Thanks for devoting so much time and attention to my comments about
the National Academies'
For sure, your prompting question, "Is 'Education Research' 'Scientific
Research' ? " ... which must be answered "NO!" ... because it appears to speak
of ALL educational research ... has some closely related questions: (1) CAN
'Education Research' be 'Scientific Research'?" ... whose answer is
assuredly, "YES!" (2) "Has SOME 'Education Research' also
been 'Scientific Research' ?" ... whose answer is assuredly, "YES!" (3)
"How MUCH of 'Education Research' has been also 'Scientific Research'
?" ... whose answer is assuredly, "relatively meager!" (4) Can whatever
'Education Research' is also 'Scientific Research' become important and
significant enough to warrant distinguishing it from non-scientific 'Education
Research' ? ... whose optimistic answer is "yes", but in
mathematics, the demonstrations are not readily apparent. Nonetheless, I
am convinced that scientific research in instructology is the only reliable
guide that can navigate the evolution of curricular education so as to achieve
The issue that catalyzed your initial question ... about the scientific
credibility of Boaler's instructological research ... is quite
peripheral to our subsequent discourse about the SRE document's "six
principles", but not fully irrelevant.
I do fear that you have sorely misinterpreted my comments and their basis.
Before attempting to clarify, I must confess to being a
myopic specialist who focuses primarily on mathematics instructology (scientific
and otherwise). Your repeated reference to scientific progress in physics
instructology is heart warming ... even though my own plate presently is too
full to seek enlightenment in that field. Nonetheless, I do greatly relish
whatever you disclose about scientific instructology per mathematics.
You seem to have presumed that I have "criticized" the NRC
report. Actually, I have no quarrel with it ... other than recognizing the
potentials for its gross misuse by hoards of education
researchers. Necessarily, the NRC
relies on whatever "experts" it can identify ... for this panel: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10236&page=R5
. Of its seventeen non-staff members, only three seem visibly associated
with science ... six others are from university schools of education
and some others are in the same arena. Of course, such a constituency is far
more disposed toward viewing scientific research through the eyes of
educational research, than toward viewing educational research through the eyes
of scientific research.
Actually, it is very rare for a committee to
author anything ... even though authors might attempt to amalgamate
contributions from committee members, and later achieve their approval. In this
case, Shavelson (formerly Stanford U's Dean of its School of
Education) and Towne (an educational consultant and formerly an NRC staff
member) have composed the document and are responsible for its contents. Any
maladies in the document, as such, rest on their shoulders.
The document reveals that the committee was saddled with one
truly impossible task, so undertook another task which it hoped would
serve similar purposes. My "caveat" apparently misled you into thinking that I
had not scanned the report. Actually, I had ... and quickly (if rashly)
concluded that the bulk of it was attempting to describe "scientific research" as it might happen across all arenas of
educational research. So, I am still amazed that
the NRC would allow its Center for Education to publish such a global and
(necessarily) nebulous document ... to be commonly believed to be a
"definition" of scientific educational research.
I was/remain as skeptical about the scientific
viability/credibility/value of any such global undertaking as I am about
the scientific value of most of what has been published as "educational
research." So, I did/will not have the time
or interest needed for actually studying the body of the
document. However, I would encourage all who are interested in such stuff
to examine it.
Due to your initial prompts, I did focus on
the report's statements of six principles which it claims
as "underlying" all of scientific research. Those are of special
interest because you had earlier judged that Boaler's study met all of
those conditions. That prompted my own concerns that other educators might use
those *underlying principles* as if they were necessary and
sufficient criteria for judging the science-ness of educational research
activities and/or findings.
My earlier comments about those six principles were
primarily about their non-sufficiency ... their inadequacy for collectively
serving as criteria for scientific research. [For
sure, I might have better clarified that perspective.] Unfortunately,
much of the educational research which conforms with those principles badly
fails to be scientific. The report does NOT proffer those principles as being
N&S criteria ... but it is certain that educational researchers will use
them as if the report had so declared them.
As a case in point (as Schremmer noted), the report's [Box
5-5] citation of (committee member) Confrey's own study as being illustrative of
"scientific education research" is quite illustrative ... of how easily the
report can be used for misconstruing good, "bricks and boards", instructological
research as being "scientific."
I did/could not *dispute* that each of those six
principles *underlies* much of scientific research. And we can acknowledge
that the committee's accepted goal required that it refer to scientific
principles which are far too broad to be contested (other than through how
they are worded). Nonetheless, since the report will
(rightly or wrongly) be used as a criterion for the science-ness of educational
research, its six principles of scientific research likewise will
(rightly or wrongly) be used as necessary and sufficient conditions for
educational research to qualify as being scientific.
To reiterate, my own narrow focus on mathematics instructology leads me to
so view the potentials, dangers, and projected mis-orientations of
educational research that arise from allowing things like the Confrey study to
be called "scientific" ... which would badly undermine the potentials of science
for guiding future progress. As yet, the NRC's Center for Education is a
long way from distinguishing scientific studies in instructology [e.g. of
concept inventories] from non-scientific studies [like Comfrey's].
So my comments about the six principles should be construed not as
*disputing* them, but as a call for *refining* them toward better serving
as scientific criteria for research ... and for instructological research, in
particular. After your response, I carefully re-read the Executive Summary, and
found it to say nothing different from what it said when I earlier studied
it with care. Perhaps your presumptions that I had not studied it resulted from
your better abilities to read, between the lines, things that I was unable or
unwilling to speculate. I also have re-examined my earlier comments about each
of those six. True, the rhetoric could better clarify the difference
between "underlying principles" and "scientific criteria" for research.
But I do not personally see my comments as disputing any of those six
... only as calling for something more adequate (at least as
However, my skepticism ... about any attempt to formulate scientific
criteria that could be universally applied to *all* kinds of educational
research .... does lead toward a more constructive and viable venue, and to this
corresponding invitation to you and others.
At least for now, let us set about to propose actual *criteria* for
identifying educational research *in specific areas* as being genuinely
scientific, or not. Let us begin by focusing specifically on
instructological research ... on human learning, and the instructional guidance,
thereof. Indeed, let us do that within each of the various arenas of human
learning, because not all scientific criteria that apply to
learning/instruction in one area necessarily apply in all other areas of
Thus, you and yours may proceed with developing viable/appropriate criteria
for scientific physics-instructology ... and counterpart specialists in other
fields can follow suit. You might wish to regard your contributions as being "a
contextual particularization" appendix to the NRC document.
Should you choose to pursue such a goal, you might get some ideas from the
scientific (STAGML) theory of the State-Transition Analysis and Guidance of
Mathematical Learning ... and how it is empirically grounded to clinical
case-studies that focus on personal educational health (rather than on
I continue to look forward to our parallel pursuits and mutual