Fidelity, Persistence, and Best Practice
Peck, Alec, Scarpati, Stan, Teaching Exceptional Children
We have had the privilege of editing TEACHING Exceptional Children (TEC) for almost 10 years and have learned much from reading manuscripts and meetings with authors. Simultaneously, we have been teaching in our respective universities and have been talking with students about their use of some of the practical methods described in the journal. From these perspectives as editors and teachers/ learners, we have recognized the importance of the confluence of three critical issues: fidelity, persistence, and best practice. In many ways, these tenets structured how we evaluated manuscripts and how we organized the presentation of information so that the TEC readership could effect positive change for exceptional children in classrooms.
Special education practice continues to unfold in ways that point to more attention to outcomes-based interventions and methods that fully engage the general education curriculum. Special educators are stewards of a vast and tested applied research repository that must not go unrecognized, should be valued for what it can demonstrate, and should be utilized in new and innovative ways to meet classroom demands. We've seen a renewed interest in evidence-based practice - but we have also witnessed how this term is sufficiently malleable: much of what is portrayed as practice built on solid support falls far from the mark of what is generally agreed upon as substantive and valid research. Given that reality, and that classrooms are not laboratories, we anchored our selection of research articles at the intersection of what we hoped to see in each article: some representation of how the technique presented maintained a level of fidelity, persistence, and best practice.
For us, fidelity refers to faithfully carrying out the teaching techniques described in these articles. In our university roles, we have encountered situations in which our students have partially duplicated techniques or have used what they thought were similar or equivalent procedures only to discover that their variance from the strategy described in an article defeated the technique. Similarly, as editors, we looked for ways that researchers approached intervention with attention to maintaining reliability, giving us a sense that we could trust what had occurred and that results were dependable and replicable.
We use the term persistence to refer to allowing sufficient time for a strategy to work. Some students have attempted to replicate a strategy for a brief period of time before giving up, not realizing that if they had simply persisted in administering the treatment they would have accomplished their goals.
Finally, best practice refers to classroom teaching and management techniques which have been shown to accomplish specific goals in an efficient and effective manner. We have tried to make TEC a showcase for best practice. Indeed, the vast majority of articles we have published are descriptions of classroom practice that has been shown to be effective with exceptional children in various settings. …