Math became quite advanced in the 1600s. Medicine could barely claim a scientific basis until the 1900s. Education? Education is just starting to get there.
The flip flops between "phonics" being the best method to teach reading and "whole language" being the best method to teach reading go back at least to the 1850s because education establishments depended on anecdotal and not rigorous scientific evidence to establish policy. There have been at least four flip flops regarding reading instruction because science was not used to resolve the issue. Many scientific arguments have been made on the subject but not enough large scale controlled studies.
This book is not about reading instruction. It is about the use of the scientific method to resolve the effectiveness of competing alternative methods of instruction.
Some of the discoveries disclosed by scientific inquiry discussed in this book are diametrically opposite to today's teaching methods and many are quite counter intuitive.
I won't go into detail about the content of this book, but one research project discussed in the book demonstrated how little we know.
Take two groups of students and allow one group to use computer monitors that display crisp and clear instructional material. The second group gets the same material, but the monitors are sub-standard and the images are blurred but readable with difficulty.
Who learns more? The answer? Experiments demonstrated that the students using the poor equipment learned more and retained significantly more. Why? They had to struggle. Unbelieveable, but apparently true.
I think about that when I struggle with some of the more confusingly worded Khan Academy problems. You learn from a struggle and not from spoon feeding.
This book is not about anecdotal evidence to support educational theories. It is about what has been proven to work in rigorous scientific studies. It was written by educational researchers at universities and not classroom teachers who often hold diametrically opposite views about what works. Take fifty classroom teachers and you may have twenty different opinions on how best to teach any given thing.
Our big companies such as Google and Amazon use small scale "A/B tests" on a large number of issues daily. They use the results to scientifically tailor the services they deliver to the public.
Primary and Secondary educational establishments run by governmental entities deal more in tradition. There is a trend toward "evidence based" instruction, but often the "evidence" was not scientifically generated with control groups and the examination of alternative methods.
This is a wonderful book. Perhaps there will be a day when every educational manager will take it's message to heart and adopt methods that can withstand rigorous scientific examination.
This is an informative book that is a bit difficult to take at one time.
It would be easy to say that the author could have presented the same material in a much shorter book. That would be possibly true for the general thrust of this book, but there were so many very good bits and pieces that would have been omitted, that I prefer it as written.
I listened to this book about thirty minutes at a time. When I started thinking I was hearing more that I wanted to know I shifted to another book for the day. In hindsight, I can say that I am glad that I listened to the entire book.
This author obviously had the help of a large number of graduate students helping or extending his research. He is also extremely knowledgeable about many facets of human behavior.
This is a book about how we use language and what our choice of words says about how we think, but it is much more. This is as much a book about people and how they behave as it is about pronouns and other simple English words.
You must have some background with math to appreciate this book. You don't need to be a mathematician, but you need to have some concept of statistics -- not details -- just a basic idea of how statistics work.
The last half of the book was more interesting to me than the first half. Don't start there, start at the first so you will understand the last half.
I found his comments on multi-candidate elections where no candidate gets a majority to be particularly interesting.
There are parts to this book that drag. Some may drag because you might not be interested in the subject he uses to illustrate a mathematical process or principal. When he talks about sports statistics keep in mind that he is illustrating mathematical principles and not focusing on sports.
You can and will learn a lot from this book and will enjoy most of the book. You might learn more than you want to know about some mathematical subjects, but math is a tool and each addition to our toolkit strengthens us whether we know it at the time or not.