Time and Change

I realized, as I was sitting at my computer the other day, that it has been far too long since I’ve written a meaningful blog post. I have any number of excuses… the new job is a bit of a time suck (it is), I’ve quit following most of the SLP pages on Facebook (I have) so I don’t have my fingers in as many issues for inspiration (absolutely true)… But if I’m completely honest, none of those are why I haven’t written a post. 

time for changeOne of my passions is absolutely school-based issues and SLP Advocacy. The students in my Public School Methods class can tell you it’s a definite passion based on how often I get on a soapbox (trying to teach them the importance of self and student advocacy, research, not working from home, etc…).  I honestly thought I could write on those issues constantly…and I probably could, but I have written on them several times already and nothing has changed and I HATE to beat a dead horse (even metaphorically).

One of my newer passions is the skill it takes to encourage active learning – to teach students to think for themselves and not be led around by the pretty packaging of TPT and mass marketing…and that’s coming along, but I don’t feel like I can really blog about it yet…I’m not an expert. I truly feel there is a need to teach students how to learn and think critically, not just to memorize the information. (Looking back…maybe that’s why we’re where we are…maybe we’ve focused so much on memorizing to “pass the test” we’ve forgotten how to think? Oh man, I certainly hope that is NOT the case.)

I guess the truth of the matter is, I’m not sure where I fit in any more. I’m neither fish (true researcher/academician) or fowl (school-based SLP). I have always felt that there is a large discount between the individuals “in the trenches” and the ones at the university. Sadly, my take on that hasn’t changed in the past year.

Interestingly though, there are some things that are mutually important to both clinician and academician. For instance, there are both academicians AND clinicians who appear to snub data and the research (yes, you read that correctly). Recently, I was reading an article from Faculty Focus (a teaching group) and came across this gem:

“It can’t be that we don’t respect the data, but somehow the science isn’t convincing enough to change what we do, or sustain efforts to continue doing what may be harder but is more essential to learning. What ties the threads of data to teacher action are emotional—those transitory bits of feeling, trepidations, really. “So, this strategy has a good track record, but will I be able to do it? Will it work my content? How will my students respond? And what will I do if it flops?”

While this article specifically is focusing on why instructors/professors at universities are unwilling/unable to sustain active learning principals, it struck home for me as a clinician as well. Anyone who reads here knows I’m very much a voice for research. I understand the “need” to go with what feels right or what’s easy instead of following the research, but I’d be lying if I said I thought it was acceptable to do. I “get it”…but I also “get” why it is such a bad idea.

I was listening to a podcast about science and “fraud” vs “alternative” medicine and this struck a note:

“People tend to cherry pick. They tend to choose which science they want to believe.”

That I absolutely believe. I see it with my own eyes. When confronted about the lack of “real” evidence behind a product/method the individual in question doesn’t typically accept the science (or lack thereof) behind it – they choose when they want to be “evidence based clinicians” and when they want to be alternative medicine providers.

But why?

I’ve posted before about Greg Lof and the art of critical thinking and pseudoscience. The neurologist in the podcast linked about said this about skepticism:

“I think skepticism basically is just rigorously applying critical thinking, meta-cognition, understanding science, and pseudoscience to the kinds of questions that we confront in our everyday lives. Medicine, obviously, and healthcare, in general, is part of that. I think there’s no distinction between those things. It’s just one aspect of what skepticism is.”

We all KNOW we need to employ evidence based practices. We know we have an ethical obligation to ensure best-practices for our clients (or students) yet we tend to not accept that research. It’s been suggested that part of the reason the push for evidence based practices appears to have fallen on deaf ears is because it is so emotionally charged. When people feel attacked they have a hard time hearing the message (oh yeah…boy can I related to that!). I think there’s a bit more to it than that though.

I know I’ve seen a fear of change at the university level (odd isn’t it?). When new ideas are discussed there is often resistance. When policies are questioned, we hear “in the past we’ve…”, “that’s the way we’ve always done it…”, etc.

Perhaps it’s a combination of the “fight or flight syndrome” that occurs when we feel attacked and the fear of not knowing what to do or how to help along with the fear of not knowing where to start. Perhaps it is from fear of having made a mistake or not knowing what to do next? Maybe there’s a fear of “losing face.” Maybe it’s that fear of change?

Could it be that simple? Do some SLPs tend to discount the evidence base because of fear?

I’m not sure and I’m not sure where to go from here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you feel it is the fear that causes some to disregard the evidence (or lack thereof) showing a particular treatment is not evidence based? Do you feel it is fear that causes some individuals to disregard treatments that have, perhaps, some science basis but no thorough research yet? Drop me a line here and let me know.

Until then…Adventure on!



4 thoughts on “Time and Change

  1. I can’t agree more about teaching critical thinking skills. Specifically teaching kids how to ask deeper questions. I have recently begun to teach the question formulation technique out of the Right Question Institute. Went to a day long training to make sure I was doing it with integrity. Try it!

  2. Thought provoking post. I have often been a skeptic of research in our field because of the necessary nature and of the quality of the studies. We are humans dealing with humans in similar but not identical ways. Our journals are fillled with studies that are difficult to replicate, having relatively few subjects and trials, based on observation of specific behaviors, often with not enough information about the variables and conditions, and outcomes that are not statistically significant or barely so. Despite the required disclaimers, sponsorship of research may not be fully revealed.
    The skilll of critical evaluation of the information we are reading, viewing, and listening to in the mass media is currently receiving much needed attention. That skill was addressed in some of the preparatory courses I had to take quite a few decades ago, but I remember being both intimidated by and in awe of the writing, the titles of the articles, and the credentials of the researchers. Unquestioning acceptance of the conclusions was my inclination. Over time and with experience I have learned to ask more questions, look more deeply, and pursue answers, or at least I think I have. How is critical thinking and evaluation being addressed in preparatory courses today?

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