Barends, Rousseau, & Briner's (2014) recent pamphlet on the basic principles of evidence-based management define evidence based practice as the making of decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the best available evidence from multiple sources by:
- Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
- Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
- Appraising: critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
- Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
- Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
- Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken
to increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome (p2)*.
In undertaking this task information and evidence is sought from four sources
- Scientific evidence Findings from published scientific research.
- Organisational evidence Data, facts and figures gathered from the organisation.
- Experiential evidence The professional experience and judgment of practitioners.
- Stakeholder evidence The values and concerns of people who may be affected by the decision.
Furthermore, drawing upon Dewey's practical epistemology Biesta argues that the role of research is to provide us with insight as to what worked in the past, rather than what intervention will work in the future. As such, all that evidence can do is provide with us a framework for more intelligent problem-solving. In other words, evidence cannot give you the answer on how to proceed in any particular situation, rather it can enhance the processes associated with deliberative problem-solving and decision-making.
So what are the key messages which emerge from this discussion. For me at least there would be appear to be four key points
- Research evidence is not the only fruit - in other words when engaging in evidence based-practice research evidence is just one of multiple sources of evidence.
- Even where there is good research evidence, that does not replace the role of judgment in making decisions about how to proceed.
- All that research evidence can do is tell you what worked in the past, it can't tell you what will work in your setting or in the same setting at some time in the future.
- Research evidence provides a starting point for intelligent problem-solving
Barends, E., Rousseau, D. M., & Briner, R. B. 2014. Evidence-Based Management : The Basic Principles. Centre for Evidence Based Management (Ed.). Amsterdam.
Biesta, G. 2007 Why 'What Works' Won't Work : Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research, Educational Theory, 57 (1) 21-22