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Last updated on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board supports research and evidence-based practices in all of the work that we do. The Evidence-Based Education and Services Team (E-BEST) is the research department at HWDSB.

E-BEST helps teachers, administrators, and decision makers at HWDSB to find, understand, and use the best available evidence. Evidence combined with local context can help decision makers such as educators, principals, managers, superintendents, and Board members to make decisions that have a greater likelihood of producing the desired outcomes.

E-BEST supports HWDSB to improve board-wide learning and achievement by:

  • encouraging the use of evidence-based practices and decision making,
  • modeling high standards for research excellence,
  • sharing expertise in evaluation and knowledge mobilization and,
  • supporting community partnerships,
  • consulting with departments about surveys and evaluation plans.


Brandy Doan, M.Sc., Ph.D. Candidate
Manager, Evidence-Based Education Services Team (E-BEST)
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
20 Education Court, P.O. Box 2558
Hamilton, ON L8N 3L1
T: 905-527-5092 ext. 2259
Email: ebest@hwdsb.on.ca or bdoan@hwdsb.on.ca

Want to Conduct Research at HWDSB?

E-BEST works with internal and external researchers to facilitate research within our board. E-BEST is responsible for reviewing and recommending approval for all research activities that involve staff, students, facilities or programs at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).

All research conducted in the HWDSB must be approved in advance. For details on the review and application process please download the following PDF documents:

Applications are accepted during the following three time points with a start date 8-12 weeks from the time of submission:

August 15 Late October/Early November
October 15 Mid-January
January 15 Mid-March

For questions or concerns regarding the research application and review process, please contact: ebest_researchofficer@hwdsb.on.ca or 905-527-5092 ext. 2263/ext. 2253.

What is E-BEST doing?

As the research department of HWDSB, E-BEST evaluates programs, helps teachers and schools implement new programs and practices and collects data that helps inform decision-making at our Board. View our Service Improvement Plan here.

Knowledge Mobilization Lab

The Knowledge Mobilization Lab (KM Lab) studies ways we can improve the use of research by educators. The KM Lab is led by E-BEST, and involves educators and other professionals from across our school district. Information about past activities of the KM Lab is available here, while details of the current focus of the KM Lab are available here.

Collaboration with External Partners:

E-BEST provides practicum placements for students in several undergraduate programs at McMaster University. E-BEST is a member of the Association of Educational Researchers of Ontario (AERO), and has active partnerships with a variety of organizations, including McMaster University, Brock University, Wilfred Laurier University, the City of Hamilton, and the School-Board University Research Exchange (SURE) Network. For more information about E-BEST reports, Knowledge Mobilization products or the Knowledge Mobilization Lab, please contact: dbuchana@hwdsb.on.ca, (905) 527-5092, ext. 2724

Current Projects

  • HWDSB’s Math Strategy is a three year initiative that aims to engage educators in collaborative inquiry cycles to improve their mathematical pedagogy, leading to increased student achievement in math. These inquiry cycles will focus on student work and marker students. Year one of the math strategy began with a variety of different projects on a range of topics. Year two and three focused on further refining and developing these projects to ensure the learning needs of HWDSB staff and students are addressed. For the most recent report on our Math Strategy, click here. Contact: John Leyzer, Organization and Leadership Principal, joleyzer@hwdsb.on.ca.
  • The North Cluster Early Literacy Inquiry is an interdisciplinary project that focuses on improving literacy skills in students attending 10 schools in the North Cluster of HWDSB. The project builds on earlier work that focused on implementing Peer-assisted Learning Strategies (PALS).
  • The HWDSB After School Scholars’ Program (Scholars) was established as a pilot in 2008-2009 in an effort to support grade three and six students through targeted academic after-school instruction. Schools typically begin the program in January and end in April, but are free to begin later in order to provide extra support right up to the administration of EQAO. The program has expanded as a Board-wide support to approximately 60 schools, and it includes programs focusing on numeracy, programs to include students in grades other than three and six, and a Parent Engagement component. For the most recent report on the Scholars Program, click here. Contact: Joanna Crapsi, Administrator of HWDSB After-School Scholars Program, jcrapsi@hwdsb.on.ca.
  • Transforming Learning Everywhere (TLE), HWDSB’s vision for 21st century learning, is centered on the use of evidence-based pedagogy accelerated by digital tools. E-BEST is measuring and monitoring the implementation of TLE using a mixed-methods approach, relying on both qualitative and quantitative sources. Examples of data sources include interviews, focus groups, achievement data and surveys.
  • Camp Power is a Summer Learning Program implemented by HWDSB with funding from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat and support from the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE).  Camp Power is designed to help primary students minimize the loss of learning in literacy and/or math that may occur during the summer months.  A research study has been monitoring the impact of this program on student achievement over a three-year span.
  • The Empower™ Reading Program, developed by researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC), is a reading program for children who are struggling to learn to read. HWDSB has been implementing the Empower™ Reading Program for more than a decade, and has also piloted the use of Empower™ with middle-school students and secondary students.

