The terms evidence-based instruction, research-based instruction, and scientifically based instruction are often used interchangeably. What is the basic meaning of such terms and the approach to instructional practices and interventions advocated in their name?
The terms evidence-based, research-based, and scientifically based are used interchangeably in the field of education. At the most fundamental level, these terms are meant to indicate that formal research has been conducted on a particular methodology, technique, or approach. Generally, an assumption prevails that the research conducted is grounded in a positivist or an empirical tradition that is, by its very nature, a theory building endeavor. The attributes associated with an evidence-based practice include, reliability, validity, trustworthiness, and replicability.
Moreover, there is an implicit understanding that the approach can be generalized to populations outside the original research, and that similar outcomes can be anticipated when the recommended and researched techniques or methods are conducted with fidelity. This is the aspect of evidence-based practices that enable application of the theory and findings to a real-life setting. For educators, this means that an instructional program or set of educational practices will have been tested in similar populations and will have been found to be successful in those replications.
Using common terminology that draws on the research lexicon, educators would expect the evidence in a research-based program or practice to be: Reliable, valid, systematic, and juried. For data to be reliable, it must be sufficiently objective to support the same levels of identification and equivalent interpretation by anyone evaluating the data. Similarly, data would be consistent, remaining essentially the same when collected by different people or collected on a different day or time period. Evidence-based programs would be based on data that is valid in that it accurately represents the work that other students will need to complete in order to be successful in the program or given the practices. Evidence-based data will have been systematically collected according to a robust research design and analyzed with sufficiently rigorous methods. Finally, evidence-based data will have been subjected to review by a panel of independent professional peers of the principle investigators (juried), signaling approval for publication.
2. What did you learn in the program you are now completing, including in student teaching, about specific evidence-based methods of instruction and intervention? What types of education courses can be most helpful in this regard?
Implementation is key to the success of an evidence-based method of instruction or intervention. Programs don't jump off the shelves and into the minds of students. Thoughtful implementation that is characterized by a high degree of fidelity is the avenue to successful application of proven research-based programs. Before implanting a program or adopting particular practices, two important considerations require attention: 1) What is the match between the evidence-based program or practices under consideration and the population of students for whom the evidence-based instruction and/or intervention is intended? 2) What is the match between the evidence-based program or practices under consideration and the context in which the evidence-based instruction and/or intervention will be implemented? Consideration must be given to the core aspects of the evidence-based instruction or intervention. Will staff be able to provide the types of experiences and opportunities that the research indicates will result in improved academic performance?
When evaluating the goodness of fit, educators need to look for ways that the program or practices provide explicit and systematic instruction or intervention that are rich in strategies proven to help students achieve. Nearly all classrooms today are diverse, so a program or a set of practices should indicate where and how the essential core provides flexibility for the range of students who will engage with the evidence-based program or practice. Close attention should be paid to the formative measures and tools that can be used for data-based assessment of student learning. Moreover, an aspect of evaluating goodness of fit in an evidence-based program or practice is to ascertain if an adequate number of activities, strategies, and literary materials are provided to meet the diverse learning needs of students in a classroom or school.
Educators need to be realistic about the availability of resources in their educational environments that can be dedicated to the implementation of an evidence-based program or instructional practices. Naturally, consideration should be given to the demands for professional development centered on the new evidence-based program or practices, since the provision of training opportunities can result in heavy consumption of resources. Part and parcel of this consideration is determining if additional instructional staff will be required for effective implementation of an evidence-based program or to establish evidence-based practices. Across the greater landscape, implementation may require adjustments in existing configurations of academic program offerings and staffing patterns.
Educational courses that engage prospective teachers in overall planning for curriculum and instruction provide opportunities to consider these important dimensions of taking on an evidence-based program or practice -- or for that matter, any new instructional program or set of practices.
3. What are specific uses have been made of evidence-based instruction and intervention in the classroom?
The two subject areas that seem to have attracted the most attention with respect to using evidence-based instruction and intervention are reading and mathematics. However, the research indicates that other subject areas or particular approaches can benefit from evidence-based instruction and intervention. One well-known approach to evidence-based practice is Response to Intervention (Rtl), a systematic approach designed for categorical (special education) programs that provides multiple tiers of interventions to students based on their performance and apparent need. Differentiated instruction occurs at each level or tier that matches the intensity of students' learning needs. Students progress through the different tiers until they reach mastery, with each tier providing a more intense form of instruction. A different version of this approach is Response to Instruction and Intervention (RT12), a general education approach designed to close the achievement gap by integrating evidence-based instruction, continuous assessment of student learning, culturally relevant curricula, and increased parental involvement.
Project-based learning (PBL) and thematic instruction are two approaches to instruction that are evidence-based. Research has shown that these approaches provide a conceptual integration (glue) for students that strengthens their understanding across different subject areas and leads to a more robust knowledge set..
4. What are some of the ways knowledge of and skill in using evidence-based methods of instruction have made a difference in instructional practices?
The most efficient way to appreciate the difference that evidence-based instruction has made overall in educational practices is to examine this set of links to established resources for locating evidence-based educational interventions. The criteria for determining if interventions should be included in these collections is somewhat variable, however, all the interventions distinguish between empirical randomized controlled trials, for instance, and other less robust types of evidence.
The What Works Clearinghouse (http://www.w-w-c.org/) This website is maintained by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences for the purpose of providing an independent, trusted source of scientific evidence about what works in education. The intended audience is educators, policymakers, and the public.
The Promising Practices Network (http://www.promisingpractices.net) This website extends to credible evidence-based programs and practices that are effective in improving outcomes for children, youth, and families.
5. Critically discuss and evaluate the principle that methods of instruction and invention should be evidence-based. What are the difficulties a new teacher feels may exist in the ability to transfer what research points to as effective for teaching and learning and what will work best for teacher in the classroom with the students?
The strongest argument for using methods of instruction and intervention that are evidence-based is the documented success in improving the academic performance of students. There are many teacher actions that can appear to be good teaching but that are not effective. It is very easy for…