Recently, I’ve been struggling with the notion of education and research. What would an educational research lab LOOK like? What would it do? How would it be funded? I keep coming back to a CSI or NorBAC lab model. Yes, I know those are TV model labs, but still and all. What would it look like to have a lab that studied teaching and learning?
The problem seems to me that Education isn’t science.
Psychology, that’s a science. I’m ok with that. Microbiology, sure. No problem. Physiology, ok, sure.
But it seems to me that all our Educational “science” is lacking a bit on rigor. Yes, we have Bloom’s taxonomy, and Gagne’s nine steps, and there are theories and paradigms abounding, but is it science?
My problem is basically, the notion that science is predictive. I mean, that’s the whole point of science, isn’t it? To explain and predict? And if that’s the case then we seem to be a bit short in the Educaiton arena because the same “intervention” which works stunningly with one student completely misses the mark on another. Sure, I did something that looked like science in my dissertation research that looked at what factors contribute to how people perceive distance, but that’s hardly on the same level of rigor as … say … DNA sequencing.
Now before I get a lot of people hyperventilating, I’m not sure that not being a science isn’t a good thing. One of the difficulties is dealing with the definitions. Education is the business of providing instruction. We tend to confound the term Education with Teaching, and I’ve purposely used that fact in this post so far. What I really mean to say is “Teaching Isn’t Science.” Of course, Education isn’t science! It’s business.
So, with that cleared up, we’re still left with the question about the labs. What would the specialties be? What skills?
A statistician, certainly and for obvious reason.
An educational psychologist? I think so. Emphasis on assessment, probably.
How about a brain physiologist?
What about an instructional designer? I’m not sure on this one.
But that begs the question, doesn’t it? Not about the personnel, but should there even be a lab? Forensics labs investigate evidence from crime scenes. Bio-research labs examine a variety of established problems. Are there parallel “problems” in Teaching? Could we do basic research into the relationships between teaching and learning? And how do we get those findings into the schools?
I don’t know. I’m feeling very unsettled about this.