Estelle Morris: Education should not be based on untested theories

Estelle Morris: Education should not be based on untested theories: Estelle Morris, the chairwoman of the strategy board of the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York, explains the ethos behind it. (Via Education Guardian).

I remember attending an event at which Marilyn Leask (then head of Effective Practice and Research and Dissemination of the TDA) made the observation that “the big challenge for education is what evidence is there to base changes in practice – a key concern is that changes are based on evidence not anecdote!” She went on to make the case for a “systematic review of the huge body of research evidence out there by the practitioners and researchers working collaboratively to work on projects that are well grounded and substantial. Small scale research does not provide the evidence required on its own, but if co-ordinated and combined with rigorous methodology it can contribute significantly to the knowledge base.”

On the face of it, this announcement about the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York is good news as its focus is on evidence based approaches to learning and teaching.

However, I am not so sure why it takes an American professor to head up the university bearing in mind the gulf in educational philosophy and practice between the two countries. Should we be concerned at the ‘scientific’ approach being adopted?

“The Institute, which will be both international and independent, will create a hub of evidence for education innovation by using innovative approaches and scientific evaluations similar to those in medicine.

Led by Professor Robert Slavin, a distinguished researcher from Johns Hopkins University in the USA. He has an established reputation for conducting rigorous experiments on co-operative learning (where children work in structured teams to help one another to learn), comprehensive school reform, literacy, mathematics, and English as a second language.”

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