In Riley’s article “What’s wrong with evidence?”, she unpacks the origin and long-term effects of “evidence-based practice” in STEM education. The author begins by describing how the idea of “evidence” is problematic, specifically in engineering education. Riley first presents the semantic difficulty of separating evidence from opinions or beliefs, and questions the qualifications of those making these distinctions.
Riley argues the practicality of standardized education, and questions whether evidence-based education is truly learner-centered. Perhaps too often the curricula are designed around the desired outcomes in the classroom, and lose focus of useful and necessary skills. The author warns that such programs as “No Child Left Behind” are dangerous, and limit knowledge collaboration and production overall. I also believe she wrote this with a thesaurus in her lap; her vocabulary is absurd.
Our friendly neighborhood TA, Homero, encouraged me to share my experiences with this topic. I cannot speak for engineering-related disciplines, as my focus is in Entomology. However, for the duration of my collegiate career, it felt as though achieving the perfect “bell curve” was a much higher priority then our learning process. For example, I can’t remember a single compound structure from organic chemistry, and routinely received 70’s on my exams, but still left the class with an “A”. The professor would graph out the test average on the blackboard after each exam, and show us how he manipulated the grades to achieve the bell shape. In the end, he received good ratings for having a tidy class average, and I received the grade I desired, but did either of us truly benefit from the experience? I would argue the whole ordeal was a waste of time and money.
I feel that focusing strictly on the outcomes of the educational experience undercuts the importance of the student’s journey. Discussion, communication and creative thinking aren’t encouraged… tenants that are the very backbone of scientific advancement. Like many, I don’t have any easy solutions to this issue. Facilitating such an environment is particularly hard in a larger classroom setting. However, I feel present day higher education can’t see the forest for the trees. Results and statistics are too highly valued, and the student’s experience as a whole is easily overlooked.