1. Evidence-Based Practice in Education

Window looking out.

In connection with IDEA 2004, and with various clinical and educational specialties, we have heard often about the need for “evidence-based practice”- EBP. In this blog it’s been alluded to without comment, but with a sense it is a good idea! This seems to be what the U. S. Congress and the U. S. Department of Education came close to saying when they set up IDEA 2004. Hence, reading programs, preschool programs, and RTI are talked about in the context of “evidence-based practice.” Sometimes they are mentioned with respect to reducing the number of U. S. school children placed in special education.

There is a risk, if evidence-based programs falter, school personnel will have an excuse to over-identify “struggling students” for special education placement.

We prefer “Empirical Education.” Talking about “evidence” is messy. Doctoral students in philosophy of science have disappeared from the planet trying to write dissertations on the topic. The essential advice medical, educational and behavioral scientists want to give us is this: Try using some kind of scientific methodology to prove your treatments are “efficient and effective.” Try controlled observations and comparisons over time, or the use of methods that have already been tested experimentally.

Beyond education, EBP has swept across many fields with high authority and urgency! EBP is attributed to the early 1970s writings of Archie Cochrane, writing about science applications to the problems of “Effectiveness and Efficiency” in the British health care system. Medical practices historically have been based on authority, experience, training and tradition. With the growth of “behaviorism” and “experimental research” in the 1970s, new tools for evaluating treatment outcomes became available.

The Cochrane Collaboration is a current organization exploring the full range of EBP solutions across disciplines:

“Our contributors work together to produce systematic assessments of healthcare interventions, known as Cochrane Reviews, which are published online in The Cochrane Library. Cochrane Reviews are intended to help providers, practitioners and patients make informed decisions about health care, and are the most comprehensive, reliable and relevant source of evidence on which to base these decisions.”

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