How can education professionals identify and select evidence-based practices or programs?
Page 3: Considerations When Identifying or Selecting an EBP
Now that you know what an EBP is and how it could benefit you and your students, you are ready to identify and select one to use in your classroom. To begin the identification and selection process, you need to know what type of practice or program you are looking for (e.g., one that addresses social-emotional development, behavior, reading skills). More specifically, you need to identify the skill or behavior you want to address (e.g., overall reading achievement, reading fluency). Once you have identified the skill or behavior you want to address, you must choose a practice or program that is right for you. You need to consider:
- Students and setting
- Evidence level
Students and Setting
You need to take into account the unique characteristics of the children and families or students you are working with and the setting in which the practice or program will be implemented. For example, a third-grade teacher might be looking for a math or reading program for her grade level. On the other hand, a high school social studies teacher might be looking for a practice that will improve his students’ reading comprehension. The closer you can match a practice or program to your students’ needs, the greater the possibility it will lead to the desired outcome. Below are some questions to consider when trying to identify an EBP.
- Does the practice or program address skills I’m interested in? Are the outcomes the same ones I am interested in?
- Are the research study participants comparable to my students (e.g., age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, demographic location)? Were subgroups, such as children with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs) included in the sample and part of the analysis?
- Is the research setting(s) similar to my instructional setting?
- Is the practice or program aligned with my state and district standards?
- Were conditions in the research similar to the ones in my setting? For instance, a study evaluating the effectiveness of a reading intervention conducted in classrooms using a collaborative teaching model may or may not reflect the conditions and resources that exist in your school.
It may not be possible to find a practice or program that exactly matches your student and setting characteristics. If this is the case, you should identify a practice or program that matches as many characteristics as possible. For example, if the goal is to increase reading achievement scores among elementary ELLs, you should identify a practice or program shown to be effective with these students. However, if you cannot identify a relevant EBP, you might select a reading practice shown to be effective with typically developing elementary students as well as those with disabilities, but for which research has not been conducted yet with ELLs.
For Your Information
When identifying and selecting an EBP, educators should consider collaborating or seeking the support of their peers, such as another teacher or a grade-level planning team. Support could include helping you research an EBP or sharing the costs associated with an EBP.
Implementing any new practice or program requires resources: time, costs, and training resources. As you might expect, some require more, some less. Below are some guiding questions, developed by the U.S. Department of Education, relevant to figuring out what resources are required to implement an EBP.
- How much time will it take to implement? Will I have to adjust my schedule?
- Are there costs associated with the practice or program?
- What is included with the program?
- Teacher and student materials?
- Training materials?
- Other resources (e.g., assessments, fidelity checklist)?
- What kind of training is required to implement the practice or program?
For Your Information
Just because a practice or program is deemed evidence-based does not guarantee that it will be effective for every student.
For many skills and behaviors, no EBP has yet been identified. In these cases, you need to choose a practice or program with the strongest available evidence. Because reviewing the research literature is a difficult and time-intensive task, a good way to investigate the evidence level of practices or programs is to consult a number of “trusted sources.” These organizations and agencies conduct a literature review and either summarize the research or indicate the level of evidence that exists for a given practice or program. Each organization has its own rating system, so you need to become familiar with the way each of them evaluates the available research (e.g., What Works Clearinghouse rates programs or practices with strong evidence as “++”, whereas Best Evidence Encyclopedia rates them with a completely filled in hexagon ).
Listen as Larry Wexler and Tom Kratochwill raise additional considerations related to matching student characteristics, setting, resources, and level of evidence of a practice or program to your needs.
Larry Wexler, PhD
Director, Research to Practice Division
Office of Special Education Programs
US Department of Education
Tom Kratochwill, PhD
Professor, Educational Psychology
Co-PI, Project PRIME
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ms. McAdory, a fourth-grade general education teacher in a suburban school setting, is concerned about the reading comprehension skills of a number of her students, including some with disabilities and English language learners. She wants to find an EBP to address this issue. Ms. McAdory visits the websites of several trusted organizations and records her findings on a comparison worksheet.
- Click here to review her completed worksheet. To assist you with this activity, a column containing information about Ms. McAdory’s students and resources has been included on this worksheet.
- Based on the information recorded on the worksheet, which program do you think Ms. McAdory should select? Justify your answer.
Bryan Cook shares his thoughts on what practice Ms. McAdory should consider. (time: 1:56).
Bryan Cook, PhD
Professor, Special Education
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
The next several pages present lists of “trusted sources” for various age groups: birth to three, three to five, and five to twenty-one. Proceed to the page(s) that pertain to the age group(s) with which you will be working.