When Can You Trust the Experts? How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education
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More About This Title When Can You Trust the Experts? How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education


Clear, easy principles to spot what's nonsense and what's reliable

Each year, teachers, administrators, and parents face a barrage of new education software, games, workbooks, and professional development programs purporting to be "based on the latest research." While some of these products are rooted in solid science, the research behind many others is grossly exaggerated. This new book, written by a top thought leader, helps everyday teachers, administrators, and family members—who don't have years of statistics courses under their belts—separate the wheat from the chaff and determine which new educational approaches are scientifically supported and worth adopting.

  • Author's first book, Why Don't Students Like School?, catapulted him to superstar status in the field of education
  • Willingham's work has been hailed as "brilliant analysis" by The Wall Street Journal and "a triumph" by The Washington Post
  • Author blogs for The Washington Post and Brittanica.com, and writes a column for American Educator

In this insightful book, thought leader and bestselling author Dan Willingham offers an easy, reliable way to discern which programs are scientifically supported and which are the equivalent of "educational snake oil."


Daniel T. Willingham is professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. His bestselling book, Why Don't Students Like School?, was hailed as "a triumph" by The Washington Post and "brilliant analysis" by The Wall Street Journal; it is recommended by scores of education-related magazines and blogs and is published in ten languages. Willingham writes a regular column called "Ask the Cognitive Scientist" for the American Federation of Teachers' magazine, American Educator.


About the Author  xi

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction: What Are You to Believe?  1

PART ONE Why We So Easily Believe Bad Science

CHAPTER 1 Why Smart People Believe Dumb Things 31

CHAPTER 2 Science and Belief: A Nervous Romance 57

CHAPTER 3 What Scientists Call Good Science 81

CHAPTER 4 How to Use Science 107

PART TWO The Shortcut Solution

CHAPTER 5 Step One: Strip It and Flip It 135

CHAPTER 6 Step Two: Trace It 167

CHAPTER 7 Step Three: Analyze It 183

CHAPTER 8 Step Four: Should I Do It? 207

Endnotes 223

Name Index 237

Subject Index 243


"Parents increasingly come face-to-face with important educational decisions that they feel ill prepared to make. Whether they are choosing among schools, math programs or early interventions for a learning disability, this book will help them figure out which options are backed by the best science. (Recommended)"—Scientific American

"By my bedtable is Dan Willingham's new book, When Can You Trust the Experts?... This is help we all can use, from one of the most sensible guys around."—John Merrow, The Huffington Post

"A brilliant new book... Willingham presents a 'short cut' to assessing the value of a given idea—a set of four steps that will be useful to anyone sizing up an unfamiliar concept.  I’ve read Willingham’s book and I recommend it highly!"—Annie Murphy Paul