Education research denialism in university STEM faculty

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Scientists regularly contend with irrational denialism of simple facts. In our classrooms, communities and the media, we hear patently absurd things like:

This is the logo of the Flat Earth Society.

This is the logo of the Flat Earth Society.

  • The world isn’t getting hotter, or even if it is, it’s not from carbon emissions.
  • Humans didn’t evolve from nonhuman ancestors.
  • Transgenic foods are unsafe.
  • Vaccines cause autism.

Any scientist who operates on the basis of evidence will regard those ideas as total bunk*.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, people aren’t rational beings. Especially when their emotions are involved (and they usually are), they’re not prone to think an expert is correct if their intuition tells them otherwise.

And scientists are people.

So I am not entirely surprised, but I am disheartened, when scientists are guilty of their own flavor of denialism: Education Research Denialism. Continue reading

The Science Research – Education Research Divide

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I’ve always been puzzled, and frustrated, at the fact that most scientists either ignore or outright dismiss the latest in science education research.

I just came on a great post on Sci-Ed about the divide from last month. It starts:

Science education researchers and science teachers have much to offer each other. In an ideal world, knowledge would flow freely between researchers and educators. Unfortunately, research and practice tend to exist in parallel universes. As long as this divide persists, classrooms will rarely benefit from research findings, and research studies will rarely be rooted in the realities of the classroom. If we care about science education, we have to face the research-practice divide.

It’s worth a read. The irony is that scientists, more than anybody else you would think, should be the ones to use evidence-based methods in their practices. Why would you do something if you don’t know it to be effective? Research shows that professors often think that a number of methods they use are effective when, upon investigation, they clearly aren’t. (This is often true about lecturing in general.)

If you found out that your experimental methods were inaccurate or giving false results, you’d change your methods lickety split.

But if a scientist is told by a professional science education researcher that what they’re doing doesn’t work, what happens? All too often, nothing does.

I really have no idea how to open this up; there are inherited prejudices. The science education literature is rife with jargon and acronyms, and most scientists who give a look don’t see the methods as particularly robust.  Communication is a start, but I don’t know what’s to be said.