Thursday, 13 March 2014


So play by the rules

'Research' has been of CE's big problems. Let's have more of it, let's do some, let's find some to quote in support of the effectiveness of CE, let's 'prove' CE. Let's do all these things – and let's even say that they have already been done.

The problem is that such CE research as there is, by which most people refer to outcome- evaluation studies, it has failed to find the positive empirical findings that Conductive Education so craves. Those who are less enthusiastic about CE – or even opposed to it – are inclined to take from this the message that 'there no scientific proof', and conclude (poor logic, this) that therefore ' CE doesn't work'

What to do? One frequent answer is 'more research is needed' – or, as I have recently read, 'further investigation is clearly warranted'. Not surprisingly this solution usually comes wrapped in a job-creation package. However it comes, if the proposal is for more of the same, the same sort of studies, then my default response is NO. If the answer is for studies of altogether different kinds, though, then my answer should be a resounding YES.

I am sometimes told that I am too picky about the quality of so much 'CE research', that however flawed it is 'a start' and I should not discourage people who are clearly not academics but doing their very best. I have particularly sympathies with the latter point since I myself have never been an academic either, and have been told more than once that I would never make it if I tried. Ah well, horses for courses. But I can still enjoy academic world from the sidelines as a spectator sport, recognise a winner when I see one (and losers too) and know the rules of the game.

Let us not stretch the analogy too far, but I do wonder whether all my fellow spectators really understand just what a complex game it it that they are spectating. Yesterday Conductive World carried a posting that strayed into just one corner of this complicated business, 'systematic reviews', and it might be worthwhile – and positively useful for those who care to follow this up – to explore this aspect just a little further. Read for yourself careful, critical reviews of research already done, judged formally on the basis of the rules of the particular game being played. See what the knowledge produced adds up to.

There have been a quite a few CE research reviews published now. They have been of varying quality but come mainly to generally similar conclusions. It seems unlikely, however, that there will be more more of this kind over the foreseeable future. Two of the best were those carried out by Ludig and her colleagues in 2000 and by Darrah and her colleagues in 2004:

Read these two and and inwardly digest, and you will be potentially on the road to adopting an informed critical position on research to date on CE.

But there is also a higher level of analysis – smaller fleas on large ones, if you like – in that systematic reviews are themselves open to systematic review according to formal criteria within the paradigm. The two systematic reviews cited above have been reviewed here:

Read these and be doubly equipped for an opinion on CE research!

As has been remarked more than once on Conductive World over its years, there are other research paradigms, other ways of knowing, other games in town. One way of knowing is not necessarily superior to others but any body of formal knowledge has its rules and thrives upon challenge within these. When reviewers, and reviewers of reviewers, are critical, they are not being picky for its on sake. They are doing their essential jobs, oxygenating the field.

If you spectate, hoping to spot winners or losers – or even consider bowling a few overs or kicking a ball around for yourself – look out for how they play at the top of the league, rough as it can sometimes be...

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