Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2016 Issue »

    After the Gold Rush

    Questioning the “Gold Standard” and Reappraising the Status of Experiment and Randomized Controlled Trials in Education

    GARY THOMAS
    The past few years have seen a resurgence of faith in experimentation in education inquiry, and particularly in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Proponents of such research have succeeded in bringing into common parlance the term gold standard, which suggests that research emerging from any other design frame fails to achieve the rigor or significance of RCT-based research in answering causal questions and cannot reliably tell us “what works.” In this article, Gary Thomas questions the reasoning behind this conclusion, resting his argument on the theory and practice of experimentation in education and on the limitations of RCTs in particular. He suggests that the arguments about the power of particular kinds of experiment reside in inappropriate ideas about generalization and induction and, indeed, what a scientific experiment needs to look like. Drawing from examples of systematic inquiry in education and other fields, Thomas argues for a restoration of respect for the heterogeneity of education inquiry.

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    Gary Thomas is Professor of Inclusion and Diversity in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, England. His teaching and research have focused on inclusion, special education, and research methodology in education, with a particular focus on how case study research is conducted. He has coedited the British Educational Research Journal and is currently executive editor of Educational Review. His recent books include Education: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2013) and How to Do Your Research Project, 3rd ed. (Sage, 2017).
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    Fall 2016 Issue

    Abstracts

    Restorying the Self
    Bending Toward Textual Justice
    EBONY ELIZABETH THOMAS AND AMY STORNAIUOLO
    The Double Bind for Women
    Exploring the Gendered Nature of Turnaround Leadership in a Principal Preparation Program
    JENNIE MILES WEINER AND LAURA J. BURTON
    Cross-Pollinating Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning
    Toward an Inclusive Pedagogy That Accounts for Dis/Ability
    FEDERICO R. WAITOLLER AND KATHLEEN A. KING THORIUS
    After the Gold Rush
    Questioning the “Gold Standard” and Reappraising the Status of Experiment and Randomized Controlled Trials in Education
    GARY THOMAS
    Social Red Bull
    Exploring Energy Relationships in a School District Leadership Team
    ALAN J. DALY, YI-HWA LIOU, AND CHRIS BROWN
    Editor's Review
    REBECCA BLAZAR LEBOWITZ

    Book Notes

    Tell Me So I Can Hear You
    Eleanor Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano

    Miseducation
    By A. J. Angulo