Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 491–503 | Cite as

Why ‘What Works’ Still Won’t Work: From Evidence-Based Education to Value-Based Education

Article

Abstract

The idea that professional practices such as education should be based upon or at least be informed by evidence continues to capture the imagination of many politicians, policy makers, practitioners and researchers. There is growing evidence of the influence of this line of thought. At the same time there is a growing body of work that has raised fundamental questions about the feasibility of the idea of evidence-based or evidence-informed practice. In this paper I make a further contribution to this discussion through an analysis of a number of assumptions that inform the discussion. I focus on the epistemological, ontological and praxeological dimensions of the discussion and in each domain identify a deficit. In the epistemological domain there is a knowledge deficit, in the ontological domain an effectiveness or efficacy deficit and in the practice domain an application deficit. Taken together these deficits not only raise some important questions about the very idea of evidence-based practice but also highlight the role of normativity, power and values. Against this background I outline the case for the idea of value-based education as an alternative for evidence-based education. As I am generally concerned about the expectations policy makers hold about what evidence can and should achieve in professional practices such as education, my contribution is primarily meant to provide educators and other professionals with arguments that can help them to resist unwarranted expectations about the role of evidence in their practices and even more so of unwarranted interventions in their practices.

Keywords

Evidence-based education Evidence-based practice Evidence-informed practice What works Epistemology Ontology Praxeology Values Value-based education Power Normativity 

References

  1. Ax, J., & Ponte, P. (2010). Moral issues in educational praxis: A perspective from pedagogiek and didactiek as human sciences in continental Europe. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 18(1), 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernstein, R. J. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, hermeneutics, and praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  3. Biesta, G. J. J. (2005). What can critical pedagogy learn from postmodernism? Further reflections on the impossible future of critical pedagogy. In I. Gur Ze’ev (Ed.), Critical theory and critical pedagogy today. Toward a new critical language in education (pp. 143–159). Haifa: Studies in Education (University of Haifa).Google Scholar
  4. Biesta, G. J. J. (2007a). Why ‘what works’ won’t work. Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit of educational research. Educational Theory, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biesta, G. J. J. (2007b). Bridging the gap between educational research and educational practice: The need for critical distance. Educational Research and Evaluation, 13(3), 295–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biesta, G. J. J. (2009). Values and ideals in teachers professional judgement. In S. Gewirtz, P. Mahony, I. Hextall, & A. Cribb (Eds.), Changing teacher professionalism (pp. 184–193). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010a). Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy. Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  8. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010b). Five these on complexity reduction and its politics. In D. C. Osberg & G. J. J. Biesta (Eds.), Complexity theory and the politics of education (pp. 5–14). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010c). Pragmatism and the philosophical foundations of mixed methods research. In A. Tasshakori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research, 2nd edn (pp. 95–117). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Biesta, G. J. J. (in press). An alternative future for European educational research. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Historiographie. Google Scholar
  11. Biesta, G. J. J., & Burbules, N. (2003). Pragmatism and educational research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  12. Carr, D. (1992). Practical enquiry, values and the problem of educational theory. Oxford Review of Education, 18(3), 241–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cornish, F., & Gillespie, A. (2009). A pragmatist approach to the problem of knowledge in health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(6), 800–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dewey, J. (1929). The quest for certainty. In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), The later works (1925–1953) (Vol. 4). Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Freidson, E. (1994). Professionalism reborn. Theory, prophecy and policy. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gettier, E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23(6), 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guyatt, G., Cairns, J., Churchill, D., et al. (1992). Evidence-based medicine. A new approach to teaching the practice of medicine. JAMA, 268, 2420–2425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hammersley, M. (2005). The myth of research-based practice: The critical case of educational inquiry. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(4), 317–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hammersley, M. (2009). What is evidence for evidence-based practice? In R. St. Clair (Ed.), Education science: Critical perspectives (pp. 101–111). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  20. Holmes, D., Murray, S. J., Perron, A., & Rail, G. (2006). Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health science: Truth, power and facism. International Journal of Evidence Based Healthcare, 4(3), 160–186.Google Scholar
  21. Latour, B. (1983). Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world. In K. D. Knorr & M. Mulkay (Eds.), Science observed (pp. 141–170). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Latour, B. (1987). Science in action. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Latour, B. (1988). The pasteurization of France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Osberg, D. C., & Biesta, G. J. J. (Eds.). (2010). Complexity theory and the politics of education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  25. Otto, H.-U., Polutta, A., & Ziegler, H. (2009). A second generation of evidence-based practice: Reflexive professionalism and causal impact in social work. In H.-U. Otto, A. Polutta, & H. Ziegler (Eds.), Evidence-based practice: Modernising the knowledge-base of social work (pp. 245–252). Opladen: Barbara Budrich.Google Scholar
  26. Prenzel, M. (2009). Challenges facing the educational system. In Vital questions: The contribution of European social science (pp. 30–33). Strasbourg: European Science Foundation.Google Scholar
  27. Rasmussen, J. (2010). Increasing complexity by reducing complexity: A Luhmannian approach to learning. In D. C. Osberg & G. J. J. Biesta (Eds.), Complexity theory and the politics of education (pp. 15–24). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Slavin, R. E. (2002). Evidence-based educational policies: Transforming educational practice and research. Educational Researcher, 31(7), 15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Smeyers, P., & Depaepe, M. (Eds.). (2006). Educational research: Why ‘what works’ doesn’t work. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, R. (2006). Technical difficulties: The workings of practical judgement. In P. Smeyers & M. Depaepe (Eds.), Educational research: Why ‘what works’ doesn’t work (pp. 159–170). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  31. St. Clair, R. (Ed.). (2009). Education science: Critical perspectives. Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  32. Weiss, C. H., Murphy-Graham, E., Petrosino, A., & Gandhi, A. G. (2008). The fairy godmother–and her warts: Making the dream of evidence-based policy come true. American Journal of Evaluation, 29(1), 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wiseman, A. W. (2010). The uses of evidence for educational policymaking: Global contexts and international trends. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Stirling Institute of EducationUniversity of StirlingStirlingScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations