Updated: Jan 2, 2018
As veteran educators, we have seen the “classroom practice pendulum” swing back and forth more than once, each time substituting one new idea or approach for another. Every pass of the pendulum, however, should raise the question: why aren’t districts and schools using practices that have already been proven to work?
Answers to this question are often attributed to administrative turnover, curriculum revisions, philosophical differences, trending viewpoints, or even new program development to support the latest education fad. Regardless of the reasons, there is a continued focus on the dissemination and use of evidence-based practices (EBPs).
In education, EBPs have been defined as “practices that are supported by multiple, high-quality studies that utilize research designs from which causality can be inferred and that demonstrate meaningful effects on student outcomes” (Cook & Cook, 2011, p. 73). When teachers use evidence-based practices with fidelity (i.e., as the developer intended), there is a greater likelihood that students will demonstrate higher achievement (Cook & Cook, 2011; Hattie, 2009).
This leads to the question: If evidence-based practices provide clear benefits to students, why do schools continue to hold on to the “anything goes approach?” The overall answer appears to be our tendency to believe that “new” is always better. Yet, experts argue that education suffers from being oversupplied with “new” programs and fails to nurture those practices supported by research.
Over the past several years, initiatives designed to locate, identify, validate and disseminate research-based practices such as the What Works Clearinghouse (www.ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc) have been created to assist educators in the understanding of programs, strategies, and interventions that have evidence to support their effectiveness. Another widely used resource comes from the work of John Hattie, who has synthesized over 800 meta-analyses related to student achievement and published several books based on the overarching theme of “visible teaching, visible learning”. Resources such as these provide a level of transparency, allowing educators to make informed decisions about the practices they employ.
In addition, the employment of a three-stage framework specific to the implementation of evidence-based practices that is aligned with the National Implementation Research Network (Education Development Center, 2013) can guide and support the adoption process at the system level through the establishment of a team of committed stakeholders within a school.
Equipped with credible resources and a framework for implementation, administrators and teachers will be fortified to embrace evidence-based practices that increase student achievement as an important component within a school/district culture. Certainly, a move in this direction is one way to reduce the pendulum swings that have been plaguing education for too long.
Cook, B., & Cook, S. (2011). Unraveling evidence-based practices in special education. Journal of Special Education, 47(2), 71-82, downloaded from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270669346_Unraveling_Evidence-Based_Practices_in_Special_Education on March 5, 2017.
Education Development Center (2013). A framework for effectively implementing evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs). Downloaded from http://www.promoteprevent.org/sites/www.promoteprevent.org/files/resources/Framework%20for%20Effectively%20Implementing%20Evidence-Based%20Programs_Practices%20(2).pdf on 3/6/17
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge: New York.
Karen Kemp is a Senior Staff Developer for the Program Evaluation and School Improvement Services Division at Measurement Incorporated.
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