Embracing Evidence-Based Special Education
Prepared by : Kellecia West
An evidence-based practice can be defined as
an instructional strategy, intervention, or
teaching program that has resulted in
consistent positive results when
experimentally tested. The implementation of
high quality research is needed in order for
intervention strategies to be considered an
evidence-based practice. Special educators are
required by professional standards and United
States federal regulation to implement
effective educational strategies supported by
evidence and research. This shift can be
attributed, in part, to increased emphasis on
improving learner outcomes and teacher
effectiveness. Special education teachers and
administrators need the tools for evaluating
the evidence to support the strategies being
As administrators embrace a changing
world, it is vital that they see collaboration as
a instrumental tool through wish knowledge
sharing and coherence-making can take place.
Through the process of knowledge sharing,
administrators can collaborate with other
schools within their districts and other
administrators to learn from them. When these
partnerships are formed, administrators are
able to learn from each other as they share
experiences about the use of various practices
within the field.
Highlighted in this manual are key
examples of effective knowledge sharing
practices that administrators can use to
support the implementation of evidence-based
practices within their institutions.
Disturbances may arise within the process of
change. The manual also notes key ways that
administrators can use to effectively address
the disturbances that the process of change
may cause as well as effective ways they can
be engaged in the coherence-making process.
Knowledge Sharing:
Promoting Evidence
Based Practices
Knowledge sharing is a process by
which knowledge; namely, information, skills,
or expertise is exchanged or shared among
people. Knowledge sharing within the field of
education can hold tremendous benefits for all
stake holders. Through this collaborative
effort, administrators are able to learn and
keep abrest of various evidence based
practices that are being implemented within
neighbouring schools and school districts.
Knowledge sharing and effective
collaboration improve teacher performance,
and by extension the academic performance of
the students they teach. When schools and
administrators develop a culture of sharing
knowledge, they maximize results and
minimize failures. According to Fullan
(2001), effective leaders understand the value
and role of knowledge creation, they make it a
priority and set about establishing and
reinforcing habits of knowledge exchange
among organizational members. Identified
below are three ways administrators can foster
effective knowledge sharing.
1. Inter-visitation
2. Peer Networking
3. Instructional Consulting Services
Through the practice of inter-visitation, peer
networking and instructional consultation,
administrators can forge linkages among
themselves and learn from each other as they
seek to implement strategies that work.
Teachers within school districts can also visit
other peers within their district and adopt
developmentally appropriate practices that
have been working within their institution.
True, the goal of educating students is never a
one size fits all situation; however, school
personnel and administrators can learn from
strategies that work.
Within the process of change, many
disturbance may arise. Disturbance may come
in many form; and may cause added pressure
to an already packed instructional schedule.
School administrators must be prepared to
collaboratively deal with these disturbances as
they arise. Though disturbance can be a
challenge, it can also forge great productivity
as staff and administrators build a culture of
coherence. By working with a clear plan,
schools can embrace change and reduce the
disturbances that may be associated .
Determining where a school is going and how
it will get there can make educational reform
less stressful, more predictable and
manageable, and most importantly, more
successful for all involved. As a mean to
effectively address disturbance, within the
institution, administrators can embark on the
following strategies or initiatives listed
1. Collaborate effectively with staff to
select and use evidence based
practices; whereby eliminating
strategies or programmes that are
redundant. This will ensure that all
staff members are producing effective
results, whereby addressing the
challenges and disturbance that comes
with change.
2. In the process of change,
administrators may embark on
initiatives to adequately train staff so
they can effectively handle selected
disturbances that may arise. Through
innovation and training, staffs will be
equipped to deal with the various
3. Create and communicate a model of
the change effort. To reduce the
rampant cynicism among most school
staffs about educational improvement,
restructuring endeavors should be well
organized and coordinated. A written
and/or visual model of the change
effort can be developed and posted,
including timelines, activities, task
force members, and their
4. Secure needed resources. A variety of
resources must be secured to
implement any kind of educational
innovation successfully. Both human
and material resources will be
required, including consultations,
training programs, financial support,
and curriculum materials.
5. Anticipate restructuring problems and
identify problem-solving skills. When
a proactive approach is taken to
addressing disturbance and
restructuring problems serves to
streamline and accelerate change
The Coherence-
Making Process
Effective leaders must be coherence-
makers. Coherence provides the insights and
tools to drive effective leadership. Through
the coherence process, administrators can
drive innovation; whereby equipping teachers
with the strategies to make a difference in the
lives of students and by extension create and
lead their way to a better school and learning
environment. Coherence benefits the whole
school community and supports professional
development that follows the same principles
of learning and motivation.
The multifaceted nature of building
instructional program coherence represents a
mammoth undertaking. Bringing school and
teacher practices into alignment takes time,
and stabilizing leadership and initiatives
demands agreements and commitments; which
can take time and is not easily won.
Principals/administrators will play an
important role in overcoming such challenges
by putting in place a common instructional
framework that guides curriculum, teaching,
and assessment and then creating staff
working conditions and allocating resources
needed to support it.
Identified below are 5 examples of how
great leaders can engage in the coherence-
making process.
1. Organize cohesive professional
development that supports the
instructional framework.
2. Create and maintain “collective
decision making structures” to develop
a shared focus, and productive school
wide goals and strategies (Honig &
Hatch, 2004.
3. Direct resources toward a clearly
articulated instructional framework
tied to student outcomes. Limit
programs to those that contribute to the
framework (Newmann et al., 2001a).
4. Collaborate with other school and
administrators; through collaborative
efforts, the coherence process can be
initiated. According to Fullan (2001),
people stimulate, inspire, and motivate
each other to contribute and implement
best ideas, and best ideas mean greater
overall coherence.
5. Deepen learning to accelerate
improvement and foster innovation.
Foster school improvement planning
and assessment; directly address the
school’s progress in providing a
common, coordinated, and sustained
school program.
Fullan, Michael.(2001). Leading in a Culture of
Change.[Washington, D.C.] :
Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse.
Honig, M. I., & Hatch, T. C. (2004). Crafting
coherence: How schools strategically
manage multiple, external demands.
Educational Researcher, 33
Newmann, F., Smith, B., Allensworth, E., &
Bryk, A.(2001a). Instructional
program coherence: What it is and
why it should guide school
improvement policy. Educational
Evaluation and Policy Analysis.