"Proof," Policy, and Practice
Understanding the Role of Evidence in Improving Education

Paper: 978 1 57922 751 7 / $29.95
Published: December 2015  

Cloth: 978 1 57922 750 0 / $95.00
Published: December 2015  

Lib E-Book: 978 1 57922 752 4 / $95.00  
About Library E-Book

Published: December 2015  

E-Book: 978 1 57922 753 1 / $23.99
Published: December 2015  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
264 pp., 6" x 9"
11 figures & 6 tables
How can we “fix” our schools? Improve graduation rates in college? What works?

These are questions that make the headlines and vex policy makers, practitioners, and educational researchers. While they strive to improve society, there are frequently gulfs of mutual incomprehension among them.

Academics, longing for more influence, may wrongly fault irrationality, ideology, or ignorance for the failure of research to inform policy and practice more powerfully. Policy makers and practitioners may doubt that academics can deliver ideas that will reliably yield desirable results.

This book bridges the divide. It argues that unrealistic expectations lead to both unproductive research and impossible standards for “evidence-based” policy and practice, and it offers promising ways for evidence to contribute to improvement. It analyzes the utility and limitations of the different research methods that have been applied to policy and practice, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of educational reform strategies. It explains why using evidence for “accountability” often makes things worse rather than better.

Paul Lingenfelter offers educational researchers and policy makers a framework for considering such questions as: What problems are important and accessible? What methods will be fruitful? Which help policy makers and practitioners make choices and learn how to improve? What information is relevant? What knowledge is valid and useful? How can policy makers and practitioners establish a more productive division of labor based on their respective capabilities and limitations?

He cautions against the illusion that straight-forward scientific approaches and data can be successfully applied to society’s most complex problems. While explaining why no single policy or intervention can solve complex problems, he concludes that determination, measurement, analysis, and adaptation based on evidence in specific situations can lead to significant improvement.

This positive, even-handed introduction to the use of research for problem-solving concludes by suggesting emerging practices and approaches that can help scholars, practitioners, and policy leaders become more successful in reaching their fundamental goals.

Table of Contents:
Figures and Tables




1) Proof and Policy

2) Experimentation and Program Evaluation

3) Measurement

4) Measurement: Fit for Which Purposes?

5) Getting Better: The Use of Evidence in Practice

6) Research and Evidence in Government and Organizations

7) What Works, When, and How: Reflections, Observations, and Opinions


About the Author


Teachers - Request Exam Copy Introduction

Reviews & Endorsements:
“In education, policy makers and Practitioners look to social scientists and researchers to tell them ‘what works.’ While each of these professional specialties share the goal of improving educational outcomes, their working relationship is uneasy, and the resulting educational initiatives and interventions rarely deliver the promised results, and often have unintended, and even undesirable consequences.

Lingenfelter hopes to improve the situation by showing how evidence is used (and misused) in forming and applying educational policy, and by helping each of the professional specialties better understand each other’s needs, methods, capabilities, and concerns so, working together, they might become more successful.

Whether you are professionally involved in educational reform, or are just interested in a better understanding of the issues, “Proof,” Policy, & Practice has much to offer.”
- Technical Communications
“The interactions between policy making and research were once vividly described by scholars in a metaphor of dancing in the dark, where dancers do not completely see each other, the movements are complex, and the environment influences the flow of the dance. “Proof,” Policy, & Practice: Understanding the Role of Evidence in Improving Education by Paul E. Lingenfelter attempts to dismantle this black box and decode the complex dancing movements in a critical and reflective approach to analysis by disclosing the role of evidence in the interactions among research, policy, and practice.

[This] book is a thoughtful and critical analysis of the significant role of evidence in improving education policy and practice in situations filled with complexities. The text awakens the idealist believers of improvement science and confronts them with the harsh reality that, ‘no single program, no single policy, no simple pill-like interventions can solve complex problems of policy and practice’. It urges all scholars, policy makers, and practitioners to reflect on whether and how research evidence works to promote improvement. The key for seeking evidence is to be critical and the objective should be held for probing, rather than proving.”
- Teachers College Record