Can we find out ‘what works’?

Clio et cetera

Consider the following three statements:

  • “Converting secondary schools to academies improve GCSE attainment”.
  • “Peer coaching is an effective form of teacher CPD .”
  • “Learning to learn strategies lead to improvements in pupil attainment.”

These are all claims that have been made about education. The question is, do we have any empirical basis on which to decide whether these claims are true or false?

One option is just to say “no, we cannot”. For some, the social world is so complicated that any attempt to compare an intervention in any unique environment is doomed to fail. Every school is different; every teacher is different; every pupil is different. Therefore, we have no way of deciding whether or not any given change we make is effective, and so it is just down to everyone in their own context to work out what works for them.

There are some serious philosophical defences of this…

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