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Topic: Re: Quantitative Methods in Soc. Sci. (Was Re: Getting students to take

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Michael Paul Goldenberg

Posts: 7,041
From: Ann Arbor, MI
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: Quantitative Methods in Soc. Sci. (Was Re: Getting students to take

Posted: Oct 11, 1995 6:56 PM
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At 1:26 PM 10/11/95, Ted Alper wrote:
>I'm not trying to "spin" your words, Michael. If I've misunderstood
>you, I apologize. I do think your initial post said something
>different than what you're saying now, though -- and I happen to
>disagree with what I understand you to be saying in both cases.
>Actually, your post I first responded to said educational data was not
>replicable, that each class was unique and thus no quantitative
>analysis could be made. *That's* hooey. Goodness, if it comes to that,
>each coin toss is unique. In some sense, statistical analysis is
>about filtering out those fluctuations to see ... what's left.


I will paste in what I actually said in my first post and ask you again to
consider whether you're putting your own spin on them in your paraphrase in
the previous paragraph. Here is the exact passage to which you refer:

"Unfortunately, human behavior bears very little reliable resemblance to
buying carpet or brewing beer. Education is not a product. Learning is very
difficult, if not impossible, to quantify in a way that I find useful. Why?
Because in the context of education, what would be useful would be to find
the replicable conditions, measure them to a satisfactory degree of
accuracy, and (this is the kicker) then REPLICATE them.

But any experienced and reflective teacher will tell you that very little
is replicable in the classroom. Like the ancient Greek philosopher
(Heraclitus?) said, "You can't step into the same river twice." Because
neither you nor the river is the same, I would argue. And thus, it is
impossible to teach the same lesson twice (assuming that so doing were
desirable). But far too many teachers teach as if what worked this morning,
yesterday, or last Thursday is guaranteed to work today. As Jake Barnes
says at the end of THE SUN ALSO RISES, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
Unfortunately, it just isn't so."

Did I say that "educational data is not replicable"? I don't think so. Did
I imply that each teaching situation is unique? Yes, I did. And if you
don't see that it is, we're not playing the same game. Did I say that "no
quantitative analysis can be made"? No, but I think I do warn against the
meaningfulness of such quantification.

I understand your confidence that one is on firmer ground with "statistical
data" then one is with any other kind, but I think you kid yourself if you
don't recognize just how subjective the collection and interpretation of
quantitative data is when the object of study is something as difficult to
operationalize as human learning.

|Michael Paul Goldenberg
|University of Michigan 310 E. Cross St.
|School of Education 4002 Ypsilanti, MI 48198
|Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259 (313) 482-9585
|(313) 747-2244
|"Truth is a mobile army of metaphors."
|Friedrich Nietzsche

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