Monday, January 25, 2010


I have fully embraced the on-line search abilities of contemporary research.  I love being able to sit in my comfy chair and find loads of articles and books.  The one difficulty, however, is finding the key to unlock the vault and find all that's been written on a subject.  That elusive keyword for the Boolean search.

I imagine that all of academia is a huge flow chart with different little pockets of discussion.  I also imagine that what I'm interested in and reading about is already being discussed (or has been discussed and put into the past) by all who are in the know (of whom I am not one).  However, I never find that little pocket because I don't know the right keyword. 

So, imagine my delight at having come across the key words for my interest in architecture "evidence-based design."  Very, very exciting. 

But, now this adjectival phrase  "evidence-based' leaves me a bit baffled.  As a descriptor, "evidence-based" became popular when teamed up with medicine and has made its way into teaching (the conference I'm going to in a couple week is about 'Evidence-Based Teaching").  But what is it contrasted with?  Seriously.  Was medicine not evidence based before?  Were they just really lucky with all those vaccines, surgeries, etc? 

I know that the call for evidence-based behavior has, in fact, changed disciplines and made attention to evidence (or at least the request for it) more commonplace, suggesting that, in fact, we didn't use evidence before.  But how weird is it that we didn't use evidence before?  I know that with teaching some folks continue to resist the need for evidence believing themselves experts at teaching because they learned and think that the request for evidence is just insulting.  Clearly, it isn't that we were just doing things with no reason; we must have had some reason for our behavior (whether teaching or practicing medicine) but it didn't meet the criteria of being evidence.  So, what was it?  Intuition?  Self-proclaimed expertise? 

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