Reported prevalence of evidence-based instructional practices in special education

Matthew K. Burns, James E. Ysseldyke

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185 Scopus citations


The federal mandate for use of evidence-based practice in schools focuses attention on the frequently discussed research-to-practice gap in education. The current study examined the frequency with which evidence-based practices are engaged in the education of pupils with disabilities. In sum, 174 special education teachers and 333 school psychologists completed a 12-item survey in which they rated the frequency of various practices used in special education. Respondents reported that direct instruction is the most frequently used instructional methodology and that perceptual-motor training is the least frequent. However, some practices with little empirical support (e.g., modality instruction) are reportedly used with some frequency, and special education teachers reported using ineffective approaches (social skills training) as frequently as they did those approaches with a strong research base (applied behavior analysis). Thus, these data present some reason for optimism, although special education does not appear to be immune to a research-to-practice gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Special Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Children at risk
  • Defining and diagnosing disabilities
  • Intervention
  • Phonological awareness
  • Reading
  • Response to intervention


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