Participants in the education process want to give their practices a scientific justification based on objective, evidence-based criteria. But, many of their “data-driven” education policies and reforms resemble what is called “pseudoscience” more than real science. Distinguishing real scientific claims from pseudoscientific ones can be difficult because it is the basis for the claims being made that needs to be evaluated, not the plausibility of the claims themselves. What makes knowledge “scientific” is the process by which it was obtained. This process has identifiable elements, some or most of which are missing in pseudoscientific works. These essential elements of science—relevant, falsifiable questions, systematic and consistent data collection, causal explanations, simplified understanding of natural processes, avoidance of over-fitting, reproducibility, predictability, and control—must be present in any study claiming to be scientific. Yet much of the real science on education and human development is ignored in favor of “evidence-based” reports and “data-driven” practices that are missing at least one, or in many cases several, of these essential elements.
KeywordsConsistent Data Collection Pseudoscience Real Science Evidence-based Criteria Magical Thinking
- 2.Carl Sagan, Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Ballantine Books reprint edition, 2011).Google Scholar
- 3.Robert L. Park, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
- 4.Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Originally published in German (Vienna: Verlag von Julius Springer, 1935), English edition (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1959).Google Scholar
- 5.Joseph Ganem, The Two Headed Quarter: How to See Through Deceptive Numbers and Save Money on Everything You Buy (Baltimore: Chartley Publishing, 2007) p. 379.Google Scholar
- 6.B. S. Everitt & A. Skrondal, The Cambridge Dictionary of Statistics, 4th Edition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010) p. 314.Google Scholar
- 7.Benjamin Snyder, “If You’re a Market Bull Then Root for These Teams in the Super Bowl,” Fortune, January 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/01/20/super-bowl-predictor-2016/.
- 8.Alyssa Fetini & Frances Romero, “Election Prognosticators,” Time, November 3, 2008, http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1856094_1856096_1856102,00.html.
- 9.Ron Berler, “The Ex-Cub Factor: Theory will decide the World Series,” Boston Herald, October 15, 1981. https://web.archive.org/web/20070405034627/www.all-baseball.com/ref/berler.html.
- 10.John R. Huizenga, Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
- 11.J. Robert Schrieffer (editor) and J. S. Brooks (associate editor), Handbook of High-Temperature Superconductivity (New York: Springer Science + Business Media LLC, 2007).Google Scholar
- 12.“The Republicans’ First Presidential Candidates Debate,” filmed at Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA on May 3, 2007, Transcript available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/us/politics/04transcript.html, video, 00:26, accessed May 1, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4Cc8t3Zd5E.th