What medicine can teach educators about evidence-based practice… and why this is threatening!

Year: 2019

Author: McKnight, Lucinda, Mogan, Andy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paradigm of evidence-based education continues to inform the development of policy in a number of countries. At its simplest level, evidence-based education incorporates evidence, often that provided by randomised controlled trials, into classroom practice. England’s Education Endowment Foundation is in the process of exporting evidence-based school education, promoted as a medical approach, to other countries, including Australia. Australia is in the process of establishing an Education Evidence Base, informed by the government’s 2016 Productivity Commission report. While the literature around evidence-based education is explicit in identifying its basis in medicine, there has been little medical input into its development. Interdisciplinary examination of the medical literature reveals the contested nature and troubled state of evidence-based medicine and what policymakers need to consider to maximise the benefits of this translation into education.

Yet querying evidence-based practice involves significant risks for those brave enough to do so. This presentation also considers the threats to academic freedom posed by those who seek to shut down debate around evidence-based practice, and refuse to engage with its widely acknowledged issues. The problems posed by gurus, cult-style movements and plain old scientism are proliferating via social media, and preventing badly needed examination of exactly what medicine has learnt about idealising randomised controlled trials at the expense of other forms of evidence.