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APBS Evidence-based Practice Information

The references or source material associated with this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Association for Positive Behavior Support (APBS) nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by APBS.

Purpose and Goals of the APBS Evidence-based Practice Site

The goal of this section of the apbs.org website is to provide individuals interested in learning about evidence-based practice with information, tools, and resources related to this topic. Currently there is an Ad Hoc Work group within APBS working on policy and materials development.

Evidence-based Practice Workgroup members include:

  • Randy De Pry (Chair)
  • Joe Lucyshyn (Chair)
  • Matt Tincani
  • Lori Newcomer
  • Rachel Freeman

The APBS Evidence-based Workgroup's goal is to develop materials that can be used by a variety of individuals who are interested in evidence-based practice as it relates to positive behavior support. The goal will be to design tools and resources that professionals in human services, educators, state leaders, family members, and other individuals can use to evaluate and make a decision about whether a practice they are interested in is considered "evidence-based." In addition, various media will be used as a resource for individuals who will be able to read about an exemplary study, evaluate it independently, and then receive guidance from a senior researcher and fellow APBS member whose exemplary response to the study has been placed online as a recorded file.

Currently, the APBS Evidence-based Workgroup is identifying exemplary articles that will be used to demonstrate how to evaluate articles that describe research related to different types of practices. Types of research methodologies will be explained and a list of the key features will be available to individuals so that they can make an informed assessment of a practice or program of interest. The workgroup is finalizing the tools and resources that will be used for this online resource page.

APBS Definition of Evidence-based Practice

Evidence-based practice in Positive Behavior Support is defined as the integration of rigorous science-based knowledge with applied expertise driven by stakeholder preferences, values, and goals within natural communities of support.

APBS Approved Definition March 26, 2013

Key Words

Policy/Practice Definitions


  • Explicitly linking research published in peer-reviewed journals to effective practice. This includes:
    • Research-based assessment tools, intervention strategies, and comprehensive support models or approaches
    • Research-based concepts and decision-rules that guide the design of unique strategies that match the needs of specific consumers and settings.
  • In complex systems, knowledge and practice from different but complementary fields may be necessary to solve applied problems.
  • At a high level of integration, consilience may be achieved; that is, a synsthesis or unity of knowledge that is relatively seamlessly instantiated in practice (e.g., SWPBS; Positive Family Integration).

Rigorous Science-based Knowledge

  • Rigorous science based knowledge includes knowledge developed from high quality research across a variety of established research methods including single case methods, quasi-experimental and experimental group design methods, correlational research methods, and qualitative research methods.
  • Defined by Odom et al.’s (2004) Quality Indicators for Research in Special Education and Guidelines for Evidence-Based Practices with added Positive Behavior Support Quality Indicators.

Applied Expertise

  • Applied expertise includes several qualities and competencies:
    • Technical expertise in conducting or facilitating relevant assessments (e.g., FBA, SWPBS Implementers Checklist), developing assessment-based interventions (e.g., positive behavior support plan, SWPBS universal support systems), and effectively supporting a high level of implementation fidelity of interventions by consumers.
    • Clinical or professional judgment in regard to working in partnership with key stakeholders to advance evidence-based practices in natural settings, customizing interventions to settings so that they possess a good contextual fit, and collaborating with allied professionals whose expertise may be necessary to achieve behavioral and quality of life outcomes.
    • Conducting activities from an empowerment model in which knowledge and skills are “given away” so that stakeholders are able to use the knowledge and skills in an effective, adapted, and generative way without the continual need for external technical assistance.

Stakeholder Preferences, Values, and Goals

  • Includes consumer and other stakeholder preferences that are strength based and promote valued outcomes.
  • Highlights the importance of person-centered values, collaboration and partnership.
  • For families of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, includes an effort to build partnerships, conduct assessment, design interventions and provide implementation support in a manner that is culturally responsive and sensitive.

Natural Communities of Support

  • Highlights the focus of positive behavior support on ecological validity; that is, the practical application and translation of science-based knowledge to natural agents of change in natural settings under natural conditions (e.g., teachers and administrators in school, parents and family members at home and in the community).
  • Requires that interventions possess a good contextual fit with the stakeholders and settings in which they will be implemented.
  • In settings in which positive behavior support is implemented a core outcome is that the focus person is more fully and successfully included as a full member of that setting, whether it is in the home, school, or community.
  • Includes a focus on building sustainable interventions that natural agents of change can continue to use and adapt across time with a minimum of additional technical assistance and support.

Click here for a printable version of the APBS Definition of Evidence-based Practice that includes this table.


