Policy Resource

Blogging NTI: Friday Sessions on Evidence-Based Practice

Dec 24, 2011

Two sessions on the first full day of the National Training Institute (NTI) focused on evidence-based practice.

Increasingly, policy making focuses on approaches that are evidence-based. But where is that taking us and what do policymakers and the rest of us need to understand? Both sessions argued for avoiding a one-dimensional approach to using research evidence to mold programs and losing the voice of the practitioner.

Evidence-Based Practice: What It Means and Why It is Important for Programs Serving Infants and Toddlers

Programs increasingly operate in a climate emphasizing evidence-based practice, making it essential for practitioners to understand what it is and why they should care about it. Dr. John Love of the Ashland Institute for Early Childhood Science and Policy and a ZERO TO THREE Board member reviewed the what, why, and how to a packed room. There is too much information out there to be adequately processed, which led to the emergence of evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice does not mean “trust the evidence, not your instincts,” a statement that ignores that there are three parties involved evidence-based process: the researcher, practitioner, and client. Dr. Love cautioned about being on the extremes of the continuum of evidence usage, relying solely on either research evidence or personal experience.

The informative session presented research methodology and evidence criteria of the key systems of the What Works Clearinghouse, Promising Practices Network, and Home Evidence of Effectiveness. This review included reasons why practices may not meet evidence standards. In dynamic small group activities and group discussions, session participants conferred on what components need to be known about a research study when examining a program’s evidence and what practitioners need to know before adopting an evidence-based practice. Dr. Love concluded by warning that evidence-based practice does not solve everything–you still need to go beyond the research to determine what will fit your community’s needs. He would like the field to move towards a cyclical process for evidence-based practice in which the practitioner is involved at the beginning and end of the process so that there is a continuous loop. It would be great if this loop leads to the development of evidence-based practice strategies for implementation.

Warning! The Side Effects of Replacing Evidence-Based Practice with Evidence-Based Treatments

Evidence-based practice is a term that has garnered a lot of interest in the early childhood field, but it is also a term that is not fully understood. Presenters Connie Lillas of the Interdisciplinary Training Institute, Cindy Oser of ZERO TO THREE, and Kristie Brandt of the Parent-Infant & Child Institute spoke about the implications of reducing evidence-based practice to a list of evidence-based treatments. This movement neglects the idea that evidence-based practice is a three-pronged process that involves holding the tension between the best available research evidence, practitioner experience, and family values. When counties mandate that evidence-based practice equals only the research, that decision-making process is not honored. A restrictive understanding of what constitutes evidence is not conducive to the interdisciplinary infant-toddler field’s approach to service delivery. Evidence-based practice should not result in practitioners giving up control of treatment decisions.

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    Patricia A. Cole

    Senior Director of Federal Policy


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