Frames for Using Evidence: Actions, Processes and Beliefs

As a follow-up to my last post, there are three frames of reference that are important to my thinking about being evidence-based.

  1. The unit of analysis is action, not thinking.  Evidence-based programs are often focussed on decision-making, but action is a better focal point.  Why is this?  First, focusing on actions helps to make a direct connection from evidence to consequences and outcomes.  Second, Our actions and thinking are closely related.  Actions gets at both thinking and acting.  Neuroscience has recently begun to confirm what psychology (Vygotsky) and philosophy (Wittgenstein) have believed for a while: that cognition is closely tied to muscle control and acting.  That there is a neurological link between doing and thinking.
  2. Evidence-based information is best directed toward practices, processes or programs. Much of the evidence-based literature is directed toward decision-making. and while this is important, many aspects of practice are made up of decision that are organized by repeatable processes, programs or protocols.  The intense effort that is sometimes needed in order to be evidence-based may be more justified in the wider effect sen in focusing on the programs and processes that support everyday decision-making.
  3. The basis for most thoughtful actions is theory or belief. These may range from extensively developed nomothetic theoretical networks to well-founded beliefs, but the relevance of evidence-based information is on it’s effect upon these beliefs and theories that in turn guide decisions and program actions.  There is no such thing as facts without theory or belief.  The role of evidence is to support (or fail to support) the beliefs that underly actions.

4 Types of Evidence-based Practitioner Information Needs

This is a thought in development, not a finished product.  I currently can think of 4 different types of evidence-based information that would be of interest practitioners: the structure of practice, the scope of practice, the applicability  (the level of confidence that the evidence is applicable to your specific context), and the measured consequences of practice (intended or unintended).
1. Form – How should my practice be structured according to the evidence from best practice models and all forms of evidence.  What do we know about how the practice or protocol should be structured.  Is there evidence for a correspondence between the theoretical proscribed structure and the actual practice I’m reviewing.
2. Scope – What different aspects should be included in my practice.  What different types of actions are important for goal achievement.  Does my local process include all aspects demonstrated to be important in a successful practice.
3. Applicability – Do the models generalize well to my specific situation.  Just because research was valid for college sophomores does not necessarily mean I should have confidence that the evidence generalizes to my situation.
4. Consequential – Are my local measures consistent with and confirm what the evidence predicts should happen. Include intended and unintended consequences.  In addition to external research information, local measures should  also be an important source for generating evidence.