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When Can You Trust the Experts: How to Tell…
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When Can You Trust the Experts: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in…

by Daniel T. Willingham

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391455,464 (4.33)None
"Clear, easy principles to spot what's nonsense and what's reliable. Each year, teachers, administrators, and parents face a barrage of new education software, games, workbooks, and professional development programs purporting to be "based on the latest research." While some of these products are rooted in solid science, the research behind many others is grossly exaggerated. This new book, written by a top thought leader, helps everyday teachers, administrators, and family members--who don't have years of statistics courses under their belts--separate the wheat from the chaff and determine which new educational approaches are scientifically supported and worth adopting. Author's first book, Why Don't Students Like School?, catapulted him to superstar status in the field of education Willingham's work has been hailed as "brilliant analysis" by The Wall Street Journal and "a triumph" by The Washington Post Author blogs for The Washington Post and Brittanica.com, and writes a column for American Educator. In this insightful book, thought leader and bestselling author Dan Willingham offers an easy, reliable way to discern which programs are scientifically supported and which are the equivalent of 'educational snake oil'"--… (more)

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This book is specifically aimed at educators (teachers and administrators, but parents, too) who might be considering "educational software, games, workbooks or other programs" which claim to be "based on the latest research." While some of these products may be based on actual research, many are not. But how can you tell? Willingham discusses the history of science and the role it plays in persuading us and appeals to our biases (especially the "confirmation bias" where we look for "evidence" that supports what we already believe and discard what doesn't support it). Ultimately he outlines and explains four steps:

- Strip it and Flip it. Strip the claim down to its essentials and promises: "If I do X, then there is a Y percent chance that Z will happen."
- Trace it. Should you take statements by "authorities" at face value?
- Analyze it. What evidence is offered? Is there any scientific evidence (from reliable studies) that support or refute the claims?
- Should you do it? And how will you measure results, or when do you call it quits?

It's a rather straightforward process that can weed out a lot of programs and help you find (and understand) the kind of research for making better-informed decisions. And while it's geared more toward eduation professionals it's also written plainly enough that parents can use the same processes. I picked it up hoping it could apply to other areas where science is touted. Such issues are certainly beyond the scope of this book, but I think Willingham's method is a good place to start and can be applied in more areas than just education. It's not a long book and Willingham's writing style is easy to follow. But the main idea is to get people thinking for themselves and not be misled by emotional appeals or psuedo-science. ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
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