over time • Different group same time (control group) • Need to assume groups are equivalent • Randomized controlled trial

  7. Problems with RCTs in education • Clustering • Power • Implementation • Context

  8. Meta-analysis in education:“I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that” (Goldacre, 2008)

  9. Educational Endowment Foundation toolkit

  10. Educational Endowment Foundation toolkit

  11. Educational Endowment Foundation toolkit

  12. An illustrative example: feedback • Kluger and DeNisi (1996) review of 3000 research reports • Excluding those: • without adequate controls • with poor design • with fewer than 10 participants • where performance was not measured • without details of effect sizes • left 131 reports, 607 effect sizes, involving 12652 individuals • On average, feedback increases achievement • Effect sizes highly variable • 38% (50 out of 131) of effect sizes were negative

  13. Understanding meta-analysis • A technique for aggregating results from different studies by converting empirical results to a common measure (usually effect size) • Standardized effect size is defined as: • Problems with meta-analysis • The “file drawer” problem • Variation in population variability • Selection of studies • Sensitivity of outcome measures

  14. The “file drawer” problem

  15. The importance of statistical power • The statistical power of an experiment is the probability that the experiment will yield an effect that is large enough to be statistically significant. • In single-level designs, power depends on • significance level set • magnitude of effect • size of experiment • The power of most social studies experiments is low • Psychology: 0.4 (Sedlmeier & Gigerenzer, 1989) • Neuroscience: 0.2 (Button et al., 2013) • Education: 0.4 • Only lucky experiments get published…

  16. Variation in variability

  17. Annual growth in achievement, by age A 50% increase in the rate of learning for six-year-olds is equivalent to an effect size of 0.76 A 50% increase in the rate of learning for 15-year-olds is equivalent to an effect size of 0.1 Bloom, Hill, Black, andLipsey(2008)

  18. Variation in variability • Studies with younger children will produce larger effect size estimates • Studies with restricted populations (e.g., children with special needs, gifted students) will produce larger effect size estimates

  19. Selection of studies

  20. Feedback in STEM subjects • Review of 9000 papers on feedback in mathematics, science and technology • Only 238 papers retained • Background papers 24 • Descriptive papers 79 • Qualitative papers 24 • Quantitative papers 111 • Mathematics 60 • Science 35 • Technology 16 Ruiz-Primo and Li (2013)

  21. Classification of feedback studies • Who provided the feedback (teacher, peer, self, or technology-based)? • How was the feedback delivered (individual, small group, or whole class)? • What was the role of the student in the feedback (provider or receiver)? • What was the focus of the feedback (e.g., product, process, self-regulation for cognitive feedback; or goal orientation, self-efficacy for affective feedback) • On what was the feedback based (student product or process)? • What type of feedback was provided (evaluative, descriptive, or holistic)? • How was feedback provided or presented (written, video, oral, or video)? • What was the referent of feedback (self, others, or mastery criteria)? • How, and how often was feedback given in the study (one time or multiple times; with or without pedagogical use)?

  22. Main findings

  23. Sensitivity to instruction

  24. Sensitivity of outcome measures • Distance of assessment from the curriculum • Immediate • e.g., science journals, notebooks, and classroom tests • Close • e.g., where an immediate assessment asked about number of pendulum swings in 15 seconds, a close assessment asks about the time taken for 10 swings • Proximal • e.g., if an immediate assessment asked students to construct boats out of paper cups, the proximal assessment would ask for an explanation of what makes bottles float • Distal • e.g., where the assessment task is sampled from a different domain and where the problem, procedures, materials and measurement methods differed from those used in the original activities • Remote • standardized national achievement tests. Ruiz-Primo, Shavelson, Hamilton, and Klein (2002)

  25. Impact of sensitivity to instruction Effect size Close Proximal

  26. Why research hasn’t changed teaching • Aristotle’s main intellectual virtues • Episteme: knowledge of universal truths • Techne: ability to make things • Phronesis: practical wisdom • Flyvbjerg (2001) • “By definition, phronetic researchers focus on values; for example by taking their point of departure in the classic value-rational questions: Where are we going? Is it desirable? What should be done?” (p130)

