Well, this is disappointingApril 1, 2013
I’m actually of the view that:
- RCTs can be used in education;
- In some circumstances RCTs will be easy and convenient to do and it would be wrong not to do them;
- RCTs should provide a higher standard of evidence than other methods.
- RCTs cannot resolve every issue;
- RCTs will not persuade some of the key actors in education debates;
- Other quantitative evidence should also be considered;
- Their costs will not always be justified by their potential contribution to the evidence/debate;
- Arguing over RCTs may distract from arguing in favour of evidence more generally.
These points (some of which apply to other methods too) don’t make RCTs impossible. They don’t even make them impractical. They simply make it absolutely vital that we first establish the principle of using evidence in education, and secondly, that we apply RCTs (and other methods) to the right questions. It will be interesting to see if the EEF work has done this, or whether it has simply applied RCTs to the pet projects of researchers; issues where there is already sufficent evidence, or to issues where one side will ignore the evidence regardless. It will also be interesting to judge the quality of the RCTs they have conducted and whether they will actually provide better evidence than other methods.