Wilful Blindness

I was in a meeting recently about teaching, and as usual, I ended up chanting my line about what the evidence says about teaching this particular subject (statistics). One of the other lecturers said something that I have heard too many times. She said something like “I don’t care what the evidence says, I already know how I want to do it“. A few months earlier I was talking to someone about proposed changes to the procedures and penalties to deal with plagiarism, and asked the same question, receiving the same response. It seems to happen every few months, that as I ask if the evidence has been considered I am told that, essentially, it doesn’t matter what the evidence says, this is the way¬†we have decided to do whatever.

These examples that I can think of are only the examples that the disregarding of evidence has been made explicit, often, there is no explicit statement, simply a disregarding of the evidence.

The most recent incident made me think about our attitudes toward evidence in general. I work in a research intensive department (ranked 50th in the world for research), and regularly rub shoulders with highly regarded researchers. What I began to wonder is, if some of these same people can so quickly and easily dismiss evidence about teaching and learning, how do they react to evidence that does not fully support their theoretical stance in their particular area of expertise. Do they simply dismiss evidence there as well?

I can’t help but have my faith in their scientific objectivity shaken by these interactions that take place year after year.