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Evidence-based practice: a mixed methods approach to understanding educational psychologists’ use of evidence in practice

Dr Dan O'Hare
University of Bristol

Further reading


Evidence-based practice is a term that continues to receive a great deal of attention within the Educational Psychology (EP) profession. Publications within the EP field have suggested that evidence-based practice is unworkable due to its reliance on research evidence and have instead suggested practice which is based primarily on practitioner experience.

This study suggests that EP conceptualisations of evidence-based practice have been too narrow and adopts a model of evidence-based practice from the field of organisational psychology. This model accepts a wide range of sources of evidence including research findings, practitioner experience and judgement, information from people directly affected by decision and information from the local context.

A mixed methods approach is adopted to explore EPs understandings and use of evidence in practice. The study is comprised of three phases: an experiment, an attitude scale, and a focused ethnography with interviews. Findings for this study are mixed primarily at the level of interpretation.

Findings suggest that EPs orientation towards evidence-based practice is complex. It is suggested that EPs may currently lack some of the skills to be effective evidence-based practitioners but that a wide range of evidence is already drawn on in daily practice. A major barrier to a more critical understanding and application of evidence-based practice is an underlying assumption that ‘evidence’ is synonymous with ‘research’.

An expanded model of evidence-based practice is presented which, it is suggested, will allow for EPs to critically and explicitly engage with many types of evidence within practice. An essential element of evidence-based practice for EPs is their connection and relationship with peers that allows for exposure to challenge, new ideas and ways of thinking.

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