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Evidence-based practices: Providing guidance for early childhood practitioners

Early childhood education represents a pivotal opportunity to improve the developmental trajectories of young children, and evidence-based practices (EBPs) are scientifically proven to improve these outcomes. Furthermore, federal law mandates that early childhood practitioners implement EBPs. However, because EBP has not been clearly defined in early childhood education, and it is sometimes conflated with the related, but distinct, approach of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP), many early childhood educators struggle with how to identify which practices are evidence based, developmentally appropriate, both, or neither. In other fields related to education, professional organizations provide explicit guidelines for identifying EBPs. Here, the authors review guidelines from professional and government organizations and provide suggestions for how the field of early childhood education might develop its own guidelines. Furthermore, the authors propose a framework for how their field might maintain a dual emphasis on EBPs and DAP. Specifically, the authors call on researchers, content experts, and practitioners to collectively develop criteria for identifying and evaluating EBPs and DAPs, and then widely disseminate these criteria through websites, reports, and conferences to assist practitioners as they select EBPs that will promote optimal learning and development. (author abstract)
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