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#BeyondTheMean

Seven Places to Look for Evidence-based Practices in Education

Updated: Jan 7, 2023



Welcome to #BeyondTheMean! Check out this post to see what this blog is all about.


I have spent the past five years speaking to audiences about the importance of evidence-based practices in education. In my experience, the most challenging thing about adopting evidence-based practices in the classroom is simply getting started. In this post, I want to point you towards seven places to look for evidence-based practices in education.


What Works Clearinghouse

Let’s begin our discussion with the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). The WWC is the official clearinghouse of evidence-based practices in education and is funded and maintained by the US Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES). The WWC offers two types of reports that help you to understand the evidence behind a variety of programs and practices. Intervention Reports provide a detailed analysis of the evidence behind (usually) branded interventions that can be deployed in classrooms. Practice Guides focus on the evidence behind teaching strategies that teachers can learn and use in a variety of contexts.


My favorite thing about the WWC is that they have an incredibly rigorous review process. Potential pieces of research are examined by a team of volunteer reviewers and scored against their Procedures and Standards Handbooks. Their standards are some of the most thorough and rigorous standards you will find. One downside to the WWC is that it is far from complete. Many amazing interventions are not yet included in their database.


Evidence for ESSA

Evidence for ESSA is another great location for those of you looking for detailed analysis of the evidence surrounding educational interventions. Here you will find reviews of evidence related to reading, math, social-emotional, attendance, science, and writing interventions. This site, maintained by the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, is primarily focused on branded interventions and is a great place to look for educators seeking to adopt new curriculum or software programs for either whole class or targeted interventions.

Like the WWC, the Evidence for ESSA team review studies against a set of established Standards and Procedures. These are less rigorous than those of the WWC, but I still think they’re good. The site is very user friendly and offers very intuitive filtering options to help you narrow down your search.



The ERIC Database

If you have read my blog for a while, you will know that I believe that educators must develop the skills to make up their own minds about the results of research and rely less on synopsis produced by outside groups. As such, I want to point you to the ERIC database. The ERIC database is a free research database maintained by the US Department of Education. It provides direct access to thousands of research articles from hundreds of journals and non-journals. As academic databases go, it is pretty user friendly, with simple search options and a comprehensive list of filters along the left hand side of the screen. When I do training and workshops on research use, the ERIC database is my go-to source because of its excellent price point (free) and universal use in the education field.


The downside to ERIC for newbies (if you can call it a downside) is that you really do have to take some time to think about the results of the individual research articles you will find here and synthesize them into your own opinion. This is where we should all be headed as a profession, but it does take some work and skill that not everybody is adequately prepared for (that is why I offer a range of free services in The Repository).

Elicit

Elicit is a relatively new research search tool out on the market that, quite frankly, I am obsessed with. Elicit uses artificial intelligence to search the web for research articles. Unlike a traditional database where you search by keyword, with Elicit, you search by asking a research question, such as “What are the effects of social media on empathy?” When you search, you will see a neatly formatted table of results that includes paper titles, publication years, and other valuable information. You can also customize this output with around 20 other fields to scan the research rapidly.


What is really cool about Elicit is that it reads the abstracts of the research papers and summarizes a key takeaway for each abstract on the search results page. These are not always as detailed or nuanced as the author of the papers would probably like, but I imagine that that will improve I time as the developers of Elicit hone their product. Another cool feature is that you can download your results as a .CSV file so that you can archive your bibliography for later.


Visible Learning MetaX

Visible Learning MetaX is a neat resource that builds off of John Hattie’s seminal work Visible Learning. If your focus is on improving teaching and learning through the careful selection of evidence-based teaching strategies then this site is for you! This site is sorted by “influences” and domains. It includes influences related to students, home, school, classroom, teacher, curricula, learning strategies, teaching strategies, and technology domains. When you access an influence page, such as this page for concept mapping, you will find a brief overview of the concept and a summation of the evidence.

One thing I really like about this page is that they assign confidence scores to each influence based on a combination of the number of meta-analyses available, the number of studies included in said meta-analyses, the number of students included in the studies and the number of effects available. One downside to this is that most educators don’t have a full and complete understanding of effect size which could lead to a less-informed decision.



The Campbell Collaboration

If you’re into synthesis of research, head over to The Campbell Collaboration. This is an international collective of researchers that specializes in the completion, dissemination, and archive of systematic reviews. A systematic review is a thorough review of the existing literature. They help you get quickly up to speed on new topics of interest. For educators seeking to understand a persistent problem of practice, a systematic review is a great way to begin to wrap your head around it.


The IRIS Center

If you are working in the special education environment, you can’t miss the resources over at The IRIS Center. Part of the Peabody College at Vanderbilt, the IRIS Center focuses on compiling evidence-based practices and providing online professional development in the form of modules and micro-credentials. The IRIS Center offers a list of evidence-based practice summaries that can help you get up to speed on a wide variety of best practices for special education students. They also offer information about High Leverage Practices in alignment with the CEEDAR Center.


This list is far from complete. A quick search on the internet will yield hundreds of destinations for educators to find evidence-based practices that can inform their work and improve teaching and learning. Do you have a favorite evidence repository? If so, let me know! If not, I hope this list gives you a good starting point as you begin to explore the world of educational evidence-based practices. Good luck on your journey friends!

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