Thursday, 11 February 2010

Paula Rothermel and Deborah Durbin; a couple of puzzling points

In Chapter 3 of her book on home education, Deborah Durbin collaborated with Paula Rothermel for a section about recent research. Since this was done with Dr. Rothermel's cooperation, it is reasonable to assume that she stands by all that was said there. The second paragraph states;

"In 2002, Paula Rothermel at the University of Durham set about exploring the aims and practices of home-educating families from different social backgrounds in the UK"

I cannot help but wonder in what sense Paula Rothermel, "Set about exploring the aims and practices..." in 2002. By that year, the work had been completed. As early as 1998, Dr Rothermel was delivering a paper at Exeter which gave chapter and verse of the PIPS assessments and NLP tests. It is true that her thesis was not actually published until 2002, but that is a little different from that being the year that she, "Set about exploring" ! The most likely explanation is that any work from before the turn of the millennium is starting to look a little elderly now. By claiming that she "Set about exploring" in 2002, it makes the whole thing look a little more modern and up to date.

Even more curiously, Dr. Rothermel introduces herself by writing of, "the findings by me, Educational Psychologist Dr Rothermel of the University of Durham". Now most people would take that as meaning that she was actually working for Durham University. According to the Human Resources department at the university though, Dr Rothermel stopped working there in 2006. The piece in the book for Deborah Durbin is marked as being copyrighted for Paula Rothermel in 2008. Was she actually "Dr Rothermel of the University of Durham" at that time? More research needed there.

This may well seem to dedicated home educators as mere nitpicking. However, when a particular piece of research is as extensively quoted as the 1997/1998 work in this case, it is vital that both it and it's author are examined closely before making any judgement upon the validity of the findings.


  1. Although I do agree with you about the need for more research and I also do have some concern about research which is based largely on parental testing/completion of surveys etc, I do thing you are nit picking about "the ...of the University of Durham bit..." Funnily enough my first degree is from the University of Durham and whilst I would never claim to be "JB of the University of anywhere" it is probably not a capital offence and it is technically true because her doctorate is of my alma mater.

  2. As usual Julie, you are quite right about this, at least from a technical viewpoint! I suspect though that most readers would have thought that "Dr Smith of Oxford University" meant that the fellow was actually working at Oxford. You are right; it's not a hanging matter. Perhaps I am a little irritated at somebody trying to lean on me and it is making me point out stuff that I wouldn't normally bother with.

  3. Thank you for bringing some publicity to my book, Simon, even if it is slightly nit-picking. The reason Dr Rothermel's study was included in the book was to highlight some of the benefits of home educating a child, not to disect when Dr Rothermel carried out her study. If this is your only concern then I am a happy author:)