E-BEST Reports and Knowledge Mobilization Products

Research Reports

Some of the reports that E-BEST produces include:

  • Peer-assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) Implementation report
  • Empower Implementation Report
  • Knowledge Building, Knowledge Forum Report – A theoretical model developed by Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia for describing what a community of learners needs to accomplish in order to create knowledge. HWDSB and several other school boards have been involved in a project that brings Knowledge Building to classrooms. Part of that project includes using the “Knowledge Forum” software designed to support knowledge building. For details click here.
  • Student Voice Report
  • Parent Voice Report
  • Coping Power Report – A program designed to enhance students’ social and emotional skills, developed by Dr. John Lochman from the University of Alabama.  Research studies have examined the effectiveness of this program, showing positive results.  While the program was initially developed for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, all children can benefit from the information contained in the program.  Hence, in 2012 and 2013, COPING POWER was delivered in several classrooms within Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).  During the school day, as part of the curriculum, the program was taught as a series of 34 lessons of approximately 1-hour. The lessons introduce students to different ways of understanding and handling their feelings, responding to stress, how to resolve conflicts and how to make and keep helpful relationships.  E-BEST monitored the effectiveness and implementation of the program. Click here for the report summarizing the findings of the 2012-2013 evaluation.

Knowledge Mobilization Products

E-BEST produces a number of knowledge mobilization reports and summaries. All of these documents are produced in Adobe PDF format and may be shared freely with interested colleagues under the Creative Commons license.

Bottom Line Actionable Messages are brief reviews of the literature, undertaken in response to an inquiry from an educator or administrator within our school district. They are not systematic reviews, but an attempt to gather the best, most relevant evidence within the time available.

Research in Brief are summaries developed from recent systematic reviews They produced by the Evidence-Based Education Services Team (E-BEST) at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and are intended to provide an overview of high-quality research reviews relevant to educators.

Programs in Brief are summaries intended to provide a brief overview to programs that are relevant to educators, or to summarize programs that are being offered at the HWDSB.

  • Abracadabra is a free, interactive web-based literacy program designed for early elementary school-aged students, their educators, teachers and parents. There are two main entry points to ABRACADABRA: through stories and skills. The program offers a variety of aids in five areas: Instruction, Professional Development, Communication, Assessment and Parent.
  • The Empower Reading Program program is designed to teach word identification skills and decoding strategies and to promote their effective use of these strategies. Using these strategies, the student can develop the basic skills needed for independent reading for meaning, information, or pleasure.  The program focuses on 5 strategies: Sounding Out strategy, Rhyming strategy, Peeling Off strategy, Vowel Alert strategy, and SPY strategy. The student selects which of these strategies to apply by utilizing a Game Plan, a sports analogy that emphasizes practicing strategies and evaluating the success of the strategy chosen.
  • Kindergarten Language and Literacy in the Classroom (KLLIC) is 20 weeks in length, and is divided into 10 sections or cycles. Each cycle is focused on a children’s storybook, and contains specific language activities that are related to the theme of the story. These language activities include listening, taking turns, sequencing, predicting, grammar, and re-telling stories. Phoneme awareness activities are also a large part of the program.
  • Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is a systematic class-wide reading program for students in kindergarten to grade 6.  PALS builds reading fluency and comprehension skills through a set of activities that students are engaged in for 35 – 45 minute sessions, 3 – 4 times a week.  The classroom teacher provides the initial lesson followed by a prescribed lesson with materials provided . This is followed by students working in pairs to practice and reinforce the skills taught.
  • Positive Action ® is a class and school-wide social and emotional learning (SEL) program focused on promoting social skills and personal growth in students. The core philosophy of the program is the explicit teaching that individuals feel better about themselves when they do positive actions. The positive actions include positive self-concept, physical health, emotional health, school achievement, and positive interpersonal relationships with peers, parents, and other adults.