Sunday, 11 July 2010

Concept creep

Another way to examine 'Conductive Education'

With respect to what happens to certain clinical diagnoses (post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, dyslexia for example) John Campion writes in a letter published in this month's issue of The Psychologist

...the problem arises because of misunderstanding between language, thought and the real world. Words have no intrinsic meaning and only take their meaning from the knowledge surrounding them, and this in turn derives from the culture and context in which they are embedded.

Terms... arise within a specialist professional culture in which the meaning is precise and unambiguously given by the context that exists within that culture However, when the terms are lifted from that culture and used quite widely, that context is lost and we end up with 'concept creep'.

One solution that is commonly used... is to provide the needed context through the provision of typical vignettes that illustrate the context and contrast them with others that do not. Incidentally, this situation derives from Aristotelian epistemology rather than a Witgensteinian one.

Apply this analysis to some of the things unquestioningly offered to fee-paying customers under the name of  'Conductive Education'. Not supposed conditions/diagnoses, like John Campion is considering, but they raise the same logical problem.

Stick a piece of wooden furniture in a room, let a conductor waft in and out of someone's life once in a blue moon, conjure up the so-called 'principles of Conductive Education' and – Hey Presto – there you have it. The same goes for those 'principles' themselves. One does not have to cede them the status of principles as such to see them as descriptive observations that had their origins

...within a specialist professional culture in which the meaning is precise and unambiguously given by the context that exists within that culture. However, when the terms are lifted from that culture and used quite widely, that context is lost and we end up with 'concept creep'.

Too true!

I like John Campion's notion of 'vignettes'. For example, in the context of comparative trials of the effects of supposed CE versus those of something else, the vignette idea does rather fall short of manualising what was actually done but it is still a real step in the right direction. It offers an exercise in describing what is being investigated and reported on that would provide a stiff test for the practice and credibility of many (most?) outside researchers, and perhaps create some check upon including the outcomes of who knows what interventions into the growing corpus of mysteries subsumed under the by now grotesque catch-all of 'Conductive Education research'!

Note and reference

Campion, J. (2010) Concept creep, The Psychologist, vol. 23, no 7, p. 540

John Campion – biographic sketch

No comments:

Post a Comment