Make me rigorous and scientific, but not yet

The government’s response to the 2020 summit went public yesterday. My one idea was that we should have more randomised trials in education. I was chuffed to see that the idea made it into the document, but somewhat perplexed by the response itself.


DEEWR, ACER, ACARA, the ABS, the ARC and NCVER are all splendid bodies doing important work, but so far as I’m aware, there isn’t a single instance in which one of them has decided to “test and trial new ideas for education similar to the clinical trials adopted for disease”.

I would, of course, be quite pleased to be proven wrong on this. If anyone knows of an educational randomised trial afoot in Australia, do let me know.

(Crossposted at Core Economics)

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3 Responses to Make me rigorous and scientific, but not yet

  1. Cathy says:

    Its generally rather hard to conduct a double blind experiment in education, Andrew. For instance, if we wished to study the effect of class size on student learning, it is going to be vary obvious to both the teachers and the students which group they’ve been allocated to.

  2. conrad says:

    I’ll disagree on the second one of those ideas — educational trials shouldn’t be done like clinical ones. It’s far too slow, expensive and generally not necessary. In my books, many educational problems can and should be done in bite-sized pieces, and as such are more amenable to numerous small experiments rather than one big one. If, for example, you are interested in early literacy, then you are better off permuting different aspects of different programs and looking at the outcomes than, say, just running one big experiment looking at one program as a whole and comparing it to another as a control.

  3. Invig says:

    Following on from Conrad, perhaps it is better to push for an education system that allows permutations, and that allows economists in to record the data they need.

    It also sells better to the electorate. Who wants their child to be part of a ‘randomised education trial’ when the alternative is attending a school that is ‘trying a different way to achieve better outcomes’.

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