Elusive evidence 1

October 5, 2007

Graham Gibbs describes support in a student survey for more teacher training as "striking" ("Part-time effort for full-time degrees", September 28). What is really striking is the very thin basis for this.

First, every factor (except lower fees) in the survey was rated between 3 and 4 - quite important or very important - so there is barely any difference between priorities for more teacher training and for better learning facilities, more support for settling in and better security.

There is no suggestion that the students volunteered this factor - they were presented with a list and asked to rate the relative importance of a variety of areas of possible "improvement", and they rated everything more or less equally.

Finally, Gibbs makes the educationist's classic assumption that where new lecturers' ratings from students and confidence/competence in the classroom improves after two or three years of teacher training this is all down to the training and nothing at all to do with them having gained several hundred hours of practical teaching experience.

These findings are not the least bit striking; but the brass neck of educationists in presenting such irrelevant, ambiguous and fundamentally (and massively) unsound results as "evidence" for the need for more teacher training, or for the benefits of their theories (so-called evidence-based teaching practices), never fails to astound and amaze.

Richard Austen-Baker
Lancaster University Law School

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