Everything Is Crumbling

Daniel Engber, CC BY, Mar 12, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

We see an awful lot in our field about what "the research tells us", typically stated in such a way as to suggest we are charlatans if we don't go along with it. I see this a lot, on a daily basis. "The research" is the basis of enterprises like the Campbell Collaboration, the promotion of various educational theories, and the authoring of well-meaning blog posts. But there is substantial reason to be sceptical. "All the old methods are in doubt. Even meta-analyses, which once were thought to yield a gold standard for evaluating bodies of research now seem somewhat worthless.... If you analyze 200 lousy studies, you’ll get a lousy answer in the end. It’s garbage in, garbage out." The crisis can't be wished away, nor can the basic lack of reproducibility be whitewashed. It's easy to hack your way to the conclusion you want to support. The phenomenon is well-documented, and we in education and technology should reserve judgements established through increasingly questionable methodology.

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