Thursday, 9 June 2016


Relative importance of outcome research

This morning I have had reason to look through to look through a document that I wrote nearly ten tears ago, in 2006-7. It has been published on line and in full (free and open-access) on Conduction's Document Depository since 2011:

I have written a lot over the years on the sheer wrongness of so much of the academic research on CE around the world, most of it comprising surveys and outcome evaluations rather than the sort of critical theoretised work expected of academic research and enquiry nowadays in social science and educational research

Much of what I have written on this has been here in the pages of Conductive World. This report, though, was commissioned by the Norwegian Conductive Forum:

As far as I know there have been no general developments in the practice of researching CE over the last ten years. There is of course important roles for empirical outcome studies but only of nested among other approaches which could potentially affect not just how their findings are understood but also, very importantly, how they themselves are constructed.

If I were to write a similar document nowadays, not only would it be shorter, it would also be more critical, with especial attention to an important additional factor.

I would point out that the world is beginning to change. People are perhaps starting to acknowledge that, particularly though not exclusively outside the natural and medical science, the results of 'research' are not the only basis for policy- and decision-making in the real world – nor even the primary basis. Values, particularly 'rights', may be more important, and of course politics (macro- and micro-), and always money.

When it comes down to it, national decision-makers are not terribly interested in the findings of 'barmy boffins'. Politicians, officials and opinion-formers make their own judgements according to other factors. Boil it down and decisions and policies are as likely decided more on something like is suggested in this formula:

(Acceptable meme)   x   (Political considerations)


Earlier this year Conductive World reported on two important national policy developments:
  • the recent law in Sweden that makes choice of rehabilitation approach a matter of personal and parental choice
  • the intense political activity in Luxembourg that had forced CE back on to the Education Ministry's continuing budget.
In neither case was there any mention of 'research'.

Both Sweden's and Luxembourg's cases the countries involved are exceptionally prosperous, may almost remove the lower line from the discussion.

I cannot imagine a more progressive social welfare system – nor a country that funds its CE more generously within its own way of doing things so than does Norway. Ten years or so ago, however, the Norwegian Forum wanted something on' research'. Perhaps it would not now.

There were many factors contributing to CE's successful incorporation into the Norwegian national system of habilitation. I would like to think that just perhaps this report did made a small substantive contribution in that context and at the time. Or perhaps it was no more than window-dressing (often a valuable function of research for policy-makers in itself) and PTØ thrives and develops in the state's Rehabilitation Service for the reasons in the upper line.

Perhaps others will find use for it of some sort elsewhere – and there may always be reason to keep refreshing that window-display.


Sutton, A. (2016) Sweden – general progress, Conductive World, 29 February

Sutton, A. (2016) Luxembourg – result: and a model for others, Conductive World, 12 May

Sutton, A. (2007) CE-related research: a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk, 2007, Conductive Depository (posted on line: October 2011)

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