An understanding of what counts as good evidence is affected by the accepted hierarchy of evidence that explicitly favors quantitative methods used in randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews. This hierarchy is biased against qualitative studies and methods that are commonly used in social work research projects, such as participatory and case studies, and devalues their contributions to knowledge development (Bates, 2011). From my perspective, the power to decide what constitutes real evidence should not belong only to the medical authorities. In fact, making decisions about treatments without prioritizing over quantitative large-sample studies can be very risky, whereas, in the social work field, the situation is different.
EBP is sometimes termed as authority-based practice, and its claimed benefits, many of which are related to status and financial opportunities, are effectively advertised to service providers. Both professional and agency power contributes to the validation of EBP and increases the number of those willing to employ the model. Advocates of EBP communicate the benefits of EBP, such as better funding and confidence, to social workers and organizations, thus applying their power and ensuring more support for the model and its proponents (Bates, 2011). Therefore, the use of the promise of EBP for organizations, customers, and overall service quality helps to encourage the adoption of the model.
I am convinced that social workers, including me, can resist the narrowing of perspective by making practice evidence-informed rather than evidence-based and popularizing new perspectives on evidence. To reach this goal, it is possible to unite with like-minded colleagues and advocate for the reconsideration of the role of qualitative research in social work decision-making. Direct rejection of EBP is probably not the best approach to maintaining social workers’ traditional ideological orientation. At the same time, the promotion of critical thinking in terms of EBP, researching its limitations, and normalizing the diversity of evidence may support further improvement in the field.
Bates, M. (2011). Evidence-based practice and anti-oppressive practice. In D. Baines (Ed.), Doing anti-oppressive practice: Social justice social work (2nd ed.) (pp. 147-161). Fernwood Publishing.