Factors influencing evidence-based practice

Table of Contents:

Ability, motivation, and opportunity predict work performance (Blumberg & Pringle. 1982). These predictors help organize knowledge on practitioners' engagement in evidence-based practice (Rousseau & Gunia. 2016).


Rousseau and Gunia (2016) differentiate foundational from functional competencies. Foundational competencies embrace general knowledge and skills, allowing people to engage in evidence-based practice, with two examples being critical flunking and domain specific knowledge. Critical thinking is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed. It is used to solve problems, formulate inferences, calculate likelihoods, and make decisions suitable fora particular context (Halpern. 2014). In sport, exercise, and performance psychology, practitioners' flunking is goal directed because they are helping clients solve problems or formulate possible strategies for their specific circumstances. A practitioner's ability to apply critical thought to a client’s situation is facilitated by well-organized and rich domain knowledge. Master therapists report being voracious learners and claim to have accumulated a large body of knowledge and experience (Jennings & Skovholt. 1999). Further, their commitment to learning ensures that their know ledge and experience has value when working with clients.

Functional competencies include the skills and knowledge associated with attaining and using evidence to help clients (Rousseau & Gunia. 2016), such as those needed to implement the 7 As. In the UK, the 7As are usually separated from each other in practitioner training. Lessons about how to ask questions, acquire evidence, and appraise research are normally addressed in courses on research methods. Instructions about how to apply knowledge and assess outcomes are ty pically covered in modules on sport and performance psychology'. Students may not always connect the two subsets, and the separation may contribute to the research-practice divide discussed in the literature (e g.. Hassmen etal.. 2016).


Ajzen's (1991) theory of planned behaviour helps predict when practitioners will want to engage in evidence-based practice (Rousseau & Gunia. 2016). The factors influencing practitioners’ intentions to follow evidence-based practice include their attitudes towards doing so. their beliefs that they can implement the principles, and their views on the discipline s norms or expectations.

A positive attitude towards applying evidence-based practice in sport and performance psychology presupposes a level of knowledge of the topic. Further, practitioners will likely be motivated if they tmst that the benefits outweigh the costs. For example, if individuals think evidence-based practice involves completing extra paperwork, writing risk assessments, or the devaluing of consultant expertise without an increased probability of improved client sen ices, then they are unlikely to adopt the 7 As. Practitioners will ask. “What’s in it for my clients and what’s in it for me?” If no answers are forthcoming, then evidence-based practice will be viewed as burdensome.

Related to consultants' attitudes are their perceptions that they can instigate evidencebased principles. Their perceived self-efficacy encompasses both their skills and access to relevant resources. For example, practitioners in private practice may have faith in their ability to appraise and apply research but have low levels of perceived control if they do not have ready access to original sport, exercise, and performance psychology research. Free access to research has increased in recent years. Difficulties with integrating scientific knowledge may now be associated with individuals’ ability to appraise work critically and to winnow the wheat from the chaff.

People’s views of the discipline’s expectations influence their willingness to use evidencebased practice procedures. Professional and educational bodies set norms about the role of research in guiding practice. Most codes of conduct in sport exercise, and performance psychology instruct people to base practice on current knowledge. Practitioners, however, especially trainees, arc only open to integrating research if they believe it is relevant to their contexts and has applied value (Tod. 2017). Irrelevant and overly theoretical research has limited influence on practice. Ideally, researchers and practitioners share a symbiotic relationship whereby both parties inform each other's activities. Traditionally, however, researchers and practitioners have often worked in separate domains because the reward structures have discouraged collaboration (Hassmen et al.. 2016). More recently, in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, government-sponsored research assessment exercises have encouraged, or even required, researchers to demonstrate the influence their work is having in people's lives. These changes in culture and reward systems may lead to greater interaction among researchers and stakeholders.

Changes in research culture encourage investigators to ensure their work helps make the world a better place, but may not influence practitioners operating outside of academia. Professional organizations can require consultants to demonstrate their efforts to base practice on current knowledge as part of ongoing registration or licensure schemes. Practitioners will likely adhere to such registration or licensure schemes if professional bodies educate clients about the benefits of employing qualified individuals.


Opportunity refers to practitioners' views about how much their consultancy settings allow them to follow evidence-based practice principles (Rousseau & Gunia. 2016). Example factors include the time available to spend with performers, the complexity of clients’ presenting issues, and the existence of comorbid mental health conditions. Practitioners’ beliefs about their levels of autonomy, flexibility, and authority also influence their perceived freedom to combine evidence with their expertise. For example, psychologists operating solely in a private practice setting may perceive they have less freedom to adhere to evidence-based practice principles compared with academics who consult with clients on a part-time basis or those individuals employed by national sports institutes or governing bodies.

Organizational structure and expectations will also influence practitioners' attempts to engage in evidence-based practice. To illustrate, a facilitative organization might allow ready access to research, schedule workloads so that people can receive supervision from peers or professional elders, allow time for reflective practice to occur, and promote an atmosphere where consultants can experiment. These organizational affordances might be less readily available to consultants in private practice compared with academics and institute-employed individuals. Timing in the competitive season or cycle may also have an influence. Consultants' opportunities to integrate novel research with practice are less likely to occur during a competitive event, for example, than in the off-season.

Practitioners’ levels of professional experience may also sway their efforts to follow evidence-based practice (Rousseau & Gunia. 2016). For example, sport psychologists’ abilities to use research effectively improve with client experience. Trainees may find it difficult to integrate research with their expertise because they lack knowledge to critique evidence and adapt it to clients' needs (Tod. Andersen. & Marchant. 2011). Senior consultants may be able to combine research with their knowledge and skills because they have accumulated experiential wisdom about what works with clients. Supervisors and educators help students learn to integrate evidence with practice by teaching them how to evaluate research and how to engage in reflective practice. Such instruction may speed up professional development.

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