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So what is evidence-based practice?

The first Question we started asking ourselves was what is evidence-based practice?  In our...

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Linda Price
23 March 2010

The first Question we started asking ourselves was what is evidence-based practice?  In our early synthesis of evidence-based practice with technology, we have found the notion of evidence and evidence-based practice to be problematic.    Our concerns fall into three main areas:

  1. What counts as evidence?
  2. What is the nature of this evidence?
  3. What use is made of the evidence in enhancing practice?

 We would like to know what others thing about these issues… if you would like to contribute please go to our practitioner page and tell us what you think.

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Adrian Kirkwood
3:27pm 23 March 2010 (Edited 3:29pm 23 March 2010)


When reviewing accounts and case studies of HE teachers' attempts at enhancing their practices with technologies, I have found that the evidence presented often related to students' use of technologies, e.g. “68% of students found it helpful to have podcasts of my lectures”. Less frequently, evidence was presented that related to how the learning experience of students had been enhanced, e.g. “Both the quantity and quality of students’ contributions to group activities were improved”.

Linda Price
3:38pm 23 March 2010


1.  So what counts as evidence

Reviewing the literature on uses of evidence in enhancing learning and teaching practices with technology raises some important questions about what counts as evidence.  The degree of robustness of the evidence found is often dependent upon where it is published.  For example, more robust and formal studies will be found in high quality journals, whereas more informal and less robust collections of evidence will be found in areas encompassing accounts and case studies, aimed at supporting practitioner’s daily practices. 

In understanding what counts as evidence it is important to also consider the context within which it will be used.  For example, changes in national policy are unlikely to arise from a small sample of informal comments from students in a classroom gathered by one academic.  Equally individual academics might feel that making local changes within a classroom based on a large national or international study may overlook important contextual variations in a particular student cohort.  It is with these issues in mind that Adrian and I have developed a framework for evidence-based practice so we can characterise the context within which the evidence might be gathered and its possible impact.  

 

Janet Jones
12:54pm 31 March 2010


 A couple of thoughts (and my very first engagement with Cloudworks!):

 1)  Is it not how learning rather than how a learning experience is enhanced that is the crux of the matter?  To me the learning experience, which encompasses ease of use and the way elearning tools can support learning, is an important contributory factor to students’ overall experience, but ultimately it is their actual direct and indirect learning of the course materials that is the focus of enquiry. 

 2) What counts as evidence?   During a recent telephone interview a student discussed her increased awareness of all the learning she has done informally through her work, the sort of things you ‘pick up’ everyday, but which are very valuable skills in her work context.   She described herself as a ‘self-taught’ learner.   It was only through reflecting on her skills when completing a learning plan that she realised she had a lot of work-related skills.   Although none of these skills have been formally accredited, the interview was recorded, and will be used as evidence on the Learning through Work project.   This issue falls very much into the formal/informal learning issue that is linked to APEL.  In this particular case, awareness alone appeared to be contributed to increased confidence which is known to enhance practice. 

 Has the framework for evidence-based practice been published? 

Linda Price
10:08am 4 May 2010


The framework for evidence-based practice has not been published yet - but I'm happy to let anyone have a copy.  I'm going to try and put the framework on a shared area so others can look at it and comment.

Sharon Waller
4:43pm 24 June 2010


Hi Linda, a copy would be great thanks.

Linda Price
9:29pm 24 June 2010


No Problem Sharon.  I would have put it here but Cloudworks does not have a repository.  I plan to put it on a shared area for people to access - but I haven't got around to that yet!

Linda Price
11:21am 7 July 2010


Here is an overview of our thinking regarding the framework that we are suggesting for considering evidence.

In understanding what counts as evidence it is important to also consider the context within which it will be used.  For example, changes in national policy are unlikely to arise from a small sample of informal comments from students in a classroom gathered by one academic.  Equally individual academics might feel that making local changes within a classroom based on a large national or international study may overlook important contextual variations in a particular student cohort.  It is with these issues in mind that we suggest a framework for examining evidence in order to characterise the context within which it is gathered and its possible impact. 

Within the framework, evidence can characterised in two ways: first, in terms of the type of evidence provided; and second in terms of its potential impact. We suggest that these are cross referenced against each other in a matrix.

 

Types of Evidence

These are divided into three main groupings:-

 

1)       Accounts of innovations
These are descriptions of how technology has been used in higher education.  The evidence provided is typically of a less formal nature including anecdotes, observations and questionnaire data, including measures of student satisfaction.

2)       Lessons learned
These are accounts of learning and teaching with technology and lessons have been learned from their use.  They include evidence ranging from formal to informal forms of data collection, including both qualitative and quantitative data.  The data will also range in nature from weak to robust data collection methods.

3)       Changes in practice
These provide good examples of how evidence (e.g. of aspects that learners find troublesome) has been used to drive an investigation into innovations in technology in learning and teaching, followed by an evaluation of that application’s effectiveness for student learning.  This evidence is then used to drive changes in practice.

 

Impact of Evidence

These are also divided into three main groupings:-

 

1)       Micro
These changes are usually confined to a level local to the teacher or classroom or a particular course.   

2)       Meso
These changes are usually within a department, faculty or institution and will have impact on more than one course. 

3)       Macro
These changes impact on more than one institution at national level and may also have impact on institutions in different countries at an international level. 

Hence it is possible to have evidence reported that is an account of an innovation that has an impact at a micro level such as in the classroom.    There may also be evidence reported as an account that has an impact at a macro level which impacts on a national or international basis.

 

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