Recognition & Response - Evidence-Based Practices
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Evidence-Based Practices
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In recent years, the words evidence-based practice have become part of our everyday vocabulary in early childhood. The growing use of this phrase suggests that there are definitive answers to a host of complex practice-related issues. Most would agree in principle that early childhood professionals should rely on evidence to make important decisions about how services and supports should be provided to young children and their families. But what does evidence-based practice mean? How is evidence-based practice different from recommended practices? What precisely does it mean for the early childhood field?

A working definition of evidence-based practice
The early childhood field has not reached consensus on a definition of the term evidence-based practice; however, most would agree that a clearer understanding of the term is needed. A proposed definition of evidence-based practice (based on the definition used for evidence-based medicine) is the following:


...a decision-making process that integrates the best available research evidence with family and professional wisdom and values. 


A key aspect of this definition (and what represents the most dramatic shift from previous thinking) is the notion that evidence-based practice is essentially a process or a way of empowering professionals and others to integrate various sources of knowledge to make informed decisions that directly benefit children and families.  The proposed definition recognizes that knowledge can be represented in multiple forms. Although research knowledge is a critical foundation on which to build a knowledge base, there is a growing recognition that more emphasis should be given to professional wisdom, that is, a particular form of knowledge based on experiential learning and situated in practice. Furthermore, it is generally accepted that wisdom is influenced heavily by one’s personal and professional beliefs and values and by those of families and communities served in early childhood programs.

The evidence-based practice movement is at an early stage of development, and there are many issues that must be addressed before it can be implemented fully. However, there is little doubt that this movement is responding to some of the most significant problems in early childhood by:

  • promoting the systematic dissemination of what is known about effective educational practices
  • drawing attention to the need for more scientific rigor in educational research
  • advocating for increased participation among consumers in building the evidence base for the early childhood field

The following are helpful resources to learn more about evidence-based practices in early childhood: 

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