Evidence-Based Approaches

Transdisciplinary Collaboration

Integrating Technology

Evidence-Based Approaches

Evidence-based approaches to the design of training, education, and professional development apply principles and practices that are rooted in established theory and research to facilitate human learning. The notion of evidence-based practice is not new. The scientific revolution and the use of empirical data to facilitate decision-making revolutionized medicine, agriculture, transportation, technology, and other fields early in the 20th century (Slavin, 2002). Such advances, however, have not been realized in education. The EDHP-SIG seeks to facilitate evidence-based education, training, and professional development of healthcare professionals and their clients by sharing information and fostering transdisciplinary collaboration.

An emphasis on random controlled trials and true experimental studies characterized initial efforts to base professional practice and decision making on empirical evidence. The positivist epistemology has yielded to more pragmatic approaches that recognize the strength of applied and qualitative research methods along with the importance of professional judgement and experience. Here, we posit the notion of evidence-based design (Davis, 1999).

Based on the concept of grounded design originally posited by Hannafin, Hannafin, and Oliver (1997), we believe five conditions are fundamental to evidence-based design (EBD):

  • Designs must be rooted in a defensible theoretical and empirical framework. In other words, design decisions must be traceable to research, theory, and/or documented best practices;
  • Designs must be based on systematic process where the outputs of one design task are used as inputs to subsequent tasks to ensure alignment between fundamental elements of instruction;
  • Designs must be consistent with the outcome of research conducted to test, validate, or extend the theories upon which they are based;
  • Designs must be generalizable to situations beyond the unique conditions in which they are being utilized; and
  • Designs and their frameworks must be validated through successive implementation

The value of EBD is that it enables educators and researchers to:

  • Align research, theory, and practice;
  • Align outcomes, assessments, and instructional strategies;
  • Explain and predict results;
  • Systematically study and continuous improve programs and products;
  • Generate results that are generalizable beyond unique conditions; and
  • Establish a solid pedagogical foundation for making design decisions, planning interactions, and integrating technology.

Without the systematic application of evidence, educational activities, whatever their intent, represent “craft-based” approaches to education, training, and professional development; instructional solutions that are created by one person for one specific environment. This is not to say that such activities are ineffective. Far from it; subject matter experts have successfully crafted training, education, and professional development for centuries. The constraint is that craft-based designs may be inapplicable to circumstances beyond those in which they are employed, limiting their reusability and return on investment.

Five basic steps are associated with EBD, including (a) articulating curricular needs, (b) asking questions about the Learner, planned Intervention, learning and performance Context, and desired Outcomes (LICO); (c) acquiring and appraising evidence, and (e) assessing performance. Figure 1 delineates how the five practices are related to the systematic instructional design process.

Figure 1. Diagram illustrating the relationship between EBE practices and common ISD approach (Hirumi & Daroowalla, 2020).

Figure 1. Diagram illustrating the relationship between EBE practices and common ISD approach (Hirumi & Daroowalla, 2020).

Responsible professionals try to keep up with research in their discipline. For many, the education of the next generation of professionals is also a major responsibility. Yet the same professional standards of professional practice are not as commonly applied. Most professionals have been successful students, and it seems that for many, such experience qualifies them to educate others. However, few surgeons, for instance, would claim that surviving a surgical procedure qualifies a patient to perform surgery on another. A systematic approach to EBE as depicted in Figure 1 serves to ensure alignment between the three final elements of instruction (i.e., objectives, assessments, and instructional strategies) that is the hallmark of high-quality training, education, and professional development


Davis, P. (1999). What is evidence-based education? British Journal of Educational Studies, 47(2), 108-121.

Hannafin, M.J., Hannafin, K.M., Land, S., & Oliver, K. (1997). Grounded practice in the design of learning systems. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 101-117.

Hirumi, A., & Daroowalla, F. (2020). The practice of evidence-based medical education: Domains of evidence. Unpublished infographic. Transforming the Current Reality (Webinar]. In Lecturio Webinar Series – Re-envisioning Medical Education. https://www.lecturio.com/re-envision/

Slavin, R. E. (2002). Evidence-based education policies: Transforming educational practice and research. Educational Researcher, 31(7), 15-21.