Some subscribers to
Math-Teach might be interested in a recent post "Randomized
Control Trials - The Tarnished Gold Standard" [Hake
(2012a)]. The abstract reads:
response to "The Randomistas' War On Global Poverty - Erratum &
Addendum" at <http://bit.ly/YfMESg>, Art Burke of the
EvalTalk list pointed to an NYT piece "Applying Evidence to
Social Programs" by Jon Baron at
Baron wrote (slightly edited): "Scientifically rigorous studies -
particularly, the 'gold standard' of Randomized Controlled Trials
(RCT''s) - are a mainstay of medicine, providing conclusive evidence
of effectiveness for most major medical advances in recent history. In
social spending, by contrast, such studies have only a toehold. Where
they have been used, however, they have demonstrated the same ability
to produce important, credible evidence about what works - and
illuminated a path to major progress."
In this post I
cite arguments that the "gold standard" RCT studies may not
be as lustrous as claimed by Baron:
(1) Ever since the
pioneering work of Halloun & Hestenes (1985a) at
<http://bit.ly/fDdJHm>, physicists have been engaged in social
science of Physics Education Research (PER) that has made useful,
reliable, and nonobvious predictions without resort to RCT's - e.g.
"Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?"
[Wieman (2007)] at <http://bit.ly/anTMfF>.
(2) In "A
Response to 'It's Not All About Class Size' " [Hake (2009)], I
pointed out that according to the California Class Size Reduction
Research Consortium [CCSRRC (2002)] at <http://bit.ly/V923Ms>,
California's attempt to duplicate the vaunted Tennessee RCT study of
reduced class size benefits yielded *no conclusive evidence of
increased student achievement*.
(3) In "A
Summative Evaluation of RCT Methodology: & An Alternative Approach
to Causal Research" [Scriven (2008] at <http://bit.ly/93VcWD>
wrote: "In standard scientific usage, experiments are just
carefully constrained explorations, and the RCT is simply a special
case of these. To call the RCT the only 'true experiment' is part of
an attempt at redefinition that distorts the original and continuing
usage, and excludes experiments designed to test many simple
hypotheses about - or simple efforts to find out - what happens if we
"Seventeen Statements by Gold-Standard Skeptics #2" [Hake
(2010)] at <http://bit.ly/TNpTR9> I cite, among others, the RCT
skepticism of the American Education Research Association; the
American Evaluation Association; the National Education Association;
the European Evaluation Society; Thomas Cook and Monique Payne, Hugh
Burkhardt & Alan Schoenfeld; Margaret Eisenhart & Lisa Towne;
Burke Johnson; Annette Lareau & Pamela Barnhouse; Joseph Maxwell;
Dennis Phillips; Barbara Schneider, Martin Carnoy, Jeremy Kilpatrick,
William Schmidt, & Richard Shavelson; Mack Shelley, Larry
Yore, & Brian Hand; Deborah Stipek; and Carol Weiss.
(5) In "Why
Most Published Research Findings Are False," John Ioannidis'
(2005) at <http://1.usa.gov/YxUxkL> states ". . . .
there is strong evidence that selective outcome reporting, with
manipulation of the outcomes and analyses reported, is a common
problem even for randomized trails [Chan et al. (2004)] at
(6) the present signature quote of Thomas Cook and Monique Payne.
To access the
complete 18 kB post please click on <http://bit.ly/VzVc0K>.
Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana
Links to Articles:
Links to Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs:
quarters, particularly medical ones, the randomized experiment is
considered the causal 'gold standard.' It is clearly not that in
educational contexts, given the difficulties with implementing and
maintaining randomly created groups, with the sometimes incomplete
implementation of treatment particulars, with the borrowing of
some treatment particulars by control group units, and with the
limitations to external validity that often follow from how the random
assignment is achieved."
- Thomas Cook and Monique Payne in "Evidence Matters"
[Mosteller & Boruch (2002)]
REFERENCES [URL shortened by http://bit.ly/ and accessed on 04 Dec
Hake, R.R. 2012a.
"Randomized Control Trials - The Tarnished Gold Standard,"
online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <http://bit.ly/VzVc0K>.
Post of 4 Dec 2012 19:26:48-0800 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
<http://bit.ly/TEIwY5> with a provision for
Hake, R.R. 2012b. "The Randomistas' War On Global Poverty -
ERRATUM & ADDENDUM," online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at
<http://bit.ly/YfMESg>. Post of 30 Nov 2012 12:15:33-0800 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 <http://bit.ly/11c5w3e> with a
provision for comments.
Mosteller, F. &
R. Boruch, eds. 2002. "Evidence Matters: Randomized Trials in
Education Research." Brookings Institution, publisher's
information at <http://bit.ly/UoX3sA>. Amazon.com
information at <http://amzn.to/n6T0Uo>. An expurgated
Google book preview is online at