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Topic: [Hake's] Is "Education Research" "Scientific Research" ? YES!"
Replies: 2   Last Post: Oct 22, 2012 10:00 PM

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Alain Schremmer

Posts: 876
Registered: 10/10/05
Re: [Hake's] Is "Education Research" "Scientific Research" ? YES!"
Posted: Oct 22, 2012 10:00 PM
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Once again, I must agree with Greeno:

(1) As of this day, education is still a lot more of an art than a
science. Which is not to say that there is no logic to education. Nor
is it to say that educational experience cannot be transmitted. Nor is
to say that there approaches that cannot possibly workJ This is just
that there is not enough logic and not enough reproducibility to
educando to qualify as hard science.

(2) The fact that a certain way of teaching some part of mathematics
works for some population does not entail that it will work for
another population or for some other part of mathematics.

One example is that adults cannot learn, say,arithmetic the way
children can. For one, the learning would have to occur in vastly
different lengths of time. Yet, I have to say that, many years ago, a
colleague and I experimented with Z.P. Dienes' multi-arithmetic blocks
in our respective sections of developmental arithmetic and, to some
extent, we were able to check our observations by comparing them. For
instance, we both found that, towards the end of the course, while
most students would be able to add fractions in any basis less than
TEN, when it came to TEN, most reverted to a/b + c/d = a+c / b+d.

Another is that offsprings of well-to-do families having no reason
whatsoever to doubt anybody's word have no difficulty memorizing what
the teacher said. Less favored children have a lot less ground to
believe what the teacher says and, since they have no way of
separating on their own what is true from what is false, end up being

(3) Even as soft science, Boaler's would not seem to qualify: Bishop,
Clopton and Milgram in


would seem to have a strong point inasmuch as Boaler's experiments
involved "undisclosed" schools: If nobody can look at what I am doing
in class, I can pass all my students and claim I have the ultimate way
of teaching.

(4) Disclosure: I agree 100% with Bishop, Clopton and Milgram' summary
of their Appendix 4:

At the fourth grade level this is a good problem to teach exhaustive
and interpretation of data because suitable answers involve small
whole numbers and
can be found quickly by guess and check methods. A question like this
will be seen by
people who know only limited amounts of mathematics as entirely
appropriate since their
tendency is to regard mathematics as LISTS OF DISCONNECTED TOPICS (my
most of which look like combinatoric puzzles. They seem to believe
that teaching students to
handle (elementary) Putnam style challenge problems is training them
in mathematics and
problem solving. Thus, such people see including a question like this
as the keystone
problem in an otherwise un-challenging algebra exam as perfectly
legitimate. However,
people with a larger grasp of the sub ject realize that mathematics is
incremental, and that
solving a problem like this at fourth grade level does not lead to
deeper insights. Yet, a
problem like this with 2,3,4,5 replaced by integers with appropriate
constraints would be a
nice problem in a college level linear algebra course.


On Oct 20, 2012, at 2:51 AM, Clyde Greeno @ MALEI wrote:

