Better than science

Filling the pail

It is often argued that science is no good for analysing educational practices. The use of science is dismissed as ‘positivism’ or perhaps ‘scientism’. The claim is that human relationships are really complicated and so cannot be subjected to the same analytical techniques as atoms and molecules. We cannot possibly know how any given individual will react to a particular approach and so the determinism of science is profoundly flawed. Some have even argued that such complexities mean that there is no such thing as a teaching method.

Although I accept the limitations of science – we cannot use it to decide what is moral – I am sceptical about the idea that science has little to offer education. It is similar to claims that people used to make about medicine. The whole point of using a statistical approach is to tease out underlying mechanisms. Statistics take account of the…

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