Editor's Note - May 2021
Last year, as we all sought to understand the evolving news surrounding the SARS-CoV-2 virus, even the nonscience-minded among us became focused on research findings. Too often though, research results came to us in bits and pieces filtered through the media that lacked details about the data collection and limitations of the studies. At best the absence of this context makes it very difficult to apply a critical approach as a consumer of research, and at worst it can lead to drawing false conclusions from a handful of observations from a research study. Similarly, with increased emphasis on evidence-based practice, clinicians must be able to evaluate O&P studies they use to inform their patient care. This month we pull back the curtain to look at some of the underlying assumptions with which we approach research and education.
Numbers are generally thought of as concrete facts—there's nothing vague about them to question. So when research is presented in a quantitative format, challenging the conclusion is intimidating even if it does not ring true with experience. "Five Ways to Lie With Statistics—Or at Least Tell a Better Story" addresses this number bias and reveals how quantitative data does not always tell the whole story. Understanding common pitfalls in data presentation can help us be more critical consumers of research.
In education, particularly when geared toward professional training like the O&P master's programs, there is also a tendency to take instruction at face value. The assumption is that students are being taught facts and skills. However, like research, there is a sublayer in which students may learn an entirely different set of lessons. In "Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum," we learn about how the unintentional instruction imparted through modeled behavior, casual conversation, and professional interactions teaches students more about what it means to be a member of their chosen field than the explicit knowledge and skill training outlined in their formal curriculum. Speaking of which, check out "A Comparative Study of the 2020 Entrance Requirements for O&P Master's Programs," to learn how the new master's candidates are beginning their careers.
It is through questioning and challenging assumptions that we continue to gain knowledge. I hope you enjoy this issue focused on growing that knowledge in O&P through research and education.