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Friday, 1 July 2016

The Story So Far

In Homo Educationist I established and methodological framework by which to base educational research on insights from Behavioural Economics. In it I argued that that despite the qualitative differences between economic and educational research, it is justified insofar as both are dealing with the same biological principles and brain processes; the methodologies of research are both naturalistic; both are epistemically concerned with truth and therefore the evidence from both research areas ought to be cohesive. More importantly, both have undergone a paradigmatic shift (a shift) from intuition to evidence as a means of providing an accurate understanding of reality that is in line with brain and cognitive research.
These are not isolated examples: Hattie’s revolution in education in analogous to many other paradigmatic shifts in other fields of research. One may ask why it has taken so long for a paradigm in educational research. In Education is a Science and Not a Social Science I not only set out to argue for a turn towards using scientific methodologies (as necessitated by Hattie’s Visible Learning research) but away from the intuitive based methodologies that fundamentally dominate educational research. I suspect this education revolution has come now because of four reasons: firstly, the corrosive post-modern induced research has relativised claims of truth and fought hard to undermine the validity of scientific research through defamation of claims as oppressive; secondly, education has been a cornerstone of social science research and the majority of education departments in tertiary education worldwide belong to the Social Science and Humanities Departments and, therefore, adopted the above distrust of scientific advance; third, the necessity to misrepresent scientific research in order to market and sell theories of teaching in a manner that is ideologically acceptable and attractive to those who are invested in financially profiting from education, as argued against in What Constitutes as ‘Evidence’ in Evidence-Based Educational Practice? Lastly, the presupposition (and biologically default mode) of humanism disseminates inherent ideologies that subjugate and motivate at every level of the educative system - from the classroom right through to policy. For these reasons I believe the Paradigm has yet to shift, as outlined in Naturalising Education: A New Paradigm?
In Psychotherapy, treatment invokes a troublesome dichotomy: to treat using psychotherapy or through pharmacology? This is not say both can’t be used in conjunction, but they preside on very different assumptions about how the mind works (and by mind I mean brain). The former is much aligned with humanism and the ability for one to overcome through the application of intentionality – much like the infamous ‘talking cure’ of Freudian Psychoanalysis. The latter presides on an interventional approach whereby the patient is subject to chemical inducing drugs that alter physical processes in the brain of the patient. Education has seen many such analogous movements: Behaviourism and the infamous operant conditioning of B.F. Skinners research absolutely removed intentionality and determined outcomes based on contextual influences; Waldorf Steiner’s research implored students to take command of their interests and make sense of the world through discovering and intention. A way of looking at these theories are through dichotomising – as in conjunction with our biologically driven desire to categorise and discriminate on the basis of qualitative differences as spoken about in Homo Educationist. When teachers are taught these theories, and theorists, they are done so in such a manner that becomes polarising and political. Irrespective of this, the complex phenomena of teaching and learning (no matter where they can be found on the ‘spectrum’ of ideologies) can be found in all schools and at all times. Our tendency of simplification through narrating complex phenomena blinds us to the integration of all the spectrum of conjectures in every day and at every moment of human and educative interactions. In the same way even the most biologically astute and pharmaceutically driven therapist will converse with patients to understand phenomenological perspectives, so too will the most naturalistically astute and reductionistically driven teacher interact with students using our everyday phenomenological and intuitively driven default modes of human interaction – we are, after all,  bound by the same biological and physical process and laws that govern everything else in the universe, as explored in both Naturalising Education: Conceptual Foundations for an Evolutionary Educational Psychology & The Explanatory Power of Neuroscience.

This has been the story so far. The moral, you may ask? That what is often perceived as simple is far more complex than our intuitions can give credit to. So what does this mean for Teaching and Learning? That will be my next exploration.