> Is Hake's "Yes!" defensible???
> Even without reference to Boaler's papers, the NRC's Education
> Center's criteria for "scientific educational research" (as
> published by the National Academies Press) might be worth examining
> in some detail ... before even attempting to use them in support or
> denial of the scientific credibility of research by Boaler or anyone
> else.
> Of course, the over-riding question is of how well the Education
> Center's criteria characterize "scientific research in education."
> For, those criteria appear to be glibly superficial and badly
> unknowing about the nature of science.
> (1) Pose Significant Questions That Can Be Investigated Empirically:
> Scientific knowledge does not advance only through merely posing
> "questions." All substantial scientific advancements have come
> through the development and verification of scientific *theories*
> which describe whatever phenomena they respectively attend. True,
> "questions" have their place in motivating particular pursuits
> within the context of specific scientific theories. But to assert
> that all scientific theories are developed through pursuing specific
> "questions" is a bit far fetched and much too scholastic for serious
> scientists to swallow. Rather, that assertion appears to be the
> Center's defense of educators' claims that their "boards and
> bricks" kinds of fragmentary investigations can in some ways be
> "scientific."
> In the macrocosm, what is the scientific theory which Boaler's works
> serve to advance? In the microcosm, what are the "questions" that
> she has pursued? Are they genuinely *scientific* questions about
> specific phenomena that are sufficiently well-defined so that other
> researchers can readily focus on exactly the same questions? ... or
> are they too nebulous to determine what her "answers" actually say,
> if anything.
> And when do the Education Center's scientific questions become
> "significant"? When the answers open the way for progress ... if not
> for mankind, then at least for further development of the scientific
> theory. No theory? ... no significance. No leads toward important
> future developments? ... no significance.
> The scientific importance, significance, and credibility of Boaler's
> works (or anyone else's) can be assessed only within the context of
> how well-defined her scientific "questions" are, within the broader
> context of whatever scientific theories she is helping to develop.
> Traditionally, educational research has badly failed to be
> "scientific", because it typically has been about collecting "bricks
> and boards data" that merely hint at possible truths about nebulous
> populations or phenomena ... rather than about developing
> scientific theories about well defined kinds of entities. [My
> personal skepticism about the science-ness of traditional
> "educational research" precludes my own serious investigations into
> her works.]
> (2) Link Research to Relevant Theory
> Not just to "relevant theory", but specifically to the *encompassing
> scientific* theory. To speak of "scientific research" within the
> context of badly non-scientific "theories" ... that are no more than
> personal/committee/community opinions ... is a gross misuse of the
> label.
> Only if/whenever Boaler's works/questions/answers can be regarded
> within the context of an emerging, but definitive scientific theory
> can they be regarded as being *scientific findings*. [True, some
> persons might feel that they perceive a scientific theory into which
> her works might fit ... but unless/until she provides such a
> scientific context, her works do not qualify as being
> "scientific." [Again, my skepticism about traditional "educational
> research" precludes my investigations into her works.]
> (3) Use Methods That Permit Direct Investigation of the Question,
> Methods which *others* can use for achieving *the same (well-
> defined) answers* to the same, well-defined "questions" ... or, in
> the broader context, methods which invariably yield exactly the same
> findings, about phenomena of essentially the same kind. Boaler's
> "conclusions" can be scientifically credible only if her
> "experiments" can be replicated by others ... and invariably
> produce the same results. Only if the nature and proceedings of her
> investigations are so clear that others can do as she did, can she
> hope for her works to be scientifically credible. [Again, my
> skepticism about traditional "educational research" precludes my
> investigations into her works.]
> (4) Provide a Coherent and Explicit Chain of Reasoning
> Of *scientific* reasoning ... done within the context of an evolving
> scientific theory. Such a theory must clearly describe the kind of
> things it is talking about ... clearly define its crucial
> concepts ... clearly specify its established facts and
> conclusions ... and combine all of those with some newly acquired
> concepts/facts to logically derive the "answers" to the newly posed
> "questions." If/when Boaler's conclusions have that kind of
> theoretical basis, they thereby become admissible as candidates for
> scientific credibility. [Again, my skepticism about traditional
> "educational research" precludes my investigations into her specific
> works.]
> (5) Replicate and Generalize Across Studies
> The scientific *studies* must be replicable ... and their *results*
> must generalize across all such studies. But true reliability and
> generality can happen only to the extent that the "studies" and
> results are well-defined within the context of an evolving
> scientific theory. Nebulous "studies" are of no scientific
> value ... and their "findings" enjoy no scientific credibility.
> Likewise for educators' "bricks and boards" data-collections, in
> general. But the attacks on her "studies" and the "findings" of her
> experiments are scientifically naïve (or scientifically
> irresponsible) straw men. Identifying weaknesses in her
> methodologies cannot (as the challenges should know) disprove her
> claims of generality. The only responsible mode of refuting her
> "findings" lies in subsequent studies "of the same" kind failing to
> produce findings of her kind ... or in producing even findings that
> directly contradict hers. Otherwise, their attacks on her
