School Dinners

Goldacre on building evidence into education has lessons for everyone

By: The Leader
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 13:19 GMT Jump to Comments

A new paper on evidenced based practice in education is a must read for politicians, policy makers and managers in both the public and private sector.

A new paper “Building Evidence Into Education” by Dr Ben Goldacre has been published by Department for Education. Dr Goldacre, doctor, academic, authority on “evidence based policy” across a wide swathe of disciplines is currently a Research Fellow in Epidemiology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

“There is a huge prize waiting to be claimed by teachers”, says Goldacre. “By collecting better evidence about what works best, and establishing a culture where this evidence is used as a matter of routine, we can improve outcomes for children, and increase professional independence.”

He explains how outcomes for patients have improved as a result of evidence based practice in medicine. He alo identifies the “change of culture” necessary to gather evidence and “get it read, understood, and put into practice.” 

“I want to persuade you that this revolution could - and should - happen in education.” Says Goldacre, before rushing to admit that he is a doctor and knows that “outsiders often try to tell teachers what they should do” and that “this often ends badly”.

But, says Dr Goldacre, “evidence based practice isn’t about telling teachers what to do: in fact, quite the opposite. This is about empowering teachers, and setting a profession free from governments, ministers and civil servants who are often overly keen on sending out edicts, insisting that their new idea is the best in town.”

The ideas and arguments in “Building Evidence Into Education” are clear, concise (only twelve pages!) and persuasive.

It helps that Dr Goldacre writes clearly and with a wonderful absence of jargon and the usual, self-aggrandising, obfuscation. (Aren’t I wonderful syndrome). He is passionate about his subject but rarely lets his passion cloud his judgement.

Goldacre is pulling a fast one of course. Wittingly or not he makes a case for evidence based decision-making and process in every area of policy making and process planning.

“Now we recognise that being a good doctor, or teacher, or manager, (our emphasis) isn’t about ...ignoring the evidence, and following your hunches and personal experiences... We do best, by using the right combination of skills to get the best job done."

Goldacre's paper is a must read for anyone interested in Education. However most politicians, policy makers and managers would benefit from reading this paper and allowing it to change their professional lives. What Goldacre is recommending is that each “generation” should learn from the last instead of endlessly reinventing the square wheel and wondering why they get the same bumpy ride?

Trying not to break the habit of a lifetime, The Leader has one tiny complaint. Why is it, we wonder, that while the website upon which the paper sits uses a good clear sans serif font, the paper itself comes up like a gothic apothecaries recipe for a sleeping draught. Is there some evidence, we wonder, that shows that people have more respect for ideas presented in an antique serif face? If so we would like to see the evidence.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

DOWNLOAD “Building Evidence Into Education” HERE

 

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