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Evidence-Based Practices in Early Childhood: How Professional Organizations Promote Research-Policy-Practice Connections Dale Walker, PhD DEC Research Chairperson OSEP/NECTAC Early Childhood Conference December 2008. The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children.

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Evidence-Based Practices in Early Childhood: How Professional Organizations Promote Research-Policy-Practice ConnectionsDale Walker, PhDDEC Research Chairperson OSEP/NECTAC Early Childhood Conference December 2008

The division for early childhood dec of the council for exceptional children
The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children

  • International Membership Organization (over 4,000)

  • Birth through 8 years with disabilities and other special needs, their families and professionals

  • Promotes policies and advances evidence-based practices

How dec and cec define evidence based practices
How DEC and CEC Define Evidence-Based Practices? Exceptional Children

  • DEC Evidence-based Practices

  • Integration of Best Available Research with

    • Professional and family wisdom & experience

    • Consumer values

    • Consensus

  • CEC Definition of Evidence-based Practices

    • Is a strategy or intervention designed for use by special educators and intended to support the education of individuals with exceptional learning needs

Criteria for what constitutes evidence
Criteria for What Constitutes Evidence? Exceptional Children

  • Fields of Special Education including Early Childhood Special Education/EC have not determined criteria for evidence-based practice

  • There is not consensus as to the type of scientific information that is acceptable as evidence

DEC Recommended Practices Exceptional ChildrenResource designed to bridge the gap betweenresearch and practice, offering guidance to parents and professionals. Set of practices designed to inform decisions about services. Best available research evidence supporting practices determined through consensus used to identify practices.

Investigators authors
Investigators/Authors Exceptional Children

  • Barbara Smith

    • University of Colorado – Denver

  • David Sexton and Marcia Lobman

    • LSU Health Sciences Center

  • Mary McLean

    • University Of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

  • Susan Sandall

    • University of Washington

  • Mary Louise Hemmeter

    • Vanderbilt University

History of recommended practices
History of Recommended Practices Exceptional Children


  • DEC Task Force on RP 1991/1993

  • Focus Groups of stakeholders

  • Support from OSEP for synthesis of research and knowledge of EI/ECSE practices

  • Coding Research

  • Synthesis of practices

  • Field Validation

How were practices derived and criteria to determine evidence
How were Practices Derived and Criteria to Determine “Evidence”?

  • Extensive review of scientific literature on effective practices

  • Second source: Knowledge and experience

  • Original research report

  • Birth to 5 children with disabilities

  • Process of validation guided by:

    • Theoretical base for practice

    • Methodological integrity

    • Consensus in literature

    • Evidence that desired outcomes were produced

    • Evidence of social validity

Identifying research based practices
Identifying “Evidence”?Research-Based Practices

  • Identify Published Research

    • 48 Journals Across Disciplines

    • 1,019 Articles For Coding; 82% had at least one RP

  • Focus Groups by Topical Area (e.g., assessment)

  • Focus Groups by Role (e.g., family, practitioner, administrator)

  • Coded to:

    • determine technical adequacy

    • identify practices

The results
The Results “Evidence”?

  • 1,019 Articles Reviewed

  • 843 (82%) Had at Least One Recommended Practice

  • Articles by Methodology

    • Quantitative – 454 (54%)

    • Single Subject – 179 (21%)

    • Qualitative – 74 (9%)

    • Mixed Method – 13 (2%)

    • Descriptive/Survey – 123 (15%)

Number of journal articles supporting each strand
Number of Journal Articles Supporting Each Strand “Evidence”?

  • Child-Focused – 390

  • Family-Based – 218

  • Policies, Procedures & Systems Change – 106

  • Assessment – 104

  • Personnel Preparation – 93

  • Technology Applications – 30

  • Interdisciplinary Models - 28

Synthesize and categorize practices
Synthesize And “Evidence”?Categorize Practices

  • Integrate literature based practices and stakeholder focus group information

  • Evaluated for evidence using criteria:

    • Design, sample, setting, measures, duration, fidelity, findings and the RP supported

    • Which practices have research evidence to support?

    • Which practices are supported only by Experience or Values?

Field validation of practices
Field Validation of Practices “Evidence”?

  • Verification Among Experts

  • Field Validation

    • 200 Family Members

    • 400 Practitioners

    • 200 Administration/Higher Education

  • Respond to:

    • The importance of the recommended practice

    • Extent to which they see the practice (usage)

  • Recommended practices
    Recommended Practices “Evidence”?

    • Assessment (46)

      • John Neisworth & Stephen Bagnato

    • Child-Focused Practices (27)

      • Mark Wolery

    • Family-Based Practices(17)

      • Carol Trivette & Carl Dunst

    • Interdisciplinary Models (19)

      • Robin McWilliam

    • Technology Applications (22)

      • Kathleen Stremel

    Recommended practices1
    Recommended Practices “Evidence”?

    • Policies, Procedures, & Systems Change (43)

      • Gloria Harbin & Christine Salisbury

    • Personnel Preparation (66)

      • Patricia Miller & Vicki Stayton

    Why are recommended practices important
    Why are Recommended Practices Important? “Evidence”?

    • Represents collective wisdom

    • Identifies what practices work

    • Provides a framework to define quality

    • Supports positive outcomes

    • Applies to all settings

    Assessment practice example
    Assessment Practice Example “Evidence”?

    A24. Professionals assess not only immediate mastery of a skill, but also whether the child can demonstrate the skill consistently across other settings and with other people.

    What does a24 look like

    The team assesses the child’s ability to walk in the classroom, on the playground, to and from the car

    …and on the grass

    What does A24 look like?

    How does DEC work with Practitioners, Families, Policymakers and Researchers to understand and implement latest recommended practices?

    • DEC RP supporting materials facilitate professional development and dissemination:

      • Guide for Practical Application in Early Intervention/ECSE (Sandall, McLean & Smith, 2000)

      • DEC recommended practices workbook (Hemmeter, Smith, Sandall & Askew (2005)

      • Series of published articles (e.g., Smith, Strain, Snyder, Sandall, Mclean et al. 2002)

      • DEC Recommended Practices Video

      • National TA efforts related to Recommended Practices

      • DEC sponsored journals publishing research and innovative practices

    Next steps for identifying and implementing latest recommended practices
    Next Steps for identifying and implementing latest recommended practices..

    Two initiatives for DEC to provide field with evidence-based practices:

    • Long-term: DEC submitting a proposal to CEC Evidence-Based Practice Project for classifying the evidence base of identified early childhood special education practices generated from the DEC RP to determine the quality of the evidence base

      • Addressing Who it Works For? and Under What Conditions?

    Next steps short term
    Next Steps.. Short Term recommended practices..

    • Short-term: Updating literature-base for selected DEC RP using the criteria described in the 2005 Exceptional Children special issue for coding studies for evidence

      • Will be available to field and to support the DEC RP resource materials while more formal process is underway to establish the evidence-base for selected DEC RP

      • Will be used to inform DEC efforts for the CEC Evidence-Based Practice Project

      • Research published in JEI, YEC & YEC Monographs, Exceptional Children, etc

    What are needs suggestions
    What are Needs? Suggestions? recommended practices..

    • What early childhood practices would you suggest should have an identified evidence base?

    • Would you use DEC RP more often in practice if evidence-base for practices were clearly specified?

    • Thank you