This section of APBS evidence-based practices is currently in the planning stage. The goal is to demonstrate how to make a decision about whether a practice you are interested in is considered "evidence-based." The APBS Evidence-based Workgroup is identifying exemplary articles that will be used to demonstrate how to evaluate articles that describe research about different types of practices. Types of research methodologies will be explained and a list of the key features that should be in place for a study to be considered exemplary will be provided.

Resources and Links

Institute for Educational Sciences Evidence-based Practice Guide: Reducing Problem Behavior in the Elementary School Classroom

Link to Article

Evidence-based Practices in Special Education

Odom, S. L., Brantlinger, E., Gersten, R., Horner, R. H. Thompson, B., & Harris, K. R., Research in special education: Scientific methods and evidence-based practices. Exceptional Children, 71(2), 137-148.

Link to Article

Council for Exceptional Children Evidence-based Resource Page


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Defining Evidence-based Practice Resources


Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature

Fixsen, D. L., Naoom, S. F., Blase, K. A., Friedman, R. M. & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231).

Link to Article

Examining the Evidence Base for Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support

Horner, R. H., Sugai, G. H., & Anderson, C. M. (2010). Examining the evidence base for schoolwide positive behavior support. Exceptional Children, 42(8), 1-14.

Link to Article

Articles Related to Evidence-based Practice

  • Biglan, A., & Ogden, T. (2008). The evolution of evidence-based practices. NIH Public Access, 9(1), 81-95.

  • Biglan, A., Mrazek, P. J., Carnine, D., & Flay, B. R. (2003). The integration of research and practice in the prevention of youth problem behaviors. American Psychologist, 58(6/7), 433-440.

  • Bradshaw, C. P., Pas, E. T., Goldweber, A., Rosenberg, M. S., & Leaf, P. J. (2012). Integrating school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports with tier 2 coaching to student support teams: The PBISplus model. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 5(3), 177-193. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1754730X.2012.707429

  • Brantlinger, E., Jiminez, R., Klingner, J., Pugach, M., & Richardson, V. (2005). Qualitative studies in special education. Exceptional Children, 71(2), 195-207.

  • Cook, L., Cook, B. G., Landrum, T. J., & Tankersley, M. (2008). Examining the role of group experimental research in establishing evidence-based practices. Intervention in School and Clinic, 44(2), 76-82. Retrieved from http://isc.sagepub.com/content/44/2/76.full.pdf+html

  • Cook, B. G., Tankersley, M., & Landrum, T. J. (2009). Determining evidence-based practices in special education. Council for Exceptional Children, 75(3), 365-383.

  • Edwards, D. J. A., Bromley, D. B., & Dattilio, F. M. (2004). Developing evidence-based practice: The role of case-based research. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(6), 589-597.

  • Forness, S. R. (2005). The pursuit of evidence-based practice in special education for children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 30(4), 311-330.

  • Gerstein, R., Fuchs, L. S., Compton, D., Coyne, M., Greenwood, C., & Innocenti, M. S. (2005). Quality indicators for group experimental and quasi-experimental research in special education. Exceptional Children, 71(2), 149-164.

  • Horner, R. H., Carr, E. G., Halle, J., McGee, G., Odom, S., & Wolery, M. (2005). The use of single-subject research to identify evidence-based practice in special education. Council for Exceptional Children, 71(2), 165-179.

  • Kitson, A., Harvey, G., & McCormack, B. (1998). Enabling the implementation of evidence based practice: a conceptual framework. Quality in Health Care, 7, 149-158. Retrieved from http://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/7/3/149.full.pdf+html

  • McDuffie, K. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2008). The contributions of qualitative research to discussions of evidence-based practice in special education. Intervention in School and Clinic, 44(2), 91-97. Retrieved from http://isc.sagepub.com/content/44/2/91

  • Mullen, E. J. (2004). ). Facilitating practitioner use of evidence-based practice. In A. R. Roberts & K. Yeager (Eds.), Desk reference for evidence-based practice in healthcare and human services. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Odom, S. L. (2008). The tie that binds: Evidence-based practice, implementation science, and outcomes for children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 29 (1), 53-61. Retrieved from http://tec.sagepub.com/content/29/1/53

  • Odom, S. L., Brantlinger, E., Gersten, R., Thompson, B., & Harris, K. R. (2005). Research in special education: Scientific methods and evidence-based practices. Exceptional Children, 71(2), 137-148.

  • Weisz, J. R., Sandler, I. N., Durlak, J. A., & Anton, B. S. (2005). Promoting and protecting youth mental health through evidence-based prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 60(6), 628-648.