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Are We Doing our Damndest with our Minds, or Have We Lost Our Damn MInds?

Posted By: Dick Schutz on February 2, 2008
The title of this comment, of course, is a take-off from Rabi’s famous aphorism, “Science means doing your damndest with your mind, no holds barred My answer to the question swings in the direction of the latter. The field has spilt a lot of ink debating the relative merits of “qualitative” and “quantitative” research. But that’s akin to debating the relative merits of “words” and “numbers.” It’s what you do within and among inquiries that counts.

In my view, Eckardt’s inquiry makes a contribution. But is it qualitative research, quantitative research, or commentary? It’s “all of the above.” When "all of the above" applies, one doesn't have a very useful classification system.

One uses statistics to clarify and only when they clarify. The same criterion applies to recorded observations. When one relies on research dogma which regards any given methodology as the “gold standard” and restricts all research to those procrustean boundaries, the result is a cruel joke. It
baffles me that the operators of the “What Works Clearinghouse,” for example, can reports their results with a straight face. And I’m baffled-squared, that anyone can read the reports without laughing/crying. I’m similarly baffled in reading the abstracts of the great bulk of papers at the AERA Annual Meetings in recent years. Other than to get a chance to travel to a major city, or to pad one’s vitae, the author(s) motivation eludes me.

Off the top of the head, it seems to me a researcher should be able to give reasonable answers to at least 3 questions to “get on the program”:
• What practical or theoretical matter does the paper clarify?
• What can anyone do with the findings?
• What will be the author(s) next steps in following up on the findings?

To borrow from the gun lobby, “Research findings don’t cumulate for people. People cumulate research findings” The “people” in this case are educational researchers. More thinking is needed

Dick Schutz
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 Are We Doing our Damndest with our Minds, or Have We Lost Our Damn MInds? by Dick Schutz on February 2, 2008
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