Early interventions and evidence-based practices in our context: thought about a objection and a fallacy
At the EAPRIL conference we present our experiences from a study in which we investigated the application of evidence-based early interventions in early childhood education. The application worked well, but the fact is that in our context these early interventions are still uncommon. Working with this kind of applied research may resemble a struggle sometimes. The Education Act state that children with special educational needs should receive support in education so early intervention should be used. Then why are these practices still not so well established in a country with plenty of resources?
In this blog post we would like to share reflections on an argument that we have noticed in the educational discourse in Sweden against evidence-based practices in early interventions. There might be misconceptions that can lead to conclusions that are not true,what we call a fallacy.
One objection is that these efforts threaten the teacher's professional autonomy, since the teacher is not completely free to work as he or she wants, but is expected to work in a certain way, following a method. In a way, it is true that when the teacher is expected to use methods that are supported by evidence, this means that methods that are proven not to work should be discontinued. However, this should not be perceived as a threat to the teacher's professionalism.
Knowledge of what is supported by evidence, should be seen as a knowledge that contributes to a higher professionalism among teachers, not lower.
This objection is also based on a misunderstanding because overviews of pedagogical methods that are supported by evidence, that work, are presented as possible interventions that the teacher can choose, based on the specific conditions and needs that exist in the practice. Compilations of evidence-based interventions and methods provide accessible information and are, in this way, an offer to teachers. They can apply them to respond to needs they have identified, while maintaining their professional judgment and autonomy. Professional autonomy cannot mean ignoring scientific findings and avoiding the use of methods that could be beneficial. Admittedly, the problem of restriction of autonomy could arise if and when a method, or an innovation, is introduced in a top-down way, without the involvement of teachers.
Based on our experiences of testing methods and interventions in the Swedish context in our study, we have not seen that special educators and teachers experienced a lower autonomy when they acquired knowledge about these methods. Instead, they expressed that the methods were in demand and responded well to needs that they had noticed in their practices. They felt strengthened in their profession by having been given well-functioning tools to use and did not express that they felt less autonomous.
We can call this kind of reasoning on the threat to autonomy of evidence based-practice a fallacy about not acknowledging the benefits for teachers of working with evidence-based methods.
Our aim is to analyze further other types of fallacies that exist in our context and may have made it difficult to apply evidence-based methods and early interventions. We believe that a "wait and see" attitude can be directly harmful to children with special educational needs. An inclusive education does not mean ignoring the fact that there are different conditions and needs, but instead it means recognizing them and promoting participation, engagement and learning for all children.
Read more about our research at our blog Lek och Språk https://lekochsprak.com/