Who cares how it is meant to work?

Filling the pail

There is an unscientific current to education research that you don’t find in related domains such as cognitive science. It is a cultivated incuriousness – an indifference to how the thing that is being tested isactually meant to work. And the odder part of the phenomenon is that intelligent, learned researchers don’t seem to grasp the problem.

There is something that is perhaps pleasingly reductionist about declaring that you have no idea how arguing about teddy bears is meant to improve reading performance, you are just going to dispassionately run the numbers and see if it does. Yet there are a number of problems with this stance that immediately become obvious.

On a purely statistical level, you can never prove cause and effect absolutely, you can only run tests that generate some essentially arbitrary level of probability. However, if you told me that you could move a…

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