Silver bullets, golden eggs and treasure hunts

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The article by Nick Dennis, "Why searching for what works is a wild goose chase” (TES 07.09.18) raises a number of intriguing issues. What does the rapid and relatively unquestioning adapt of the growth mindset approach tell us about the pressure on schools to find a silver bullet solution?

Can evidence-based approaches be considered to be objective and open to replication? How can we apply the lessons from the experience of evidence-based medicine?

It seems a tall order to expect teachers and school leaders to be well enough informed that they can locate and appraise the volume of available education research. The current Education Endowment Foundation Cruidance Reports, for example, number nine weighty tomes and members of the Chartered College of Teaching can access thousands of research papers. So, faced with an impossible volume teaching and school leaders examine the issues relevant to their context and then go looking for solutions. It’s more a treasure hunt than an empirical process. In the search for a golden nugget it's quite understandable why approaches promoted by reputable bodies and popular with colleagues are quickly and relatively unquestionably adopted; and perhaps that’s OK.

A workable solution may be the expectation that schools, once they have identified their key priorities, develop strategies based on the evidence that they feel best fits their criteria. In which as Ofsted could operate more as critical friends, testing the hypotheses and the outcomes. Wouldn’t that really represent a learning profession?

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