I found Berliner's ideas of the social sciences very intriguing. As a science teacher, I am always pressing upon my students that their results need to be repeatable. Berliner points out that the social sciences are often considered "squishy" - to me, meaning that the results are not always reproducible (Berliner, 2002, pg. 18). You could test students, teachers, and schools with similar qualities but end up with very different results because of how "squishiness" the idea of educational research. As an educator, I should probably be ashamed, but I never considered educational research to be a science, probably due to the fact that I am naturally inclined to side more with the "easy-to-do" fields of science. I suppose I knew it was a science, but it was never in the same category as physics or chemistry. In thinking of educational research more in lines of science, to me that means we should be looking to find strategies that will create repeatable results for a variety of learners as well as a means of measuring those results, all while taking into account the local situations relevant to the learning community.
Philosophically, I believe that Berliner would probably align himself as a postmodernist thinker. In his essay, Berliner states that "Our science forces us to deal with particular problems, where local knowledge is needed" (Berliner, 2002, pg. 20). According to "Ideas of Representation and Truth" document, post modernists typically prefer to focus on smaller scale, local solutions rather than globally universal solutions - something that is difficult to attain in such the ever-changing field of education (Heilman, n.d.).
I completely agree with Berliner in terms of how difficult it is to measure human mental capabilities. As a classroom teacher, I can look at each of my students individually. I can get a feel for their understanding of a variety of topics and can normally determine the level to which my students are understanding. With that said, however, there is no way of telling what a student really knows, even in a small classroom setting. Students surprise me with what they know (or don't know) all the time! When trying to judge a child's understanding at a school, district, state, or even federal level, the task gets even trickier. If I, as a classroom teacher dealing with children face to face daily, cannot always definitively determine a level of a student's understanding, it seems impossible that data collected through testing would yield valid results.
Willingham's ideas seem to vary from Berliner's ideas, most specifically the idea of "decade by findings" interactions. In Willingham's introduction, he specifically discusses the debate between whole language and phonics instruction in the teaching of reading to children. He starts by citing a 1967 study that concluded that phonics was vital to reading instruction. Despite this, whole language instruction remained popular, even with another study in 1997 backing up the original study (Willingham, 2012, pg 20-22). Berliner, however, states that "Solid scientiﬁc ﬁndings in one decade end up of little use in another decade because of changes in the social environment that invalidate the research or render it irrelevant" (Berliner, 2002, pg. 20). The example given by Willingham contrasts this idea by showing that some findings are universally relevant regardless of societal changes.
Berliner, D. (2002). Educational research:the hardest science of all. Educational Researcher, 31(8), 18-20. Retrieved from https://d2l.msu.edu/content/FS13/CEP/822/FS13-CEP-822-730-97B8X6-EL-14-204/Unit 1 Foundations/Berliner -- the hardest science of all.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=uJbsl74HGsXLeWB5QTgXPjdnf&ou=70130
Heilman, E. (n.d.). Ideas of Representation and Truth. Retrieved from https://d2l.msu.edu/content/FS13/CEP/822/FS13-CEP-822-730-97B8X6-EL-14-204/Unit 1 Foundations/Heilman - philosophy.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=uJbsl74HGsXLeWB5QTgXPjdnf&ou=70130
Willingham, D. (2012). When can you trust the experts. San Francisco, CA: A Wiley Imprint.
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