Evidence-Based Practices: Volume 26


Table of contents

(17 chapters)

The gap between research and practice in special education places an artificial ceiling on the achievement of students with learning and behavioral disabilities. Evidence-based practices (EBPs) are instructional practices shown by bodies of sound research to be generally effective. They represent a possible means to address the research-to-practice gap by identifying, and subsequently implementing, the most effective instructional practices on the basis of reliable, scientific research. In this chapter, we provide a context for the subsequent chapters in this volume by (a) defining and describing EBPs, (b) recognizing some of important limitations to EBPs, (c) introducing a number of ongoing issues related to EBPs in the field of learning and behavioral disabilities that are addressed by chapter authors in this volume, and (d) briefly considering a few emerging issues related to EBPs that we believe will become increasingly prominent in the near future.

Special educators make countless decisions regarding services for students with disabilities. The evidence-based practice movement in education encourages those decisions be informed by the best available evidence, professional judgment, and client values and context. In this chapter we argue that while evidence is the best basis for making decisions it is imperfect and uncertainty about the evidence-base for decisions will always exist. We outline three classes of evidence and the sources of uncertainty for each. Finally, we describe a framework for integrating these different sources of evidence as a means for increasing confidence in evidence-based decisions.

Systematic reviews – that is, research reviews that are rigorous and follow scientific methods – are increasingly important for assisting stakeholders in implementing evidence-based decision making for children and adults with disabilities. Yet, systematic reviews vary greatly in quality and are therefore not a panacea. Distinguishing “good” reviews from “bad” reviews requires time and skills related to the appraisal of systematic reviews. The purpose of this chapter is to inform stakeholders (i.e., practitioners, administrators, policy makers) of evidence-based information sources that provide synopses (i.e., appraisals) of systematic reviews, to provide guidance in reading and interpreting the synopses of various sources, and to propose how to make sense of multiple synopses from different sources for the same systematic review. A secondary purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how stakeholders can conduct their own appraisals if synopses are not available.

The contemporary focus on high fidelity implementation of research-based practices often creates tensions for educators who seek to balance fidelity with needed flexibility as they strive to improve learner outcomes. In an effort to improve how decisions are made such that flexibility is achieved while fidelity to core components is maintained, this chapter begins with a discussion of the role of fidelity in research and practice. Particular attention is given to current conceptualizations of fidelity that may help inform theoretically and empirically driven adaptations to research-based practices. Specifically, we describe adaptations based on the instructional context for implementation and the characteristics of the individual learners. A framework for adapting research-based practices is then presented with relevant examples from research designed to optimize learner responsiveness without sacrificing fidelity to core components. The chapter ends with implications and future directions for research and practice.

This chapter covers the conceptual framework and presents practical guidelines for using single-case research (SCR) methods to determine evidence-based treatments. We posit that SCR designs contribute compelling evidence to the knowledge base that is distinct from group design research. When effect sizes are calculated SCR can serve as a reliable indicator of how much behavior change occurs with an intervention in applied settings. Strong SCR design can determine functional relationships and effect sizes with confidence intervals can represent the size and the certainty of the results in a standardized manner. Thus, SCR is unique in retaining data about the individual and individual effects, while also providing data that can be aggregated to identify evidence-based treatments and examine moderator variables.

Evidence-based practice (EBP) can have a powerful impact on school-aged children. Yet this impact may not be realized if classroom teachers do not use empirically supported interventions and/or fail to include the best research available when they make important educational decisions about children. Whether classroom teachers use EBP may be influenced, in part, by what they learned or failed to learn in their preservice preparation programs. This chapter describes recent efforts to assess preservice teachers’ understanding and use of empirically supported interventions and provides four examples of how such practices were taught to preservice general educators in a small, regional teacher preparation program. We discuss four contemporary educational reform movements (i.e., federal policies mandating EBP, state-level policies linking growth in pupil learning to teacher evaluation, clinically rich teacher preparation, and the emergence of a practice-based evidence approach) that should increase interest and use of EBP in teacher education and offer recommendations for how teacher educators might infuse EBP into their traditional teaching, research, and service functions in higher education.

