Evidence-based practices can help educators measure success

evidence-intuition-practiceTeaching is as much art as it is science, and the best teachers trust their instincts, take risks, and evaluate their practice with data. The proliferation of technology (tablets, iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, robots, interactive whiteboards, and a whole host of mobile devices) in districts across the country is allowing educators to re-envision instructional methods, the way curriculum is delivered, and strengthen the student-teacher relationship.

Students and teachers have unprecedented access to information, software, apps, cloud-based collaboration platforms and tool sets. And, this use and access is creating an abundance of data, which in turn can be used by researchers, app developers, teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

All of this access is enabling educators to ask some very crucial questions: What is working and how do we measure success? What are the most important data points for individuals, schools, districts, states, and countries? How do we share what we know and learn? How can educators use this information to inform their practice (spur student outcomes) and that of their colleagues? The simple answer to all of these questions is through evidence-based practice. If only it were that simple.

(Next page: Origins of evidence-based practice)

A brief history lesson

The concept of evidence-based practice began in the medical field in the 1970s and was adopted into the field of education with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. 2002 was also the year the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) was created.

The gold standard of education research

The gold standard of education research is the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Yet, most educators have never heard of the IES or the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), which publishes findings and creates practice guides for educators based on IES research. The IES, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, was established in 2002 as part of the Education Sciences Reform Act. Its mission is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and share that information broadly.

Currently, the IES and the WWC review a multitude of educational programs, strategies, methodologies, and yes, they also evaluate educational technology interventions to examine the evidence of effectiveness of technology that facilitates learning.

Of the thousands of studies reviewed by the WWC, only nine examine educational technology interventions specifically. Only five of those nine have been found to meet their rigorous standards and have an accompanying practice guide. So in the absence of a wealth of gold standard research, we are still left with the question of how do teachers use evidence-based practice when it comes to educational technology?

53,000 research teams at once, steps to implementing evidence-based practice in the classroom

According to the latest MDR data, there are more than 3.8 million teachers in 53,000 public schools in the U.S. Now imagine all of these educators applying the gold standard of research to their instruction and publishing their results. The best educators think in systematic ways about how and when to incorporate a new strategy or technology into their practice. To be effective ed-tech must be an integral part of an instructional program not an add-on.

Assess students

The first step prior to choosing a technology or strategy to use in one’s classroom is to assess the needs of the class and its individual students. The aim is to create measurable goals. Ideally, these goals should be individualized to each student. It is extremely beneficial to collaborate with other educators teaching a similar subject or grade.

Gather evidence

Next, use a framework such as the PETI or the questions created by Joel Smith and Susan Ambrose to validate and measure the teaching strategies used to address the goals created in step one. It is important that the teacher collect data on the objective using the framework or similar measure and assess student progress to determine efficacy for the identified technology/strategy. The data collected and progress assessments provide preliminary evidence for the teaching strategy.

Share results

Once an effective strategy and technology have been identified and tracked, it is best to ensure all members of a department or grade level team understand the created evidence-based practice briefs which describe it in detail and include step-by-step directions for implementation, an implementation checklist, and supplemental materials. As more teachers document evidence on strategies and share that evidence, strategies are refined, and evidence to support the effective strategies begins to grow.

Joe Dixon is Chief Learning Officer at Teq.