Best Available Evidence: Three Complementary Approaches


The best available evidence is one of the three critical features of evidence-based practice. Best available evidence is often considered to be synonymous with extremely high standards for research methodology. However, this notion may limit the scope and impact of evidence-based practice to those educational decisions on which high quality intervention research is plentiful and definitive leaving educators with little guidance on the majority of the decisions they face. If the mandate to use best available evidence is taken to mean that educators should use the best of the evidence that is available, then evidence-based practice can address virtually all educational decisions. This paper discusses three complementary approaches to identifying the best available evidence and deriving recommendations from research. These include (a) conducting systematic reviews to identify empirically supported treatments, (b) using methods other than systematic reviews to summarize evidence, and (c) considering research on "treatments" that are not multi-component packages. A conscientious combination of these approaches can increase the breadth of research that is relevant to educational decision-making.