Four Realistic Expectations About Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in the Classroom
Educators are often expected to keep up with research about literacy and successfully implement new findings into classrooms to help students thrive.
But, as many have found, the process of implementing evidence-based practices into everyday curriculum is not always as simple as it sounds. Thus, maintaining realistic expectations for applying new research findings to instruction is one of the most important things educators can do to support student success.
“First…we need to actually acknowledge that this is not going to be [super] simple,” Dr. Shayne Piasta says in Episode 10 of the All for Literacy podcast during a discussion with host Dr. Liz Brooke. Each All for Literacy episode features an established or emerging voice in the national literacy conversation and focuses on mapping a path forward, informed by the science of reading.
The more realistic expectations educators and administrators have about translating research conclusions into tangible instruction practices, the higher the chance of long-term commitment and success. Piasta walks listeners through four expectations to maintain while implementing evidence-based practices in classrooms and schools.
Realistic Expectation No. 1: The science of reading is multifaceted.
One of the most detrimental issues educators and administrators face while implementing evidence-based practices is considering the science of reading as a black-and-white, dichotomous entity. “There's still this misperception that the science of reading is only about decoding and word recognition in phonics. And so it becomes this like either/or, right?” Piasta says. “Either you're doing that or you're not, as opposed to recognizing that there are multiple components.”
Piasta emphasizes that while it is critical and foundational to devote time to supporting skills related to decoding and word recognition, it’s also important to recognize the many other components of the science of reading. Maintaining the expectation that the science of reading is multifaceted allows educators to evaluate evidence-based practices with an open mind. It keeps instructors from writing off what might be the missing piece for their students’ success solely because it does not fit within a narrow view of the science of reading.
Realistic Expectation No. 2: There is no one-size-fits-all practice.
While it's important to implement evidence-based practices in the classroom to support literacy levels, not every research-backed conclusion will be correct for each student. “A lot of folks are looking for a panacea,” Piasta says before emphasizing there is no single practice that is going to work for all children.
Effective instruction includes evidence-based materials and evidence-based practices, but it's crucial to individualize and differentiate choices based on the actual children in the classroom. While a study may suggest that one particular exercise sent literacy levels skyrocketing for one group of students, those students may have very different needs, backgrounds, and struggles than another group.
“There’s not going to be this magic bullet that is going to immediately affect and improve literacy skills for kids,” Piasta says. “We really have to think of it as being kind of a system, and it has many different pieces.”
Realistic Expectation No. 3: Evidence-based practices take time to generate results.
It may be tempting to give up on a particular evidence-based practice after a few tries, but realistically, research-backed practices take time and consistency to generate measurable results.
“There’s some evidence suggesting that it takes up to two years or even longer for teachers to adopt new practices and implement them and feel efficacious about it,” Piasta says. And often, it's only after seeing results that instructors feel committed to continuing those practices.
Thus, remaining patient and consistent with a willingness to pivot as needed to better fit students’ needs is crucial. Proper assessment before, during, and after implementing new evidence-based practices is often the best way to understand the efficacy of new programs.
Realistic Expectation No. 4: Research is constantly evolving.
Understanding the type of evidence provided by research brings the limitations of evidence-based practices into light. “Research is super important for generating evidence that can support various approaches and support various theories, but research is really this ongoing iterative process,” Piasta explains.
Every study will have its own limitations related to the subjects chosen, time frame, and other factors. “What we [want] is lots of studies pointing us toward the same answers,” Piasta says while also emphasizing that even then, saying a theory is “proven” is too definitive from a research perspective.
Successfully implementing research-backed practices in the classroom requires finding ideas supported by many different studies also known as results replicated more than once. Preferably, these studies also used populations similar to those in the classroom in terms of age group and demographics. Finding this type of quality research provides the highest likelihood of bringing positive outcomes to the classroom.
Helping students thrive through evidence-based practices
Implementing the correct evidence-based practices for each unique school or classroom can mean the difference between stagnation and success when it comes to literacy levels for all students. Maintaining realistic expectations about research-based conclusions along the way supports long-term growth and improvement.
Listen to Episode 10 of the All for Literacy podcast with Dr. Piasta for more on successfully applying evidence-based practices in the classrooms.