You go to the doctor for a routine visit and are told you have a condition that requires immediate treatment. She gives you the following options to choose from:
Source: IRIS Center (2019)
Which one would you choose?
It's likely that you’ll choose Treatment A. Why? Because when given the choice, most would prefer evidence-based treatments over those that are non-evidence-based.
What is an Evidence-Based Intervention?
An evidence-based intervention (EBI) refers to strategies and/or programs that have shown to be effective through evaluative research. EBIs, also referred to as evidence-based practices or programs, can consist of packaged curriculum/programs, or specific strategies that have demonstrated to work when applied in certain situations.
It is important to note that just because there is research that exists on a specific program or strategy, does not mean that the practice is evidence-based.
Deeming a practice “evidence-based” depends on a variety of factors, including the population it was used with, how it was implemented, and the degree to which it has demonstrated success.
So, if doctors use EBIs, why aren’t they used more often in schools?
That is a very good question!
From a historical standpoint, the medical world has used this process for selecting treatments a lot longer than the educational world. Additionally, because the school setting is multi-faceted, there are a variety of factors that influence which strategies are selected and actually implemented in the classroom. These include variables such as the degree of support provided during the planning and implementation process, previous EBI implementation experience, and an educator’s confidence in their ability to deliver a new EBI.
Sometimes, EBIs just seem scary. The truth is, they really do not have to be! The process of finding an appropriate strategy and implementing that strategy adequately is simple to do, it just requires some practice! Luckily, The Behavior Cafe is here to help you do that!
Why should I use evidence-based strategies for behavior?
Despite what you may have heard or experienced, evidence-based interventions are available to help make our jobs as teachers, easier. There is a reason that educational professionals, including myself, bend over backwards to recommend their use in schools. Here are 3 reasons why you should choose EBIs, over non-evidence based practices:
Most of the work is done for you! Researchers and content developers have taken the time to document how they have successfully implemented practices, with some even providing exact instructions for you to follow. All you have to do is add your personality!
Much of the guesswork is taken out of finding a suitable strategy. Long gone are the days when searching for behavior strategies involved playing a guessing game. Many reputable organizations have developed tools where you can search (and filter) evidence-based strategies for specific needs. Time is money, right?
EBIs have shown to be effective, OVER and OVER again. Unlike at the casino where you are not very likely to get a payout (sorry, folks), EBIs are a lot more reliable when it comes to reducing problem behavior. While it is true that they may not work 100% of the time, you can feel pretty confident that if chosen appropriately and implemented correctly, you will see progress.
How can I determine if a strategy I have found is evidence-based?
There are some sites that have taken the effort to thoroughly evaluate various strategies appropriate for school-based use. The method of evaluation is site-specific, but usually involves a rigorous analysis of research variables (e.g., implementation procedures, population, intervention effects) associated with studies for a particular intervention. Search for the evidence associated with your selected strategy on the following sites:
Evaluates evidence-based behavior and academic programs, primarily designed to be implemented at the small or large group level (e.g., Tier 1 and 2). This website is most helpful for school-based teams (e.g., grade-level team) to identify evidence-based options to consider for adoption.
Provides behavior and academic strategies that can be used for individual student planning and at the classroom-level. The EBI Network is specifically aimed at providing “simple interventions,” requiring less “resource commitment,” than what might be required of those evaluated at WWC. A nice feature of the EBI Network is that it provides intervention briefs, explaining procedures for each strategy and more information to assist with selection and implementation.
Provides evaluative information about individual studies relating to specific interventions. Note: this is different from reviewing multiple studies at once. Instead, NCII provides an evidence rating based on the individual components in each study. This is why you will see multiple ratings for one intervention. You are able to filter your results by grade level, internalizing vs externalizing behavior, and can use the right-hand tabs to learn more about the study and/or the intervention that was evaluated. Unlike WWC, NCII evaluates group-level and individual strategies, making it a helpful supplement when selecting strategies for a variety of needs.
Can I adapt an EBI to fit the needs of my student?
Many research studies on EBIs have been conducted with large groups of students in ideal educational and clinical conditions. However, most contexts do not reflect these same conditions. Thus, it may be required to adapt an intervention to fit a specific context or individual student need. Many experts will turn up their nose at intervention adaptations because when done incorrectly, changes can actually remove the components that make it effective. When this happens, it can defeat the purpose of choosing an EBI in the first place! However, there is a way to appropriately make adaptations. If you feel an EBI adaptation is necessary, make sure you start with these steps to maximize the potential for success:
Consult with your intervention team (i.e., others who helped to plan for the intervention) about the need for an adaptation
Research the main components of your selected intervention (you can use the sites above)
Identify if the adaptation(s) you’ve identified falls among any of the main or "key" components (see examples below). While minor changes to an intervention are less of a concern, it is never recommended to change key components of an EBI. If you believe major adaptations are crucial, consult first with a knowledgable behavior specialist to learn how this can be done appropriately.
IRIS Center (2019)
4. Follow these considerations from the IRIS Center before adapting your EBI
What if I can’t find an evidence-based strategy to fit a need I am seeking to address?
Because it takes time to actually evaluate programs, it is likely that strategies to address a specific behavior (or combination of behaviors) have yet to be evaluated and/or published online. The IRIS Center provides a helpful, step-by-step process to find a suitable strategy here.