Monday, 2 March 2015

The School Research Leads and Educational Prescriptions - a tool to support the development of evidence-based practice

As noted in previous posts, asking well-formulated questions is fundamental to effective evidence-based practice.  In supporting the development of a school cultures which have the effective use of research and evidence at their core, school research leads need to engage in processes which identify opportunities for generating well-formulated questions, with the answering of such question supporting the needs of individuals or groups of students.  In evidence-based medicine Strauss et al (2011) have identified a number of ways in which asking of good questions and in this post I will be looking at the use of educational prescriptions in aiding the development of evidence-based practitioners.

What is an Educational Prescription?

One of the challenges in developing evidence-based practice is to ensure that naturally occurring opportunities for learning are taken advantage of.  In this instance, a School Research Lead or other member of staff - may identify a particular problem or issue to be addressed - but there is a danger that both the question and answer are lost in the day to day business of the school.  One way of capturing the 'question' is through the use of an educational prescription which records the question, who is responsible for developing the answer and the deadline for the completion of the task. Accordingly, an educational prescription consists of the following:
  • A specification of the learning problem that generated the question.
  • A re-statement of statement of  the problem, as a well formulated and answerable question.
  • A clear statement as to who is responsible for answering the question.
  • A deadline for answering  the questions - bearing in mind the learning needs of students or staff (taking into account the urgency of the clinical problem that generated it).
  • A clear articulation of the steps involved in answering the question. (adapted from Strauss et al 2011, page 23)
Possible Educational Prescription Template

Pupil/Class/Year Group :

Member of staff:

Problem : How would you describe the situation?



Intervention : What are you planning to do with your pupils/class/year group?



Comparison. What is the alternative to the intervention (e.g.different intervention)?



Outcome : What are the anticipated effects of the intervention?



When will educational prescription be followed up?


Check-list prior to future discussions:
  • How did you go about searching for relevant evidence?
  • How did you take into account pupil/student views?
  • What were the outcomes of your search strategy?
  • How valid and reliable is the evidence you found?
  • Can this evidence be applied to the current problem?
  • How useful was this process ?


Adapted from Straus, S.E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S. & Haynes, B.R. (2011)  Evidence Based Medicine : How to practice and teach it, (4th edition), Churchill Livingston page 24 

How can  Educational Prescriptions be used?

Depending upon where the school is the development of an evidence and research-informed culture these educational prescriptions could be used in a number of differing settings: be it case-reviews of individual students, departmental meetings, or end of year review and evaluations.   Alternatively, they may be used by individual members of staff as a presentation device in order to share with colleagues the essence of the approach.

Tips for using Educational Prescriptions
  • Produce 2 or more copies - one for the School Research Lead - and other for those staff who undertaking the review
  • If connected to a local higher educational institution- use the prescription to engage in meaningful dialogue with the HEI librarians
  • Try and use them as part of day-to-day teaching and learning rather than one-off events.
  • In a Journal Club or other School Research Leads sessions ask colleagues to write out educational prescriptions to help develop their skills in developing well-formaulated questions.
And finally
There are no short-cuts in the developing the skills in developing and asking well-formulated questions.  It will invariably take time and both the school research leads and colleagues will no doubt make mistakes.  However, it is that very process of making mistakes and learning in the process which enhance colleagues skills and expertise at being evidence-based practitioners.

Reference
Straus, S.E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S. & Haynes, B.R. (2011)  Evidence Based Medicine : How to practice and teach it, (4th edition), Churchill Livingston

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