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Journal of Education (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

On-line version ISSN 2520-9868
Print version ISSN 0259-479X


SHALEM, Yael  and  DE CLERCQ, Francine. Randomized control trials in education (RCTs): What is their contribution to education theory about teaching?. Journal of Education [online]. 2022, n.89, pp.3-22. ISSN 2520-9868.

Random Controlled Trials (RCTs) have become one of the most sought-after approaches to impact evaluations of large-scale educational interventions in developed and developing countries. In this paper, we examine the contribution of RCT-based evaluations of large-scale early grade interventions to education theory about teaching. After a brief introduction of the development context of RCT-based evaluations, we examine the research model of RCTs in education and some of the knowledge claims made by RCT scholars, with specific attention to their claims about changing modes of teaching. We then introduce, briefly, five multi-pronged interventions to improve early grade reading in three developing countries (India, Kenya, and South Africa). Finally, we discuss two key educational ideas about teaching supported by these early grade interventions and locate them in education theory about teaching. Our argument is that these ideas about teaching are not new; they are debated by education researchers and because RCTs' evaluation research does not provide empirical analysis of these ideas, it cannot be integrated by teacher educators and education researchers into knowledge about teaching and teacher education and development. Teaching is not seen as an empirical object to be theorised by this massive growing research field. If collaboration and dialogue were to emerge between development economists, education researchers, and teacher educators, RCTs' findings of educational interventions could contribute to what is already known in educational theory about teaching.

Keywords : RCTs; large-scale interventions; teacher education and development; education theory; teacher knowledge about teaching.

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