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Simpson’s Paradox and education

Posted on: May 7, 2019

The Simpson’s Paradox has nothing to do with the popular and long-running cartoon. It has everything to do with how a single dataset can result in contradictory conclusions.


Video source

The video above explains this paradox with examples and initially uses medicinal interventions to illustrate.

This paradox also applies in schooling and education. So just because a university or an edtech vendor claims that a classroom intervention or a tool is effective does not make it so, even if it can provide the research.

What is crucial is access to the data and understanding how it might be interpreted. Rarely is such research shared openly, so stakeholders cannot make informed decisions. So what might a stakeholder do?

Consider the context, i.e., the circumstances in which the studies were conducted and the situations in which the interventions and tools are to be applied. These will provide a healthy dose of skepticism and spark critical thinking.

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