Evidence-based practice refers to the use of research and scientific studies as a base for determining the best practices in a field. The movement began in the 1990s with a focus on the medical profession. It has since crossed the line to other professions, including education. The basic premise of the movement is to provide transparency and to assure the public that techniques and procedures will provide the best possible interventions or treatments.
Evidence-based practices eliminate subjective professional judgment when developing appropriate plans of action. In the medical field, this pertains to treatment and diagnostic options, while in education, it refers to teaching techniques, teacher training and evaluative assessments.
Evidence is readily available to the public via public research and studies, making it possible for patrons of the chosen service to assess whether the institution does indeed follow evidence-based practices geared toward bring about the desired results. Although accessing research and scientific studies is possible, assessing the results of those studies and their implications for practice may not be as simple a task as many would like to believe. Interpretation of the results often requires specialized knowledge in the field.
In education, adherence to evidence-based practice is required by the No Child Left Behind Act and must be used to develop programs, curriculum and teacher preparation courses to ensure that all students are provided opportunities to excel by using methods and practices proven to be effective.
Special Education Requirements
The Individual's with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) requires special education teachers to base their practices on evidence gathered via research. This research has been peer reviewed to verify that the practices used to remediate are based on evidence and not chosen for convenience or by personal preference.
Although evidence-based practices should provide the best possible options in both medical and educational settings, it negates the professional expertise of those trained to provide services. Circumstances may dictate changes or alterations that simply have not been researched or do not have enough evidence to validate the claims of expected success.
Research is often restricted to very narrow parameters, making it almost impossible to predict the results when one or more of the parameters set forth in the research is altered. In education, family background, community setting, socioeconomical status and individual differences in children can cause varying results. Underrepresented populations may not be part of the test groups and may not be reflected accurately in research. People could differ in age groups, coexisting health conditions or the likelihood of following prescribed medical plans, which may not be reflected in the research. In these cases, professional judgment must be exercised to develop the best and most effective plan of treatment.
Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.