Education research rarely rewards failed or inconclusive studies. Research that doesn’t turn out as planned simply never sees the light of day. But does that mean there are no lessons to been gleaned from them? That question is at the heart of School of Education Professor Hunter Gehlbach’s focus on open science — a new approach to scientific process and publication that emphasizes transparency in addition to significance of results.
He says that the journals’ desire to publish only studies with “significant” outcomes compromises the scientific process, often encouraging researchers to “torture data until it tells you what you want to hear.” But, Gehlbach says, in most cases a failed or inconclusive study can be just as valuable as one showing positive results. That is, demonstrating what doesn’t work is just as important as proving what does. The consequence of this overemphasis on “significance” is education policies based on flawed science. Usually, it’s the learners who suffer. Science’s responsibility is to reflect the real world.
The remedy is transparency. Gehlbach and colleagues are leading a field-wide charge to bring open science to education research. They have published guidelines to help researchers and publishers bring greater transparency to the process. Recommendations include public preregistration of methods and hypotheses, pre-print of working drafts, publication of rejected papers—and, yes, publication of null results—as well as the rewarding of replication studies to verify outcomes.
Open data. Open code. Open materials. Open science. That’s the bold idea, Gehlbach says. Educators, administrators — and learners — everywhere stand to gain.
The desire to publish what’s ‘sexy’ is too strong. The journals want to publish, and the researchers want data that is publishable. It leads to the publication of ‘illusory results’.
Hunter Gehlbach, PhD
WHY EDUCATION RESEARCH DEMANDS OPEN SCIENCE
Like other sciences from medicine to physics, education research is amidst a period of soul-searching about its publication protocols. With so much riding on transparency and rigor in the evidence, three Hopkins researchers are leading a growing call for “open science” in education.
EDUCATION IN FOCUS
In assessing the pandemic’s broad impact to learning, Hunter Gehlbach, Johns Hopkins School of Education Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, draws attention to what he deems to be the three prerequisites for learning: a sense of social connection at school, the motivation to learn, and the self-regulation skills necessary to stay focused on tasks. “All three became much harder in remote schooling,” Gehlbach says.
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS … AND MORE
Vice Dean Hunter Gehlbach’s new paper demonstrates how photographs of nature and wildlife bolster the value viewers place on biodiversity and spur more of them to donate to nature-focused charities.
RENEWED INTEREST IN SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Research from the School of Education’s Hunter Gehlbach and doctoral candidate Claire Chuter says there is a clear link between the switch to remote learning and increased interest in “social emotional learning.” But, before any progress can be made, educators will have to agree on what “social emotional learning” means.
OPENING UP SCIENCE TO SKEPTICS
Johns Hopkins School of Education Professor Hunter Gehlbach and colleague Rohan R. Arcot reflect on the challenges and opportunities of sharing the scientific process with “a qualified skeptic” among the lay public.
At the Johns Hopkins School of Education, our research builds on evidence in new and dynamic ways to bring practical, scalable ideas to education’s foremost challenges.