Research says that whatever I say next will be a whopping lie

by Viv Cole on March 11, 2015

Over 15 years of working in L&D (and a dose of studying philosophy of science at university) makes me very alert to the phrase “research says”. It is usually followed by an unsubstantiated claim. After all, if you are making a claim that is backed by scientific research it is not hard to include a link, reference or a footnote, so why wouldn’t you?

Whilst the intention behind quoting science is often good e.g. let’s convince people to give learners a more visually engaging and memorable experience, ultimately it undermines the credibility of the argument if it is supported by untruths. Here are a few links to articles that expose some of the more blatant “research says whoppers”.


Dale’s cone of experience:

The value of having written goals:

Learning styles:

As I’ve written this post I’ve realised how much of a hobby horse this must seem! I know I’m taking a hard line on this, but as so eloquently puts it:

“The world of teaching and learning is rife with received wisdom…and plenty of other unproven but fashionable ideas.  It is not so much that they are “wrong”, but:

  • the evidence base and/or research methodology may be flaky, and/or
  • they may have been misinterpreted and generalised beyond their legitimate use, and/or
  • they originate from such tightly controlled laboratory settings as not to make sense in the real world.”

So when someone says “research says…” a polite enquiry may be in order…along the lines of:  “Which research? Could I have the link please?” .

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