Should Education Research learn something from the Meteor Crater in Arizona?

I am currently reading Bill Bryson’s “A short history of nearly everything” and a parallel occurred to me.
The section I am up to at the moment talks about the Arizona Meteor Crater and the work of Eugene Shoemaker in the 1950s. At the time he began his research a common view was that the crater was formed by an underground steam explosion – which don’t exist.
Great I hear you say, you’ve read a book and have some new “pub quiz” knowledge – well done you. Well yes, perhaps, but I do think it a cautionary tale – being that research can often draw the wrong conclusions.
If we seek to ground our profession in empirical research we must also be open to the fact that there is more that we don’t know. If we don’t keep this in mind then we may find interesting and expensive ways of repeating old mistakes.
I think it is right that our profession considers it’s own development and based on research, but let us not simply dismiss a notion because there isn’t research – that path leads us back to another underground steam explosion.

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2 thoughts on “Should Education Research learn something from the Meteor Crater in Arizona?

  1. I may be getting the wrong end of the stick, but it seems to me that the Meteor Crater example runs counter to your argument. Surely it suggests that (scientific or educational) practice should be MORE firmly grounded in empirical research rather than less?

    After all, it was Shoemaker’s empirical research on the crater that produced data that the volcanic-steam-explosion-model was unable to explain. He put forward his meteor theory as a more complete explanation of the empirical data which gradually became accepted by the scientific community. But it was empirical research and data that changed people’s minds.

    There is certainly (and probably always will be) a lot of stuff that we do not know, but the best way of assessing which alternative ideas are correct is empirical research. I would hope that nobody is arguing that an idea should be rejected out of hand because there isn’t any “research” to back it up, but the degree to which we accept ideas should depend on the quality of empirical evidence available.

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