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Why "What Works” Still Doesn’t Work: How to Improve Research Syntheses at the What Works Clearinghouse

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 87, No. 4

Chad Lykins, University of Hong Kong


The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) aims to synthesize and disseminate the results of high-quality education research on areas of significant public interest. The WWC has come to serve as a concrete example of the growing willingness of the federal government to shape both the topic and methods chosen by researchers. However, the scope of research included in the WWC research synthesis is rather narrow, omitting a large number of studies on methodological grounds. This article reviews current WWC standards and argues that the scope of research used in WWC reports should be broadened in two ways. First, the research should include a wider range of scientific studies. Second, it should include conceptual and theoretical research, which often originates from humanities and arts-based disciplines.


Chad Lykins is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on comparative and international education policy and philosophy of social science. In addition to examining education research policy, his current projects involve investigations on the influence of private supplementary tutoring on educational access and equality in Asia and a study of the relationship between social science and public policy.