What is an evidence-based practice or program (EBP)?
Page 2: Why Educators Should Use EBPs
The reasons why educational professionals should use EBPs are similar to why doctors use EBPs to treat a medical condition. Imagine, for example, you learn from your doctor that you have a deadly disease. Your doctor tells you that you must begin a course of treatment immediately. Which treatment would you choose?
Has been subjected to a great deal of rigorous research
Worked for most people, most of the time
Is rated as very effective
Has been used in one or two research studies
Supported by a few anecdotal reports
Is rated as moderately effective
Naturally, most people would choose Treatment A because there is scientific evidence that it works, as opposed to only anecdotal evidence for its effectiveness. Given the choice between a practice or a program that is evidence based and one that is not, the clear choice is to implement the evidence-based program or practice.
Federal education law originally enacted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This law now mandates the use of academic and behavioral evidence-based practices. When this act was reauthorized in 2001, it was referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2015 and went into effect in the 2017–2018 school year.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Name given in 1990 to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and used for all reauthorizations of the law that guarantees students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment.
scientifically based research
Research that uses a rigorous and systematic design and high-quality data analyses, and that is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Despite the mandates to use EBPs, educators often remain wary of adopting them. Their skepticism might be justified by experience. For example, at one time or another educators might have encountered a new program promoted as a surefire way to improve student outcomes but that proved to be just another passing fad or that did not live up to its claims or that simply did not work for many students. Despite such past experiences, however, educators should rest assured that an EPB has been demonstrated through high-quality research to be effective. As such, it is not a fad that might or might not work.
Another concern some educators have is that the implementation of a new practice or program will require excessive time and resources. Although this is true in some instances, it is not always the case. Even in those instances when it is true, educators might consider it worthwhile to devote the necessary time, effort, and resources when they take into account the benefits that EBPs can offer.
Among the benefits of implementing EBPs for educators and students are:
An increased likelihood of positive child or student outcomes
Increased accountability because there are data to back up the selection of a practice or program, which in turn facilitates support from administrators, parents, and others
Less wasted time and fewer wasted resources because educators start off with an effective practice or program and are not forced to find one that works through trial and error
An increased likelihood of being responsive to learners’ needs
A greater likelihood of convincing students to try it because there is evidence that it works
Listen as Larry Wexler and Bryan Cook elaborate on the importance and benefits of using an evidence-based practice.
Larry Wexler, PhD Director, Research to Practice Division Office of Special Education Programs US Department of Education
It’s important for teachers to use evidence-based practices and programs mainly because they work. The whole point of using a research-based or an evidence-based practice is you know that there is research behind it that demonstrates that it will, in fact, be an effective intervention. Let me give you an example of something. When I first started teaching, there was a movement to go to open-spaced classrooms. And if you’ve ever been in an open-space building, what it basically was a school without walls. And so you had these large spaces with hundreds of children in the space divided into classes, and the theory was that somehow that was going to promote positive interaction. It was a complete debacle. Teachers started putting up barriers and portable walls in order to get some control over their classes. There was absolutely no evidence-base to say that open-space was an effective way of working with children. Yet school districts spent millions upon millions of dollars designing buildings that were open-space. It’s the same thing with any instructional practice. If there’s an evidence-base then it’s likely that it’s going to work.
Transcript: Bryan Cook, PhD
The benefits of evidence-based practices are many. I first want to give a disclaimer and say that they’re not a panacea. They’re not guaranteed to work for everyone, and they aren’t easy to implement with fidelity and implement over time. If they were easy, we’d be doing them already. That being said, I think it’s our professional duty as educators to use what is most likely to bring about improved student outcomes. And if you believe, as I do and most educators do, that multiple high-quality experimental research studies are the best way, the most reliable way, to determine whether something works then evidence-based practices just give you the best bet that a practice will work.
I have made the analogy to making a bet. Why would you make a 50/50 bet? Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t work. Kind of like a flip of a coin, when an evidence-based practice represents about a 90/10 bet. You’ve got a 90 percent chance of the intervention or the practice or the program working and only a 10 percent chance of it not working. The primary benefit then is that it’s more likely to pay off in terms of improved student outcomes than using practices that aren’t evidence-based. But I think there are other benefits as well. There are benefits to the teacher in terms of feeling good about the instruction that you provide as a professional, and that you’re engaging with the research, and that you’re not wasting time just going from practice to practice more or less randomly hoping that something’s going to work, but you’re putting in the work up front to identify evidence-based practices, and that’s going to pay off in the long run in terms of saving time and being more efficient in your practice.
And I think this also impacts school culture. If we can start to get people identifying and implementing evidence-based practices and supporting each other and talking to each other about using evidence-based practices, that becomes the school culture. And so, as new teachers come in, they become enculturated into that norm of highly effective practices, which then really kind of changes the game about how schools and other educational settings work. So I think there’s lots of different benefits to implementing and using evidence-based practices.