In this chapter we consider the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act’s (IDEA 2004) provision that requires that students’ special education services in their individualized education programs be based on peer-reviewed research (PRR). We begin by reviewing federal legislation (i.e., Educational Sciences Reform Act, 2002, IDEA 2004; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001; Reading Excellence Act, 1998), which influenced the PRR principle and eventually the PRR language in IDEA. Next, we examine the US Department of Education’s interpretation of PRR in IDEA 2004 and review administrative hearings and court cases that have further clarified the PRR requirement. Finally, we make recommendations for teachers and administrators working to meet the PRR requirement when developing intervention plans for students with disabilities.

A translation framework and associated processes and activities for bridging the research-to-practice gap in early childhood intervention are described. Translational processes and activities include methods and procedures for identifying evidence-based practices, translating findings from research evidence into early childhood intervention procedures, and promoting practitioners’ and parents’ routine use of the practices. The framework includes four interrelated processes and activities. Type 1 translation uses research findings to develop evidence-based practices. Type 2 translation involves the use of evidence-based professional development (implementation) practices to promote practitioners’ and parents’ use of evidence-based early childhood intervention practices. Type 3 translation includes activities to evaluate whether the use of evidence-based practices as part of routine early intervention have expected benefits and outcomes. Type 4 translation includes activities for the dissemination, diffusion, and promotion of broad-based adoption and use of evidence-based practices. Examples of each type of translation are described as are implications for practice.

Identification, implementation, and ongoing evaluation of scientifically supported and effective-practice methods are fundamental and crucial elements of an effective educational program for all children and youth, including learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). To be sure, there is an unambiguous link between use of interventions and supports that have empirically supported merit and positive school and post-school outcomes. This chapter examines progress in the wide-scale adoption of evidence-based methods with learners with ASD. We also offer recommendations for advancing effective-practice initiatives and discuss trends and themes connected to effective-practice use with students with ASD.

Evidence-based practices have been shown to meaningfully improve learner outcomes by bodies of high-quality research studies and should therefore be prioritized for use in schools, especially with struggling learners such as students with learning disabilities. Although many resources are available on the internet with information about evidence-based practices, the magnitude and technical nature of the websites are often overwhelming to practitioners and are therefore not frequently used as part of the instructional decision-making process. In this chapter, we aim to provide a “one stop shopping experience” for readers interested in evidence-based practices for students with learning disabilities by reviewing five relevant website. Specifically, for each website we review (a) the procedures used to classify the evidence-based status of practices, (b) the classification scheme used to indicate the level of research support for practices, and (c) the practices reviewed for students with learning disabilities and their evidence-based classification. We conclude with a discussion of issues related to interpreting and applying information on evidence-based practices from these websites.

Given the complex and chronic nature of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), the search for and use of evidence-based practices may be hindered by the way we frame questions of what works. Instead of asking “what works in EBD?” – a question that is framed around an eligibility category and not specific behavioral and academic needs – we argue that the question should be contextualized around the targets of intervention. With the right question in mind – “what works for addressing this problem?” professionals in the field must reach consensus on ways to evaluate the current knowledge base and provide guidelines for future research to answer the question. Interventions that address specific behavioral and academic needs, are simple to implement, explicit in their execution, and predictable in their outcomes are most likely to be useful to teachers and to contribute to an evidence base for EBD.

This chapter examines evidence-based practice in the Australian education system, with particular reference to special education. Initially a brief overview of the Australian education system will be provided, followed by consideration of the incorporation of the concept of evidence-based practice into Australian educational policy at both national and state level. Subsequently, Australian teacher registration and teacher education program accreditation standards will be examined with regard to the adoption of evidence-based practice. We then describe the use of evidence-based practices in teacher education programs, particularly in the area of classroom and behavior management and in special education/inclusion subjects. We will overview several research studies to illustrate the degree of penetration of the concept of evidence-based practice into educational systems and teaching practice. Although we found little evidence of a commitment to evidence-based practice in Australian education systems beyond rhetoric, we are cautiously optimistic that increasing emphasis will be given to the use of empirical evidence in the future.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN