Re: ME: Using control groups methodology is not THE science

From: Eugene Matusov
Submit: Post Message
Date: 29 Oct 1996
Time: 23:40:33


Hi Scott--

You wrote, "I haven't read the "Personal Empowerment" article yet (I will in a few hours), but I noticed that in the "Computers and Cultural Diversity" article it is mentioned that the results of the program discussed are subjective because of the lack of a control group. I've noticed this problem (a lack of comparison to traditional methods of education) with all of the material we have gone over in class, the argument being that it is against the principles of the cooperative learning environments to test the children. "

It seems to me that you equate a specific research method (and conceptual framework) with scientific method in general. If it is true I want to caution you against that approach.

The notion of "control group" comes from a specific methodology and conceptual framework that considers specifically designed "interventions" and "treatments." The question that this methodology and conceptual framework ask is what consequences of such "treatment" is if everything else is kept equal but the "treatment".

Recently in social sciences, there is growing critisism of such methodology (and the conceptual framework behind it) as universally scientific. Let me bring several lpoints of the critisism:

1) Not all questions in social sciences are about "treatment." In many cases people do things the way they do not because they choose to do them (by having alternative not to do them or other alternative) but because this way is dictated the their culture or institutions.

2) In many cases there are no such thing as "equal groups but treatment."

3) Testing, research methods, and measurements are not target culture- or paradigm-free.

4) There is growing consensus among social scientists that the purpose of research is to increase or descrease validity of some statements rather than uncover the truth.

Let me know if you want to expand.