Wednesday, 17 June 2009

I have seen the light

Every time I go to a conference, I leave it with my faith in my job renewed. Like a pilgrimage to the source of true holiness, it makes me forget the sin and corruption of my godless backwater, and charges up my stocks of zeal. My heart cries out, “Hallelujah!” all the way home. And today I was filled with the spirit.

The second speaker, Peter, was inspirational. It wasn’t that he had a new approach, but that he actually did the things that he was supposed to do. The Department Of _______ insists that all of our work is evidence-led. A Google search for “evidence based practice” yields around 30,400,000 hits. But the amount of people working in my field that understand what that means… I’m not confident it’s very many.

His insistence on using research to inform decision-making should be normal practice, but it’s rare. His insistence on evaluating any research before it is acted on should be normal practice, but it’s rare. Planning the means to gather evidence about a project’s effectiveness before the project begins should be normal practice, but it’s rare.

Peter rubbished an intervention that is very popular in schools across the country.

“Absolutely no evidence that it works, none whatsoever.”

Later, during the Q&A, a member of the audience challenged him:

“We’ve done focus groups, people said they really…”

“Well, that’s great, but it doesn’t show that it works overall, what people say and how they behave aren’t necessarily aligned."

“B-b-but we’ve even rolled it out to the Army garrisons in the area, who say that it’s one of the best things they’ve ever…”

“You’re using the same intervention with soldiers and eleven year-olds?”

The challenger piped down.

And, sitting silently at the side of the room, I buzzed. More evidence means more research, i.e. more of my work being the part of my job that I like the most. Preach! Preach to my already converted heart!

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