Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Bringing Research to Bear on Practice: Effecting Evidence-Based Instruction for Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Bringing Research to Bear on Practice: Effecting Evidence-Based Instruction for Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

Article excerpt

Abstract

The gap between research and practice has become an increasingly problematic and prominent obstacle to optimizing student outcomes. Perhaps nowhere in education is this problem more significant than in regard to students with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD). Due to their difficult-to-teach characteristics and the poor outcomes they typically experience, students with EBD are in critical need of instructional techniques that have been shown by research to work. In this paper we (a) examine the role of implementing effective practices in making special education "special" for students with EBD, and (b) discuss barriers and potential solutions for translating research into practice.

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The inability to translate research knowledge into daily practice has become increasingly recognized as a crisis in education that has frustrated efforts to improve student outcomes (e.g., Carnine, 1997; Greenwood, 2001; Kauffman, 1996). The impact of this incapacity to operationalize a research base may be most pronounced in special education, and in particular in the area of teaching students with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD). It is clear that the most powerful and efficacious interventions at our disposal will be necessary to address the unique needs of students with EBD and to offer any hope of reversing the historically poor outcomes they experience in such critical areas as achievement, behavior, school attendance, graduation, and post-school employment (e.g., Frank, Sitlington, & Carson, 1995; Koyangi & Gaines, 1993).

Reflecting this need, scholarly treatments of the research-to-practice gap in special education have proliferated in recent years (e.g., Camine, 1997; Espin & Deno, 2000; Greenwood & Abbott, 2001; Kauffman, 1996; Sugai, Sprague, & Homer, 1999). The Office of Special Education Programs has also sponsored grant competitions to demonstrate how to utilize empirically valid teaching practices (see Greenwood, 2001). Moreover, No Child Left Behind legislation contains a strong emphasis on implementing techniques that have been shown to be effective through scientifically based research. Thus, there has been no shortage of attention paid to this issue. Still, as a field we have been particularly unsuccessful at abating the discrepancy between research and practice on a broad scale. Although there are individual success stories (e.g., Abbott, Walton, Tapia, & Greenwood, 1999; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2001; Kauffman, Bantz, & McCullough, 2002; Vaughn, Hughes, Schumm, & Klingner, 1998), it appears that we are no closer to systematically adopting the use of effective practices than in the past. In fact, Kauffman suggested that there may even be an inverse relationship between the effectiveness of a practice and its level of implementation.

In this paper, we will contextualize the issue of implementing research-based practices for students with EBD within a broader examination of what is special about special education. We discuss the critical role that bridging the gap between research and practice plays in justifying the field of special education and providing a truly special education for students with EBD. We then note a number of specific barriers that inhibit or prevent widespread implementation of effective teaching techniques (i.e., the inaccessibility of the literature base, problems with teacher preparation and the role of teacher educators, lack of support to implement and maintain effective practices, and questions about the veracity of our knowledge base by postmodern critics) and offer recommendations to overcome these obstacles.

What Is Special about Special Education for Students with EBD?

Special education has historically involved educating students with disabilities with instructional methods, materials, and sometimes curricula that are different from those provided to typically developing students. …

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