Abstract: Evidence-based practice: wishful thinking?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, including education. Its focus is the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results (or prevent undesirable ones). While EBP is practical in nature, the evidence is research-based. It is the ambition of EBP to produce knowledge that works, and it is therefore deeply causal: we intervene in an existing practice in order to produce an output or improve the output.

In my presentation, I shall discuss what research can contribute to the production of learning outcomes in school. My main claim is that policymakers (and researchers) who think that research can tell us what works indulge in wishful thinking. Research does not and cannot tell us what works in practice. My argument will require forays into causality (how we take causes to operate), into methodology (what the evidence actually tells us) and into ontology (to what degree we think contexts differ). I shall make the case that research tells only half the story and that the practitioner will have to tell the other half, and I shall show in some detail what the two stories contain.

PPT presentation