> experimental methods can be regarded only as being non-scientific
> efforts to uphold some contrary beliefs. On the other hand, her only
> academic defense lies in subsequent studies "of the same" kind
> producing findings "of the same kind." Endeavors of either kind
> necessarily rely on her studies being so well defined that they can
> be replicated by others. [Again, my skepticism about traditional
> "educational research" precludes my investigations into her specific
> works.]
> (6) Disclose Research to Encourage Professional Scrutiny and Critique.
> "Disclose research"??? ... whatever might the Education Center mean
> by that!? My best guess is that they should mean "disclose the
> theoretical framework, the motivations for the particular
> investigations, the procedures used for conducting the
> investigations, the conclusions, the rationale for reaching the
> conclusions, and any empirical verifications of those
> conclusions" ... all of which are to be done within the context of
> the evolving scientific theory. For, these six criteria are supposed
> to be "... six guiding principles that underlie all scientific
> inquiry, including education research. [Again, my skepticism about
> traditional "educational research" precludes my investigations into
> her specific works.]
> I am even more skeptical about trying to use the Education Center's
> description of "scientific educational research" as a basis for
> supporting or denying the scientific-ness of any educational
> research effort ... or of anything else, for that matter. I am
> amazed that the NRC would allow such a publication.
> So what does the above analysis say about Boaler's works? Absolutely
> nothing ... except that they cannot be scientifically credible
> without being scientifically definitive, within the context of a
> scientific theory! What about the challengers? Absolutely
> nothing ... except that they cannot be scientifically credible
> without being scientifically definitive within the context of a
> scientific theory! Their sociological disputes over her methods of
> educational research have no scientific meanings.
> About Hake's, "Yes!": If Richard knows of some evolving scientific
> theory to which Boaler has contributed to to its development, I'm
> all ears ... not so much because of her own contributions, as
> because of the earthshaking importance and significance of any such
> scientific theory. Methinks that, unfortunately, Richard's "Yes!"
> stems not from science, as such, but from his other
> instructological information which has yet to congeal as a bona
> fide science. If so, Boaler's "findings" (whatever her methodology)
> might somehow help nurture the development of such a science. But
> unless such a science already hides within an inner sanctum of
> mathematics instructology, it is worse than rash to claim that her
> findings are scientifically reliable.
> Yes, there is growing, scientifically reliable evidence that some
> specific kinds of mathematics-instruction "reforms" will result in
> easier, more productive ways of achieving even traditional goals of
> curricular mathematics education, plus others. Some of those reforms
> are clearly in harmony with some of Hake's contentions. But that is
> quite a different matter from proclaiming specific educational
> research efforts to be in some way "scientific." We (the world) are
> more than anxious to learn of whatever educational research efforts
> qualify as being genuinely "scientific." They are not at all easy to
> locate.
> Cordially,
> Clyde
> From: Richard Hake
> Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 5:00 PM
> To:
> Subject: [math-learn] Is "Education Research" "Scientific
> Research" ? YES!"
> Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be interested in a recent post
> "Is 'Education Research' 'Scientific Research' ? YES!" [Hake
> (2012)]. The abstract reads:
> *********************************************
> ABSTRACT: GS Chandy at <> wrote (liberally
> paraphrasing and drastically condensing); "Judging from his posts on
> the over 40-post Math-Teach thread 'Jo Boaler reveals attacks by
> Milgram and Bishop' at <>, Robert Hansen is wrong
> in his claim that 'Education Research' is not 'Scientific Research.' "
> To which Hansen at <> responded with the
> following statement (paraphrasing) of which the 2nd and 3rd sentences
> are blatantly false (as I indicate in this post): "In scientific
> research, conclusions are tested repeatedly by many different
> researchers. In educational research, they are not. One does a study,
> claims success, publishes it and that is the end of it."
> The National Academies' "Scientific Research in Education" at
> <> suggests six guiding principles that underlie
> all scientific inquiry, including education research: (1) Pose
> Significant Questions That Can Be Investigated Empirically, (2) Link
> Research to Relevant Theory, (3) Use Methods That Permit Direct
> Investigation of the Question, (4) Provide a Coherent and Explicit
> Chain of Reasoning, (5) Replicate and Generalize Across Studies, and
> (6) Disclose Research to Encourage Professional Scrutiny and Critique.
> In my opinion Jo Boaler's research - see the material at
> <> & <> and Boaler & Staples
> (2008) at <> - satisfies all the above criteria,
> whereas the unpublished, undated, and referenceless denunciation of
> Boaler's research by Bishop, Clopton, & Milgram at
> <> does not.
> *********************************************
> To access the complete 12 kB post please click on <

> >.
> Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
> Links to Articles: <>
> Links to Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs: <>
> Academia: <>
> Blog: <>
> GooglePlus: <>
> Twitter: <>
> REFERENCES [All URL's shortened by <> and accessed on
> 19 Oct 2012.]
> Hake, R.R. 2012. "Is 'Education Research' 'Scientific Research' ?
> YES!" online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <>.
> Post of 19 Oct 2012 13:11:11-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The
> abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to
> several discussion lists and are also on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at
> <> with a provision for comments.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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