"Proof," Policy, and Practice

Understanding the Role of Evidence in Improving Education
by Paul E. Lingenfelter
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Publisher: Stylus Publishing

Publication Date: February 05, 2016

ISBN: 9781579227531

Binding: Kobo eBook

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How can we “fix” our schools? Improve graduation rates in college? What works?

These are questions that make the headlines and vex policy makers, practitioners, and educational researchers. While they strive to improve society, there are frequently gulfs of mutual incomprehension among them.

Academics, longing for more influence, may wrongly fault irrationality, ideology, or ignorance for the failure of research to inform policy and practice more powerfully. Policy makers and practitioners may doubt that academics can deliver ideas that will reliably yield desirable results.

This book bridges the divide. It argues that unrealistic expectations lead to both unproductive research and impossible standards for “evidence-based” policy and practice, and it offers promising ways for evidence to contribute to improvement. It analyzes the utility and limitations of the different research methods that have been applied to policy and practice, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of educational reform strategies. It explains why using evidence for “accountability” often makes things worse rather than better.

Paul Lingenfelter offers educational researchers and policy makers a framework for considering such questions as: What problems are important and accessible? What methods will be fruitful? Which help policy makers and practitioners make choices and learn how to improve? What information is relevant? What knowledge is valid and useful? How can policy makers and practitioners establish a more productive division of labor based on their respective capabilities and limitations?

He cautions against the illusion that straight-forward scientific approaches and data can be successfully applied to society’s most complex problems. While explaining why no single policy or intervention can solve complex problems, he concludes that determination, measurement, analysis, and adaptation based on evidence in specific ...