Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims
The journal Nature has this week published an interesting comment piece aimed specifically at educating politicians about the scientific approach to data but which could just as easily be used for many different types of data. The “twenty tips” are as useful in helping us remember how to judge educational data and to avoid simple conclusions to complex issues.
Of the twenty tips worth thinking about with regard to education, I highlight the following:
Differences and chance cause variation – when students sit their assessments makes a difference, remember the hayfever season!
No measurement is exact – as the article says, “practically all measurements have some errors. If the measurement process were repeated, one might record a different result”
Bias is rife – think about what assessments (for example) you are setting and for whom. How will this affect the outcomes?
Extrapolating beyond the data is risky – how many times have we read that a whole area of the curriculum/cohort of students is view in the same way?
Scientists are human – they have vested interests in promoting a specific position – also applies to academics, managers, probably everyone!