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Paperback An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research Book

ISBN: 0226467732

ISBN13: 9780226467733

An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research

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Book Overview

Since its beginnings at the start of the 20th century, educational scholarship has been a marginal field, criticized by public policy makers and relegated to the fringes of academe. An Elusive Science explains why, providing a critical history of the traditions, conflicts, and institutions that have shaped the study of education over the past century. " C]andid and incisive. . . . A stark yet enlightening look at American education."-- Library Journal...

Customer Reviews

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Required Reading for All University Educational Researchers?

Lagemann's book is a well researched look into American higher education, particularly concerning the emergence of Colleges of Education within universities in the late 19th century. Prior to this time, the field of "education" lay strictly within the confines of the individual disciplinary domains, and was not considered as a subject requiring special distinction. Lageman is able to use this historical context to illuminate the struggles that theorists and psychologists at the time experienced as they attempted to determine if "education" could - or SHOULD - be deemed a "science," and the subsequent effect such decisions played in the educational setting of the University. And although the author may focus much of her book on the issue of economic funding (she describes the common cycle of insufficient funding, which leads to less research, which, in turn, leads to less funding, etc), in my mind the most interesting part of her story is the description of those seminal debates that lead to the birth of the field of educational psychology, and the examination of the arguments for and against the pronouncement of "education" as a unique field. Although at the start of the 21st century we now rarely question the result of these 19th-century decisions, Lagemann's text is nevertheless a reminder that our current University setting was not necessarily ordained to be so. Perhaps more importantly, her text allows us to consider and re-examine the issues surrounding the types of education-related questions that, even now, reamin unsettled: Does an instructor need to be a subject matter expert in order to meaningfully teach students, or are there specific instructional principles and techniques that are more critical than an instructor's personal subject matter knowledge as determinants in student achievement? Are subject matter experts the best teachers, or are experts in educational processes the best teachers? What combination of these skills should there be for one to be considered a "premier" instructor? Is education really a "science" like the natural sciences, or is there too much of "education" that is based on personal styles, learner preferences, and the intimate human relationships between instructors and students to prevent it from ever becoming a fully empirically-validated field? These are just a few of the many issues surrounding Lagemann's history (and I look at this book almost as much as a history book as a position piece), and the author does a wonderful job of bringing all these historical events together and allowing us to reconsider such basic issues. It may not result in agreement between readers, but it certainly drives us to consider once again what's most important in the field of educational research.

A "troubling history" indeed.

This book forced me to reevaluate all of my assumptions about education reform.
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