View the presentation by Pat Gibbons, University College Dublin

Including evidence-based practice in
the academic curriculum: the MSc
Humanitarian Action Case
Pat Gibbons
University College Dublin
9th November 2011
• ‘If Rip Van Winkle had been a physician, a farmer, or an engineer, he would
be unemployable if he awoke today. If he had been a teacher in the 19th
century, he would probably be a good teacher today’ –
Adopted from Slavin (2002)
• What constitutes ‘evidence-based’
• Evidence-based practice: the academic/ scientific – practice nexus
• Evidence based practice in humanitarian action education
• The NOHA Masters Model
• What constitutes evidence?- Complex and contentious decision-making
based of rigorous and systematic research to obtain valid knowledge
• Evidence has always been critical to the Sciences – assoc. with positivism
• Tendency to overlook the complexities and employ a positivist approach.
• Reminder: Scientific evidence does not provide proof it merely confirms
our commitment to theoretical/ conceptual constructs provided by a
paradigm that has already defined what counts as evidence
Ontology + Epistemology + methods = Research Methodology
• Limitations of positivism increasingly recognised among all disciplines
Evidenced-based contd.
• Even those disciplines that long advocated positivist, quantitative research
question its appropriates on the basis of its:
– adequacy to investigate complex social phenomena;
– Its cost effectiveness;
– Limitations in actively engaging with clients/ beneficaries/
– Requirement to develop concepts rather than test concepts.
• The limits of positivism does/ should not effect the need for evidencebased approaches
• The requirement is for personnel with a greater toolbox of research
approaches and methods
Evidence-Based Practice
• The academic/ scientific – practice nexus
• Rich tradition in some disciplines
• How much value is given to academia/ science over practice
• Academic/ scientific imperialism – especially in curriculum management
• Practitioner clients/recipients/ followers – rather than partners
• Is there a model(s) that warrants replication?
Evidence based practice in humanitarian action
• New and growing area of study
• Varied rationale for this humanitarian growth
• Humanitarianism not Discipline per se but is governed by distinct
• Combines range of academic disciplines and broad range of practitioners
• Humanitarian contexts are complex and varied
• Evidence based research is not new to humanitarian practitioners
• Challenges to pool our resources towards a common goal
NOHA Masters
• ‘all interventions should be guided by sound information’
• Governed and managed by a broad humanitarian stakeholder mix
• Practitioners participate in design, delivery and management of the
• The systematic collection of information cross-cuts the entire programme
at different levels:
– Thematic modules (50 ECTS) ;
– Research module (10 ECTS); and
– Thesis/ internship component (30 ECTS).
NOHA Masters condt.
• Much can be done to enhance the humanitarian education globally and
nationally, including:
– Improved partnership, collaborations and information sharing between academic
– Stronger partnership (especially in research) with humanitarian stakeholders; and
– Researching out to a global constituency
• As stakeholders - students are also part of the process – their felt needs
with other perceived needs shape the programme direction
• I am interested to hear the outcomes of the group session
In bringing you back to the aforementioned toolbox – ‘remember to a person
with only a hammer everything looks like a nail’