From the Back Cover
Praise for When Can You Trust the Experts? For decades our nation's debates on education have obsessed over a small number of politicized hot buttons--charter schools, vouchers, class size, teachers' unions--while chasing expensive fads of dubious value. What's missing is evidence on what works and what doesn't. At last we have a place to go: Dan Willingham's indispensable guide to fact and fiction in educational methods. Read it and buy copies for your children's teachers, principals, and school board members. --STEVEN PINKER, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author, The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works Daniel Willingham tackles one of the most difficult--but least discussed--problems for educators: how to sort through the barrage of programs for sale and figure out what really works. Unlike other experts who try to persuade teachers to simply adopt their views, Willingham gives nonscientists the tools and knowledge they need to wade into the research and draw their own conclusions. --RANDI WEINGARTEN, president, American Federation of Teachers If Dan Willingham had written this book fifty years ago, American education would have been spared innumerable snake-oil peddlers, unkeepable promises, deceptive claims, and false panaceas along the path to better schools and greater learning. But he's delivered a marvelous guide for future excursions along that twisting path. --CHESTER E. FINN, JR., president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute A distinguished scientist gets down to brass tacks in explaining how to judge the scientific claims invariably offered to support educational programs. This lively, readable book should be in the hands of every teacher, administrator, and policymaker. --E. D. HIRSCH, author, What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and What Your First Grader Needs to Know Willingham's When Can You Trust the Experts? provides teachers with an in-depth guide on how to parse the helpful from the abhorrent. With the plethora of education research today, teachers finally have a book that asks us to challenge the validity of current education products through a simplified scientific approach. Unlike other education research books, however, Willingham prefers to spark conversation and invite educators in. --JOSE VILSON, middle school math instructor, New York City Schools
From the front Cover
Along with some potentially worthy ideas, the last fifty years have encapsulated a flood of educational quackery and nostrums. The innovation and implementation continues, while teachers, administrators, and policymakers have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff. What makes this so difficult for individuals in the American educational system? They're on their own. There is no research team to evaluate every new idea. But there is pressure to effect change through these innovations. In When Can You Trust the Experts? Daniel Willingham offers a solution for those who must sift through the information overload and discern which of the latest educational models, programs, and approaches are worthy of their attention. Willingham provides a reliable shortcut comprising four steps. For each step he offers an explanation of why the principle works by referring back to the rules for what constitutes good science. Willingham's easy-to-apply process consists of: Strip it. Clear away the verbiage and look at the actual claim. What exactly is the claim suggesting a teacher should do, and what outcome is promised? Trace it. Who created this idea, and what have others said about it? It's common to believe something because an authority confirms it, and this is often a reasonable thing to do. In education research, however, this can be a weak indicator of truth. Analyze it. Why are you being asked to believe the claim is true? What evidence is offered, and how does the claim square with your own experience? Should I do it? You're not going to adopt every educational program that is scientifically backed, and it may make sense to adopt one that has not been scientifically evaluated. When Can You Trust the Experts? offers parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers the tools they need to ask tougher questions, think more logically about why an intervention might or might not work, and ultimately make more informed decisions.