What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education
This medicine can reduce fever, but it can cause a bleeding stomach. When you buy a medical product, you are given information about both its effects and side effects. But such practice does not exist in education.
“This program helps improve your students’ reading scores, but it may make them hate reading forever.” No such information is given to teachers or school principals.
“This practice can help your children become a better student, but it may make her less creative.” No parent has been given information about effects and side effects of practices in schools.
“School choice may improve test scores of some students, but it can lead to the collapse of American public education,” the public has not received information about the side effects of sweeping education policies.
Educational research has typically focused exclusively on the benefits, intended effects of products, programs, policies, and practices, as if there were no adverse side effects. But side effects exist the same way in education as in medicine. For many reasons, studying and reporting side effects simultaneously as has been mandated for medical products is not common in education.
In this article just published in the Journal of Educational Change, I discuss why education must learn the important lesson of studying and reporting side effects from medical research. Side effects in education occur for a number of reasons.
First, time is a constant. When you spend time on one task, you cannot spend the same amount on another. When a child is given extra instruction in reading, he/she cannot spend the same time on arts or music. When a school focuses only on two or three subjects, its students would not have the time to learn something else. When a school system only focuses on a few subjects such as reading and math, students won’t have time to do other and perhaps more important things.
Second, recourses are limited. When it is put into one activity, it cannot be spent on other. When school Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education: