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Second Annual Conference on Randomised Controlled Trials in The Social Sciences: The way forward The University of York, 13th - 14th September 2007 Hosted.

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Presentation on theme: "Second Annual Conference on Randomised Controlled Trials in The Social Sciences: The way forward The University of York, 13th - 14th September 2007 Hosted."— Presentation transcript:

1 Second Annual Conference on Randomised Controlled Trials in The Social Sciences: The way forward The University of York, 13th - 14th September 2007 Hosted by ESRC Researcher Development Initiative and the York Trials Unit Speakers represent all areas of social science and public policy and include: Ann Oakley Tom Schuller Bob Slavin Kevin Marsh Paul Dolan Sheila Bird Peter John Further details at or via

2 What counts as evidence? Stephen Gorard University of York From 1st August University of Birmingham

3 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. Cook, T. and Gorard, S. (2007) What counts and what should count as evidence, pp in OECD (Eds.) Evidence in education: Linking research and policy, Paris: OECD Gorard, S. (2002) Ethics and equity: pursuing the perspective of non-participants, Social Research Update, 39

4 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. Gorard, S., with Taylor, C. (2004) Combining methods in educational and social research, London: Open University Press Sloane, F. and Gorard, S. (2003) Exploring methodological aspects of design experiments, Educational Researcher, 32, 1

5 Outline of the full cycle of policy research

6 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. 3. Working towards an experimental design can be an important part of any research enterprise, even where an experiment is not envisaged or even possible. Gorard, S. (2003) Quantitative methods in social science: the role of numbers made easy, London: Continuum Gorard, S. (2002) The role of causal models in education as a social science, Evaluation and Research in Education, 16, 1,

7 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. 3. Working towards an experimental design can be an important part of any research enterprise, even where an experiment is not envisaged or even possible. 4. Part of the problem of research quality lies in traditional research methods training and ‘experts’. Gorard, S. (2005) Revisiting a 90-year-old debate: the advantages of the mean deviation, The British Journal of Educational Studies, 53, 4 Gorard, S. (2003) Understanding probabilities and re-considering traditional research methods training, Sociological Research Online, 8, 1

8 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. 3. Working towards an experimental design can be an important part of any research enterprise, even where an experiment is not envisaged or even possible. 4. Part of the problem of research quality lies in traditional research methods training and ‘experts’. 5. Part of the problem of research quality lies in a lack of appropriate use of numbers. Gorard, S. (2006) Using everyday numbers effectively in research: Not a book about statistics, London: Continuum Gorard, S. (2006) Towards a judgement-based statistical analysis, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 27, 1

9 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. 3. Working towards an experimental design can be an important part of any research enterprise, even where an experiment is not envisaged or even possible. 4. Part of the problem of research quality lies in traditional research methods training and ‘experts’. 5. Part of the problem of research quality lies in a lack of appropriate use of numbers. 6. Part of the problem of research quality lies in an unwillingness to test our cherished theories. Gorard, S. (2004) Three abuses of ‘theory’: an engagement with Nash, Journal of Educational Enquiry, 5, 2 Gorard, S. (2004) Scepticism or clericalism? Theory as a barrier to combining methods, Journal of Educational Enquiry, 5, 1

10 1.A key ethical concern for those conducting or using publicly-funded education research ought to be the quality of the research, and so the security of the conclusions drawn. 2. It is helpful to consider the research enterprise as a cycle of complementary phases and activities, because this illustrates how all methods can have an appropriate place in the full cycle of research. 3. Working towards an experimental design can be an important part of any research enterprise, even where an experiment is not envisaged or even possible. 4. Part of the problem of research quality lies in traditional research methods training and ‘experts’. 5. Part of the problem of research quality lies in a lack of appropriate use of numbers. 6. Part of the problem of research quality lies in an unwillingness to test our cherished theories. 7. Much of the solution lies in greater scepticism, because the problem is not really one of methods at all. Cook, T. and Gorard, S. (2007) What counts and what should count as evidence, pp in OECD (Eds.) Evidence in education: Linking research and policy, Paris: OECD Gorard, S. (2002) Fostering scepticism: the importance of warranting claims, Evaluation and Research in Education, 16, 3,

11 Contradictory trends Between 1994 and 2004, reports of studies using a researcher manipulated intervention declined from 45% to 33% in the US. But causal statements in non-intervention studies grew from 34% to 43%. In particular, complex statistical approaches such as HLM (MLM) and structural equation modelling were routinely misunderstood by researchers as testing causation. Robinson, D., Levin, J., Thomas, G., Pituch, K. and Vaughn, S. (2007) The incidence of ‘causal’ statements in teaching-and-learning research journals, American Educational Research Journal, 44, 2,

12 Blanden, J., Gregg, P. and Machin, S. (2005) Intergenerational mobility in Europe and North America: Report for the Sutton Trust, London: Centre for Economic Performance Effect of widening participation? Country Sons bornSons earning measure Measure of parental status Partial correlation Britain1970Age 30Parents Norway1958Average Father Denmark Average Father Sweden1962Average Father Finland Average Father

13 Result of academisation? DfES - We expect that all Academies will make steady upward progress… Good teaching, excellent facilities and motivated pupils will deliver real improvements in educational standards. BBC - The government has released GCSE figures from three of its new flagship Academies in England. All the schools, which were set up in deprived areas, showed remarkable improvements in results. Bexley Business Academy Percentage eligible for FSM GCSE points per candidate

14 An effect of education? p.238 – ‘The data are based on the entire population of schools… Consequently, the results can be considered as representative of the whole population of pupils who take both KS3 and GCSE exams’. Multi-level model of the effect of single-sex teaching. p.246 – ‘The effect of school type is highly significant’ Malacova, E. (2007) Effects of single-sex education on progress in GCSE, Oxford Review of Education, 33, 2,

15 Impact of feedback? Using national data and multi-level modelling to compare the progress of schools given performance feedback by NFER. p.102 – ‘Although no actual samples have been drawn… Statistical checks were carried out and no significant difference between the groups was found’ [i.e. in existing background measures]. p.103 – ‘Schools who participated in PASS showed a significant difference (p<0.05) in attainment compared to those who received feedback as part of another project. Hammond, P. and Yeshanew, T. (2007) The impact of feedback on school performance, Educational Studies, 33, 2,

16 A school effect? Looks at successive years of positive value-added scores in one England district, An improving school is one where VA increases in successive years p.271- ‘the pupil intake and time trend explanatory variables included in the fixed part of the value-added model (Model A) were statistically significant (at 0.05 level)’. p.261 – ‘it appears that only one in 16 schools managed to improve continuously for more than four years at some point over the decade in terms of value-added’. Thomas, S., Peng, WJ. And Gray, J. (2007) Modelling patterns of improvement over time: value-added trends in English secondary school performance across ten cohorts, Oxford Review of Education, 33, 3,


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