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When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education Hardcover – 14 Aug 2012
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"Parents increasingly come face–to–face with important educational decisions that they feel ill prepared to make. Whether they are choosing among schools, math programs or early interventions for a learning disability, this book will help them figure out which options are backed by the best science. (Recommended)" Scientific American
"By my bedtable is Dan Willingham′s new book, When Can You Trust the Experts?... This is help we all can use, from one of the most sensible guys around." John Merrow, The Huffington Post
"A brilliant new book... Willingham presents a ′short cut′ to assessing the value of a given idea a set of four steps that will be useful to anyone sizing up an unfamiliar concept. I ve read Willingham s book and I recommend it highly!" Annie Murphy Paul
From the Inside Flap
Along with some potentially worthy ideas, the last fifty years have encapsulated a flood of educational quackery and nostrums. The innovation and implementation continues, while teachers, administrators, and policymakers have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff. What makes this so difficult for individuals in the American educational system? They′re on their own. There is no research team to evaluate every new idea. But there is pressure to effect change through these innovations.
In When Can You Trust the Experts? Daniel Willingham offers a solution for those who must sift through the information overload and discern which of the latest educational models, programs, and approaches are worthy of their attention. Willingham provides a reliable shortcut comprising four steps. For each step he offers an explanation of why the principle works by referring back to the rules for what constitutes good science. Willingham′s easy–to–apply process consists of:
- Strip it. Clear away the verbiage and look at the actual claim. What exactly is the claim suggesting a teacher should do, and what outcome is promised?
- Trace it. Who created this idea, and what have others said about it? It′s common to believe something because an authority confirms it, and this is often a reasonable thing to do. In education research, however, this can be a weak indicator of truth.
- Analyze it. Why are you being asked to believe the claim is true? What evidence is offered, and how does the claim square with your own experience?
- Should I do it? You′re not going to adopt every educational program that is scientifically backed, and it may make sense to adopt one that has not been scientifically evaluated.
When Can You Trust the Experts? offers parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers the tools they need to ask tougher questions, think more logically about why an intervention might or might not work, and ultimately make more informed decisions.See all Product description
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I think this is significant for two reason: (1) I'm not aware of any book for a non-scientist like me that provides tools I can use every day to evaluate scientific claims about teaching and learning; and (2) Dan is essentially giving us a powerful tool to investigate his own work as a scientist as well. His book, then, not only tells us something about educational research, it tells us something about Dan: that he is truly one of the experts we can trust because he is willing to not only willing to put his own work up for public scrutiny but also to give non-scientists like me the very tool we need to scrutinize his efforts.
I could tell you a ton of things I like about the book. It's full of useful ideas that I have incorporated easily into my own educational practice. But you can read the book and find those things out for yourself.
What I'd really like people to consider is the nature of the person who wrote this book. How many scientist have written books for non-scientists about how to evaluate scientific claims--including their own? I'm sure there are some. But I don't think there are many. And I certainly haven't found one in education that is as thoughtful, as practical, and as fair-minded as this book.
Whether you're a teacher, a principal, a parent, or a policy maker, this book is well worth having on your bookshelf (or in your Kindle if you're out of shelf space like I am). Dan's "Science and Education Blog" is also a great read. Much like his book, it brings to the lay person like me, brief and accessible interpretations of the very latest research on learning--with the same fair-minded and high-integrity approach he has brought to the writing of "When Can You Trust the Experts?"
Thank you Dr. Willingham!