Is the Scientific and Engineering Approach to Education Doing More Harm Than Good?

By Steve Eskow
Editor, Hybrid vs. Virtual Issues

[Note: Earlier today (4 Sep. 2010), Steve Eskow posted the comment below in the ongoing discussion on William H. Zaggle‘s Educational Engineers: The Missing Link in Innovation. -js]

If one looks carefully at the last 60 years of educational history, isn’t it possible to conclude that the ideology of education as a science and engineering as the development of the tools to implement the findings of educational science and measure its results have indeed found their way into mainstream practice and that Charters and Anderson (see Zaggle’s article) were successful as prophets and preachers?

Schools and colleges have instructional “designers.” They insist on teaching faculty to begin such “design” by listing their “measurable objectives” (“objectives” have to be “measurable”).

“Assessment” is now a commonplace of educational jargon. And “assessment ” often – usually – means such “objective” techniques as multiple choice questions.

Is it possible to argue that the attempt to create a science and engineering approach to education have done little good and much harm?

[Note: In an email exchange a few hours later re his comment above, Steve said, “Jim, your note prompted me to look for and, surprise, find my copy of a 1962 book by Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency. See if you can find a copy somewhere. Chapter 2  is titled “Reform-Conscious America Discovers the Efficiency Expert,” and it is all about the importation of Taylor’s “Scientific Management” into the American classroom. Steve.  -js]