Friday, 10 February 2017


The right kind of evidence?

Yesterday's posting on Conductive World introduced some anonymously authored but trenchant qualifications to the most recent research review in the field of Conductive Education:

'Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence' – this simple logical dictum has often been quoted on these pages as an important basis for viewing conclusions often drawn from 'CE research' (or at least from hat proportion of studies actually better described as empirical outcome-evaluation – more specifically still, from that lesser proportion that are quantitative in nature).

One can develop this further by introducing an ethical dimension, questioning the intellectual honesty – or even the honesty of purpose – of those who continue to seek empirical 'research evidence' for the personal and social value of Conductive Education through means whereby this may actually be impossible to find.

In other words, by asking this may be ethically unacceptable.

Particularly problematic are situations in which when any decision-making involved is a matter of educational provision and placement (and therefore also possibly a matter of financial advantage).

Which science, what research?

There is a generally unclear understanding in society about what is meant by 'science' and 'research'. When discussing motor disorder – and by extension any measures taken to influence its effects – the default understanding seems all too often that the science and research to be considered should be medical science and medical research. This is patently nonsense. Psychological science, pedagogical science, other social sciences, all have legitimate contributions to be made, and all have methodologies (indeed choices of methodologies) with at least as much claim to relevance to the task of bettering human existence). See for example:

The most recent public example to arise in the published technical literature comes from the critical comment to the New Zealand research review, cited above.

'Patently nonsense' may sound harsh but, if an approach is of its very nature incapable of answering the questions that individuals and organisations require of it, then it is – as they say – 'not fit for purpose. Possible ethical question arise from the behaviour of those who continue to act on this notwithstanding.

At the level of methodology, there are two frequent (though not all-encompassing) themes:
  • the absolute necessity for uniting theoretical with empirical investigation
  • the absolute necessity for dynamic integration of qualitative as well as quantitative investigations into our understanding of the whole.
In other words (and this is hardly surprising) collection of 'mindless facts' does not add up to educational research.

Why oh why, in 2017, does one have to be still saying this at all in the field of Conductive Education. Is it something within the topic? Or is it at least as much to do with the people involved?

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