Informed Consumer Response to “Research Says….”

An informed consumer of educational research would encounter the phrase “research says” and approach it with a healthy dose of inquisitiveness and speculation.  There are several considerations that come into play.  First, a consumer should consider the background of the study – the intended purpose of the investigation and the context of the findings.  Second, a consumer must recognize author interpretation, and any bias that stems from such.  Third, a consumer should “know the difference between results and conclusions” (McMillan, 2007, p. 361), which calls for a separation of the data and the way it has been portrayed.  This includes recognizing limitations and not over-stretching or mis-interpreting information.

In discussing criteria for evaluating research conclusions, step five stood out to me: “Statistical significance should not be confused with practical significance” (McMillan, 2007, p. 377).  When viewing data, there’s a common mantra:  you can manipulate the numbers in many different directions.  My prior school district encountered this when evaluating behavioral support data, for example.  It is imperative for researchers and consumers alike to focus not only on what the research says, but what the implications address – and these implications should be specific and measurable, and made “only when the data and design support such inferences” (McMillan, 2007, p. 377).

McMillan, J. H. (2007). Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer 6th ed. Pearson.

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