Uncritical reports

February 9, 2017

Re the article “Tackle ‘reporting bias’ in pedagogy research, paper warns” (News, 2 February).

As an academic involved in appraising studies of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), the problem of biased reporting in pedagogic journals described by Phillip Dawson’s research rings several bells.

In CAM, reporting bias and a host of other research malpractices are near universal. For example, the literature on homeopathy abounds with “positive” reports of efficacy for this most absurd and implausible medical modality; yet when these reports are scrutinised carefully – something that journal editors and peer reviewers all too often fail to do – one discovers a world replete not only with publication bias but with a whole host of ills including underpowered studies, lack of randomisation, lack of control groups and dodgy statistical analyses.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me and to others that the very same problems of sloppy research and ideologically driven reporting that bedevil CAM apply in almost equal measure to pedagogic research. Just as the largest, most robust studies reveal that homeopathy is ineffective, the best pedagogic studies available indicate that “problem-based learning” and “active learning” are no better – and indeed may well be worse – than lecture and tutorial based forms of teaching in higher education.

Kevin Smith
Abertay University


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