Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Practice-based Evidence: Identifying What Works in YOUR Classroom

Over the past few weeks, Jason C. and I have been writing about how to find and understand evidence-based practices for the classroom. Especially when considering the application of technology during instruction, the reality is that it is impossible for researchers to keep pace with innovation (I originally discussed that phenomenon briefly here). With that in mind, what are we to do?

Microscope looking closely at a subject

There is increasing discussion about the idea of practice-based evidence. This is the process of gathering support for a practice in your setting that establishes the credibility of what you are doing. When you aren’t able to say “research suggests that this strategy will result in ___________”, practice-based evidence allows you to say “the data from my work with (student A) demonstrates that this strategy results in ___________”. It is hard to argue against the facts. So how do we gather this “practice-based evidence” in the everyday classroom? Glad you asked!

1.  Identify your intervention. Articulate what you are doing in such detail that someone could pick up your list and do it exactly as you would have done it without any additional explanation. This ensures treatment fidelity (doing the intervention correctly each time) that will allow you to confidently say that your intervention caused the result and not some other outside factor. Also, this is a great resource for instructional assistants that provide support in your setting.

2.  Determine what you are measuring. This is the actual data you will be collecting to demonstrate that the intervention is working or not. Simple measures are quiz scores or test scores, but don’t limit yourself with those. Dig a little deeper for something that may be more focused and ultimately more sensitive to change.  For example, instead of measuring how many times your student “does not move his clip from green to red on the behavior chart”, consider “how many times does he get out of his seat during calendar time”. Rather than “does she score better on the end of unit test”, consider “what division facts can she answer correctly on a 5 minute time trial”.

3.  Choose your design (this is not as complicated as it seems). Your design is the order in which you deliver your intervention. It answers the questions for you about when you implement a component of your intervention with what material. Here are two designs worth your time:

Withdrawal design

This is how the withdrawal design works.

  • You collect baseline data (how your learner performs on your measure without any intervention)
  • You implement your intervention and collect data on how your learner performs with the intervention
  • You return to baseline conditions by removing the intervention and collecting data how well your learner performs
  • You implement your intervention again and collect data on how your learner performs with the intervention

The data you collect will let you identify how well the intervention works based on it’s presence in the instructional process. This design works especially great when investigating the effectiveness of AT or other accommodations with diverse learners.

Multiple baseline design

This is how the multiple baseline design works.

  • You collect baseline data on how your learner(s) performs on your measures without any intervention.
  • You implement your intervention and collect data on one learner or one set of content or in one setting.
  • You collect data on what you applied the intervention to and at the same time collect data on what you have not applied the intervention to yet.
  • You then add new learners, content, or settings one at a time.

What you want to see in your data is that the improvement on your measure only occurs when you apply your intervention. This shows that your intervention is what is making the difference rather than something else. I prefer this design when using strategies that cannot or should not be taken away (like a writing strategy).

The reality is that we’ve only scratched the surface with this topic. Rather than press on to brain overload, we’ll share a few examples of this process from classrooms we consulted with in our next post. Till then, dive in to step 1 and 2 above and see what you can develop!

About Jason Gibson

Jason Gibson is a learning and behavioral consultant working with schools and treatment facilities across the US supporting children and adolescents with cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral issues. His focus is on practical implementation of research informed practices to increase outcomes for learners with and without disabilities. With degrees in psychology, social work, and education, Jason’s peer-reviewed research has been published in journals such as “Topics in Early Childhood Special Education”, “Closing the Gap”, and “Education and Treatment of Children with Developmental Disabilities”. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky writing his dissertation on the Efficacy of Online Professional Development to Increase Implementation of Stimulus Preference Assessments. In addition to his consulting work, Jason is the director of the BabbCenter and provides guidance to one of the leading counseling centers that operates from a faith-based perspective. Jason grew up in Titusville, FL and prior to moving to the Nashville area, made central Kentucky his home for 8 years.

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