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Scientifically Based Practices - Part II


Research is Not Just for Researchers 

The words "research-based" or "evidence-based" are now used widely throughout the education world. (This is a very good thing!) As mentioned a year ago in my column "Scientifically Based Practice: Show Me the Evidence," the No Child Left Behind law compels educators to use "teaching practices that have been proven to work." In that column I wrote that:

  • simply collecting data is not in and of itself scientific
  • not all research is created equal
  • decisions based on careful scientific inquiry are better than those made by "shooting from the hip"
  • and introduced different types of research designs such as experimental group studies, correlational studies, single subject studies and qualitative studies.

In subsequent columns I wrote about Responsiveness to Intervention and Student Progress Monitoring as approaches to making decisions about instruction that tap readily available data from classrooms and help educators identify and teach students who struggle with learning. Are these approaches based on scientific evidence? Are there carefully controlled studies that demonstrate their benefit to students and educators? Is there solid evidence to confirm their effectiveness with a range of students with special needs? The answer is a resounding "Yes." And yet, there is much more to be learned about implementing these practices in different settings, their effectiveness with students who present particular types of learning challenges, and the types of training and support that are essential for these practices to be implemented with fidelity to effectively reach every student who struggles with learning.


The Internet Says ...

Everyone is interested in the educational well-being of students. Parents want their children to succeed in school as a way to prepare them for post-secondary experiences and eventually for success in the workplace and in life. Educators want students to master skills and content learning and to help students become flexible, creative thinkers and independent learners. Society wants students to succeed in school so they can become active and contributing members of society at large. And no one would argue that the best way to accomplish these goals is to make decisions about instructional methodologies and support based on sustentative and reliable data.

What's that? You're not convinced that educational research is on the public's radar screen? Look below and see the results of three simple internet searches earlier this week on a popular web browser, both with and without the word "education" included as a key word:



Term Number of Results


Without "education"

With "education"

Scientifically-based practice 569 284,000
Research-based practice 93,600 6,070,000
Evidence-based practice 4,120,000 14,300,000

The challenge we face today is not deciding whether to believe that a scientific approach to recognizing and responding to students who struggle with learning is important, but rather how best to build collaborative relationships among researchers, educators, and parents so these best, most effective teaching strategies are developed, tested, refined, disseminated, and incorporated into daily practice.

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