EdSurge follow-up: Efficacy Versus Effectiveness

With a 700 word limit, I could not discuss all the aspects of effectiveness research that I would have liked in this week's post on EdSurge. Somewhat low on that list but still important and interesting (if only to me) is why I chose to describe what AEM does as "effectiveness" research, rather than the more common "efficacy" research. Both terms come from medical research. The NIH defines efficacy research as that which measures "whether an intervention produces the expected result under ideal circumstances." Effectiveness research "measures  the degree of beneficial effect under 'real world' clinical settings."

Because I urge companies to consider less costly methods that fall short of the randomized controlled trial gold standard, I thought it more appropriate to label the approach as effectiveness research, even if that decision sacrificed page views. Besides, the medical community would probably regard even the most rigorous contemporary tests of program effects in education research as effectiveness research, rather than efficacy. Education researchers simply are not or have not been able to achieve the level of control that medical research demands to claim the efficacy standard.

Semantics aside, champions of efficacy research in education, we stand as one, never to be divided! One of the best things to come out of the article thus far has been discovering other people and organizations who are talking about the same issues. They include Harvard's Tom Kane, who talked with NPR about these same issues in much greater depth, and Pearson, whose first efforts at institutionalizing efficacy and effectiveness research are ambitious, still developing, but still impressive.

Elizabeth Sobka