Question: How do I know if the RTI tools and interventions I am using are evidence-based?
Allison Gandhi: So evidence-based practice is a very common term that’s used in the education community today, and there’s often confusion around what that term really means and why it’s important. Generally, in the context of education, an evidence-based practice would be some kind of educational practice or instructional strategy that’s been demonstrated through one or more research studies to be effective. So, it sounds simple, but as a practitioner, if you’re faced with a task of selecting an evidence-based practice to implement in your classroom or school it becomes a little bit more complicated and for RTI in particular it becomes especially complicated because there’s so many components involved in implementing RTI. So, one of the activities that we sponsor here at the center is to review and rate the evidence, demonstrating efficacy for different tools and products that can be used when implementing RTI. So, for example, we look at the evidence, and we rate that evidence for universal screening tools. We also look at the evidence for progress monitoring tools, and we look at the evidence for instructional interventions. And then what we do is we publish all of that information on our website, through a series of what we call tools charts. So, if you’re a practitioner, and you’re implementing RTI, and you want to know if what you’re implementing is evidence-based one of the first things you can do is just to find out what the evidence says about the different screening tools, progress monitoring tools, and instructional interventions that you’re using. However, one important point to make here is that just because a particular tool or product has been deemed to be evidence-based; it doesn’t necessarily mean that that product is going to be right for you. There’s a lot of different factors that you need to consider; questions that you need to ask yourself when you’re looking at the evidence. So, for example, one of the questions that you’ll want to ask is, how many research studies have been conducted on this particular product? And, do all those research studies show the same, positive results? It’s actually not uncommon for there to be a lot of variation in research studies that have been conducted on the same product. And so, you’ll want to know, why did that variation happen? What’s different about these research studies that may have lead to the differences in the results? So, for example, one thing you might want to look at is the outcome measure. What was the outcome measure that was used in the study, and is this an outcome measure that you care about? You may only want to focus on research studies that use outcomes that are important and relevant for you. Also, what was the student population that participated in this study, and how similar is the student population to the group of students that you’re working with. And then also, what were the conditions under which the particular intervention or tool was implemented. So, in other words, did the teachers receive a lot of really intensive training on the intervention, or not much training at all? How long did the students participate in that intervention? So, these are all things that will be important for you to know, because in order for you to feel confident that you will experience the same results with your students as was seen in the research study, all of these different contextual factors, and supporting conditions will need to be the same. So the tools charts that we publish on our website are designed to provide all of this information to the user. So, not only do we provide practitioners with ratings on the quality of the research studies that have been conducted on different tools and products, but we also provide information on things like the sample size and the demographics, what kinds of training was given to the teachers, what were the administration requirements for the product, and so on. Our goal is not only to just let practitioners know what the evidence says but also to give practitioners the tools so that they can become better, and more informed consumers of research, and really learn how to navigate and interpret the evidence for themselves.