  27. Maxims and rules “Maxims are rules, the correct application of which is part of the art which they govern. The true maxims of golfing or of poetry increase our insight into golfing or poetry and may even give valuable guidance to golfers and poets; but these maxims would instantly condemn themselves to absurdity if they tried to replace the golfer's skill or the poet's art. Maxims cannot be understood, still less applied by anyone not already possessing a good practical knowledge of the art. They derive their interest from our appreciation of the art and cannot themselves either replace or establish that appreciation.” Polanyi(1958 pp. 31-32)

  28. The knowledge-creating spiral Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)

  29. Inquiry systems Churchman (1971)

  30. Inquiry systems The Lockean inquirer displays the ‘fundamental’ data that all experts agree are accurate and relevant, and then builds a consistent story out of these. The Kantian inquirer displays the same story from different points of view, emphasising thereby that what is put into the story by the internal mode of representation is not given from the outside. But the Hegelian inquirer, using the same data, tells two stories, one supporting the most prominent policy on one side, the other supporting the most promising story on the other side (Churchman, 1971 p. 177).

  31. Singerian inquiry systems The ‘is taken to be’ is a self-imposed imperative of the community. Taken in the context of the whole Singerian theory of inquiry and progress, the imperative has the status of an ethical judgment. That is, the community judges that to accept its instruction is to bring about a suitable tactic or strategy [...]. The acceptance may lead to social actions outside of inquiry, or to new kinds of inquiry, or whatever. Part of the community’s judgement is concerned with the appropriateness of these actions from an ethical point of view. Hence the linguistic puzzle which bothered some empiricists—how the inquiring system can pass linguistically from “is” statements to “ought” statements— is no puzzle at all in the Singerian inquirer: the inquiring system speaks exclusively in the “ought,” the “is” being only a convenient façon de parler when one wants to block out the uncertainty in the discourse. (Churchman, 1971: 202).

  32. Educational research… • …can be characterised as a never-ending process of assembling evidence that: • particular inferences are warranted on the basis of the available evidence; • such inferences are more warranted than plausible rival inferences; • the consequences of such inferences are ethically defensible. • The basis for warrants, the other plausible interpretations, and the ethical bases for defending the consequences, are themselves constantly open to scrutiny and question.

  33. A way forward: in Pasteur’s quadrant Stokes (1997)

  34. The roles of teachers and researchers • The role of teachers • All teachers should be seeking to improve their practice through a process of ‘disciplined inquiry’ • Some may wish to share their work with others • Some may wish to write their work up for publication • Some may wish to pursue research degrees • Some may even wish to undertake research • The role of education researchers • Abandoning “physics envy” • Working with teachers to make their findings applicable in contexts other than the context of data collection

  35. References Bloom, H. S., Hill, C. J., Black, A. R., & Lipsey, M. W. (2008). Performance trajectories and performance gaps as achievement effect-size benchmarks for educational interventions. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 1(4), 289–328. Button, K. S., Ioannidis, J. P. A., Mokrysz, C., Nosek, B. A., Flint, J., Robinson, E. S. J., & Munafo, M. R. (2013). Power failure: Why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, advance online publication. doi: 10.1038/nrn3475 Churchman, C. W. (1971). The design of inquiring systems: basic concepts of systems and organization. New York, NY: Basic Books. Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Making social science matter: why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Goldacre, B. (2008). Bad science. London, UK: Fourth Estate. Hume, D. (1748). An enquiry concerning human understanding. London, UK: Andrew Millar. Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: a historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254-284. Lewis, D. (1973). Causation. Journal of Philosophy, 70(17), 556-567. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal knowledge. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Ruiz-Primo, M. A., & Li, M. (2013). Examining formative feedback in the classroom context: New research perspectives. In J. H. McMillan (Ed.), Sage handbook of research on classroom assessment (2 ed., pp. 215-232). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Shavelson, R. J., Hamilton, L., & Klein, S. (2002). On the evaluation of systemic science education reform: searching for instructional sensitivity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(5), 369-393. Sedlmeier, P., & Gigerenzer, G. (1989). Do studies of statistical power have an effect on the power of studies? Psychological Bulletin, 105(2), 309-316. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.105.2.309 Stokes, D. E. (1997). Pasteur's quadrant: basic science and technological innovation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

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