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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?
  • 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?
  • 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 PracticesResource 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
  • 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


  • 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 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
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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?
  • 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

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
  • 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?
  • 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