Another dot in the blogosphere?

What does research say?

Posted on: July 9, 2017

The video below about fidget spinners might look like clickbait, but it asks an important question: What does research say about their effectiveness?

Video source

The answers may not satisfy because the question was dealt with critically. The answers blew away personal experience and confirmation bias, and instead highlighted how little we know for sure.

“What does research say?” is a reasonable question to ask. I do not hear it as often as I would like after a presenter on education has said his or her piece. Most audiences seem to be satisfied with being inspired (which does not last) or taking snapshots of fancy diagrams (which may not transfer to practice or transform practice).

Audiences and readers should be asking the critical question of “What does research say?”. When they do, they should also be critical of the sources and the type of answers.

If the speaker is from an edtech company, was the “research” sanctioned or provided by the same company or an affiliate? What does actual research conducted by neutral third parties say?

Often the reality is that research that answers your question precisely is sparse. The tool, strategy, or idea is not quite untested or unchartered, but is not fully a sure bet either. The speaker is not likely to admit that if he or she wants to sound confident and needs to make a sale.

Research in education often reveals best guesses or recommended practices based on specific contexts and conditions. To claim otherwise is to overstate.

What does research actually say? Not much, there are conditions, there are limitations, there is no significant difference.

Do yourself a favour and do your own research on research.


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