One of our underpinning values is placing significant importance on our practice and teaching being evidence based, but this is not as straight forward as you may first think. Evidence based practice can look very different from one practitioner to the next, but both are still working with the evidence. But how can this be?
Some of the evidence contradicts other evidence:
Because humans are a complex species, any studies completed in human sciences have variables in responses and therefore results. This means that, as an example, one cry based research paper may indicate results of no long term damage to a child, but professionals may argue this is incorrect because other research completed about attachment theory contraindicating this.
Some studies have poor design structure:
Some studies are widely used, but unless professionals (and parents) have a good understanding of what constitutes a thorough study and they may be taking on research that has little merit. For example, there is one cry based study that indicates cry based sleep training methods cause elevated cortisol, however this particular study didn’t take a base line cortisol reading before the sleep training, and the children were in a lab environment, not in their own homes, so the reason for the elevation wasn’t conclusive either.
Educators place importance on one area of evidence over another:
Each educator has a differing viewpoint of the hierarchy of importance with research. For example, an educator may place more importance on the negative effects of sleep deprivation on the body over possible cortisol elevation due to sleep training.
Some educators place more importance on supporting the parents to make their choices than being strict with the evidence:
This comes down to the educator’s professional practice philosophy. The educator still makes a priority of explaining the research to the parents but is very supportive of the parents level of acceptance of the research, even if their final choice contraindicates research.
Other educators place more importance on the evidence than supporting parents to feel comfortable with their plan:
Once again, this comes down to the educator’s professional practice philosophy. In this case, the educator is very firm with applying research and puts a significant amount of effort in to steering the outcome towards the evidence.
Pedagogy can influence a practitioner’s interpretation of evidence:
Pedagogy essentially means ‘WHY we do things the way we do them’, and each person has different influence over their ‘why’, resulting in differing opinions. For example, an educator may have used cry-based sleep training with their own child with great results, and because of their personal experience, they then may encourage others to do the same.
Parents we work with will have differing levels of education and this will influence them to place differing levels of importance on evidence:
When clients have university education, they are specifically educated to evaluate research, and this tends to heavily influence their parenting choices. Parents who have not been university educated tend to place more importance on the social experiences of their childhood and parenting choices of those around them.
So as you can see, there are many influences on the direction evidence based practice may take with each practitioner and each individual client. We pride ourselves on creating courses that allow each practitioner to develop their own individual practice philosophy within the parameters of the research. We are all different, and families need a wide range of different professional philosophies to choose from to be able to have support from someone that resinates with them specifically.
Jade is a Director and Lecturer at the Institute of Parenting Support Services and Director and Senior Educator at Early Childhood Parenting. She practices in Adelaide, South Australia. She is the mother of two beautiful children. You can reach her at 0415507004 or firstname.lastname@example.org