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Re: In Defense of the NRC's "Scientific Research in Education'"
Posted:
Oct 31, 2012 1:41 PM


On Oct 31, 2012, at 9:37 AM, Susan S wrote:
> The following articles may be particularly relevant to the current > thought provoking discussion. > > "Propagation of Misinformation About Frequencies of RFTs/RCTs in > Education: A Cautionary Tale" > http://edr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/full/41/5/163?ijkey=M7uRdX7PI5G2g&keyty > pe=ref&siteid=spedr > > "Things (We Now Believe) We Know" > http://edr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/full/41/5/177?ijkey=7FInHgkj8RK6g&keyty > pe=ref&siteid=spedr > > warm regards, > Susan
(1) I do not quite see how so. It seems to me that, as the title indicates, the article is about "[p]ropagation of misinformation" rather than about what constitutes "Scientific Research in Education'". Not to say that this is not important. It is. But I don't think that this is the point being argued here.
(2) To return to the subject of "Scientific Research in Education'", it seems to me that there is an inherently huge difficulty in experimental designs in mathematics education in that the result of the learning of mathematics can only appear in the learning of further mathematics. Else we are not talking about mathematics but whatever else.
And then there is something else about most of the "Scientific Research in Education'" that I have read that bothers me namely its total reliance on experimentation. But Physics, and now even Chemistry, do not rely only on experimentation but, at the very least, on "common sense" aka theory, that is on statements (logically) entailed from statements already verified. In fact, these days, it seems that experimentation is mostly used to verify/falsify statements made on theoretical bases.
Of course, there are basic statements in physics whose truth can only be verified by their consequences. The question then is how these basic statements are chosen in the first place. But none were chosen out of blind experimentation. Galileo had a pretty good idea of what he was looking for. And, if the Cern was looking for the Higgs boson, it was because its existence seemed to appear necessary on logical grounds. (I say "seems" because the logical entailment in this case is extraordinarily complicated.). And, yes, Kepler used Tycho Brahe's data. But it was somewhat of a rare case.
None of the above, though, seems to take place in "Scientific Research in Education'". For example, it seems to me that to assume that memorization can play much of a role in the learning of mathematics is a waste. And to want this to be ascertained only by experimentation is akin to accepting that eagles can fly better than elephants only after a few thousands randomly chosen eagles and elephants have been dropped from randomly chosen heights, 127m, 913m, etc
And, just to make sure, I am not saying that nothing but Bourbaki will do. The logic to be invoked with students depends on the students, in particular on what point of their mathematical education they have reached. Just like how intricate an attorney's reasoning in front of a jury is going to be depends on how educated the jury is. Which is why, many times, the jury has to be educated before the case can be made.
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