June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
24.1373.1 - 24.1373.9
What’s wrong with Evidence? Epistemological Roots and Pedagogical Implications of “Evidence-based Practice” in STEM education Education’s drive toward instrumentality is manifest in the no-child left behind regime ofK-12 education in which “rigorous” curricula are measured by how efficiently and cost-effectively information is transferred. In higher education, Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs) are hyped as the solution to budgetary crises, taken largely as reasonable facsimiles ofwhat goes on in face to face classrooms. It is this context that informs the surge in popularity of“evidence based practice” across STEM education, with grave consequences for the field ofengineering education research and for liberal education efforts in engineering. This paper first examines the epistemological roots of evidence based practice in the fieldof medicine, where randomized controlled field trials are the sine qua non of validity and rigor.What ways of knowing are included and excluded in evidence based practice? What counts asevidence? What questions are worth asking, and what questions are out of bounds in this regime?Using recent guidance on evidence based research from the Department of Education and theNational Science Foundation, the paper will consider how the concept of evidence based practiceis being adapted for funded research, and how these values are in turn replicated in ourcommunity as we apply standards of rigor in engineering education research. The paper then takes up the pedagogical implications of the evidence based model inwhich interventions are the sole purview of teachers, in turn causing students to learn “better.”The contradictions of using this approach despite “learner centered” rhetoric lead us to a closerexamination of enacted and intended pedagogies in engineering education. A critical practicecalls out the lack of reflexivity in evidence based practice; critical practice asks only what iseffective in a classroom, not what is appropriate, or what should be learned. Those of us concerned about liberal education in engineering ought to be especially waryof evidenced based practice because it stands to affect our research epistemologies, ourpedagogies, and our critical practice.
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