A shift toward efficacy

John Watson, Saylor, Sept 22, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Discussion of the Pearson report published in 2013 The Incomplete Guide to Delivering Learning Outcomes, which “outlines Pearson’s own efficacy programme and shares the company’s strategy and initiatives in its first phase.” I think 'efficacy' is a nice non-threatening way of saying 'outcomes' (it's like they have writers or something). I am sympathetic with the desire for a meaningful evaluation of learning - there are good reasons. But this language troubles me: "all future projects would be evaluated based on the change that they would produce in the world. The organization explicitly defined change as a measurable outcome." It's the 'measurable' bit that is a concern: the data may say something isn't useful in general, but humans don't generalize. It's the specific case that matters. And if the person evaluating the outcome doesn't care about the specific case - well, this is exactly why I think education needs a "do no harm" provision.

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