Why "what works" won't work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research

Educational Theory 57 (1):1-22 (2007)
Abstract
In this essay, Gert Biesta provides a critical analysis of the idea of evidence‐based practice and the ways in which it has been promoted and implemented in the field of education, focusing on the tension between scientific and democratic control over educational practice and research. Biesta examines three key assumptions of evidence‐based education: first, the extent to which educational practice can be compared to the practice of medicine, the field in which evidence‐based practice was first developed; second, the role of knowledge in professional actions, with special attention to what kind of epistemology is appropriate for professional practices that wish to be informed by the outcomes of research; and third, the expectations about the practical role of research implicit in the idea of evidence‐based education. Biesta concludes that evidence‐based practice provides a framework for understanding the role of research in educational practice that not only restricts the scope of decision making to questions about effectivity and effectiveness, but that also restricts the opportunities for participation in educational decision making. He argues that we must expand our views about the interrelations among research, policy, and practice to keep in view education as a thoroughly moral and political practice that requires continuous democratic contestation and deliberation
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