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Definition

Implementation

is that point where an intervention or practice moves from the domain of the researcher to that of the practitioner.

Executive Summary

How Do We Make it Work?

The primary goal of educational research is the identification of practices for schools to use to teach skills and knowledge that enable students to live productive and successful lives. Implementation is the point where the practice moves from the domain of the researcher to that of the practitioner. Successful implementation is hard but not impossible. Exemplars on how to overcome the challenges exist and are valuable in building our knowledge base in this critical component of our model. This article describes the fundamental elements that comprise implementation.

Phase One-Adoption
Getting a practice approved by decision-makers for use by practitioners

Phase Two-Sustainability
Maintaining a practice beyond the implementation phase

Implementation Paradox
Why do bad things happen to good interventions

  1. Practices established as efficacious and effective frequently fail to be adopted or fail to win wide support within the educational community.
  2. Practices that are ineffective and even harmful are often adopted and retained for years despite failing to produce desired results.
    more 

Obstacles Impeding Successful Implementation
  1. Controlling the effects of increased numbers of complicating variables that arise in the natural environment
  2. Influencing multiple levels of the institution of education
  3. Managing unforeseen consequences resulting from the introduction of the intervention
  4. Insufficient availability of rigorous evidence based research
  5. more

Adoption
  1. Outcomes
  2. Motivation
  3. Obstacles to Adoption
  4. Tools for Adoption
    more

Sustainability
  1. Outcomes
  2. Performance Management Strategies
  3. Obstacles to Sustainability
  4. Tools for Sustainability
    more

Overview Back to Top

The primary goal of educational research is the identification of practices for schools to use to teach skills and knowledge that enable students to live productive and successful lives. Implementation is the point where the practice moves from the domain of the researcher to that of the practitioner.

Unfortunately, practices that have been identified as both efficacious and effective frequently fail to survive this transition and consequently never become institutionalized. The barriers and obstacles that must be surmounted are formidable. It is a challenge to create lasting change within one school, and it becomes increasingly difficult to affect changes across schools (districts, regions, and states).

Successful implementation is hard but not impossible. Exemplars on how to overcome the challenges exist and are valuable in building our knowledge base in this critical component of our model. This article describes the fundamental elements that comprise implementation.

The Two Phases of Implementation Back to Top


The Two Phases of Implementation


Phase One-Adoption
Getting a practice approved by decision-makers for use by practitioners

The key to successful implementation is the formal authorization of decision-makers. Achieving this requires support from key stakeholders: practitioners and consumers (parents and students). Knowing what motivates each constituency is critical in understanding how to gain this support. Effective use of social influence techniques is essential in persuading stakeholders to commit to putting into practice the new intervention (i.e., practice).

Phase Two-Sustainability

Maintaining a practice beyond the implementation phase

To make an impact an intervention must meet the test of time. Administrators, teaching staff, and parents all play critical roles in determining whether an intervention will survive. Educators are all too familiar with initiatives coming and going. It is important to note that this is true regardless of the efficacy or effectiveness of the intervention. To ensure durability it is imperative that there are built-in motivations that support the practitioner s implementation of the new intervention. To accomplish this it is vital to start with a receptive audience. Achieving this requires matching the practice to the culture that will implement the intervention. Interventions often fail with a group that is already hostile to it. Finally, sound performance management techniques must be employed to sustain the intervention once it is put into service.


Implementation Paradox Back to Top

Implementation Paradox

Why do bad things happen to good interventions

Implementation failures take the form of two paradoxical situations:

  1. Practices established as efficacious and effective frequently fail to be adopted or fail to win wide support within the educational community.
  2. Practices that are ineffective and even harmful are often adopted and retained for years despite failing to produce desired results.


Obstacles Impeding Implementation Back to Top

Obstacles Impeding Successful Implementation

(Research -> Practice)

Why do implementations fail? What impedes efficacious, effective interventions from being adopted and sustained?

  • Controlling the effects of increased numbers of complicating variables that arise in the natural environment
    Research settings are specifically designed to control for variables that may compromise the integrity of the results. In the laboratory, the researcher can increase confidence that the intervention is the cause of the change to the dependent variable by minimizing the threats to validity of the results. In classroom settings, educators are confronted with multiple unplanned factors that distract both student and instructor. Unfortunately, these factors frequently reduce the effectiveness of the practice. An apt comparison would be trying to thread a needle while riding a roller coaster.

    Common complicating factors include:
    • Turnover in service practitioners
    • Low acceptance of the intervention by the practitioners
    • Turnover in students
    • Changes in resources or lack of required resources
    • Changes in monitoring standards
    • Consumer dissatisfaction
  • Influencing multiple levels of the institution of education
    The introduction of a new intervention requires successful navigation of the complex political world of policy-makers, decision-makers, administrators, service providers, and consumers. Each stakeholder level has its own unique set of contingencies that must be addressed.
  • Managing unforeseen consequences resulting from the introduction of the intervention
    Every attempt to change a complex system has unplanned results. Good planning is the best tool for predicting possible consequences but does not eliminate unplanned consequences. Planning is also critical in minimizing for the effects of negative consequences when and if they occur.

    The consequences fall into two categories:

    Unintended consequence - those consequences that can reasonably be predicted, but are ignored and/or unanalyzed.

    Example: California mandates a fifth year for prospective teachers to remain in school before earning a Teaching Credential. The intent of the law was the improvement of teacher quality. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence has been to increase the number of unqualified teachers in California classrooms.
    • Fewer teacher applicants enter the field due to the duration of schooling compared to compensation
    • Reduction in out of state veteran teacher applicants due to the requirements for a 5th year of schooling


    Unanticipated consequences - those consequences, which are unpredictable due to our inability to process the vast number of possible outcomes that may arise from an intervention.
    Example: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) itself is the model of best intentions resulting in unanticipated consequences. NCLB is over 650 pages, applies to 50 states, and is designed to be a comprehensive school improvement intervention. It covers topics as far ranging as reading scores, teacher qualifications, staff development, high stakes testing, compensation for performance, school report cards, school safety, and the establishment of evidence-based standards for education. The unprecedented scope of NCLB guarantees that no one could plan for and anticipate all possible consequences that would result from the implementation of this law. Some examples of unanticipated consequences are:
    • Closure of poorly performing schools with few alterative choices for transfer
    • Few evidenced-based school improvement strategies for poor performing schools
    • Under funding of NCLB crippling reform efforts
    • Formidable resistance from teachers to high stakes testing
    • Poor performing schools losing money and resources required for improvements assuring further slippage
    • Demanding that disabled students reach "proficiency" on standardized tests sets students up for failure and conflicts with IDEA

  • Insufficient availability of rigorous evidence based research.
    • Insufficient rigorous research being conducted
    • Inadequate dissemination
There are no studies on What Works, The Campbell Collaborative, and School Psychology Review in the area of adoption or sustainability



Critical Factors in Successful Implementations: Phase 1 - Adoption Back to Top

Critical Factors in Successful Implementations


Phase 1 - Adoption

Outcomes
An essential stage in the formation of an evidenced-based education culture is the development of clear, measurable, and agreed to outcomes. The outcomes establish a vision that describes the necessary conditions, characteristics, and structures needed for the component of implementation (adoption) to thrive. The outcomes also serve as the focal point for creating goals to accomplish that will achieve the desired outcomes. We are concerned with two critical types of outcomes:


Motivation
The most powerful factor influencing the adoption of a practice is the motivation of the stakeholders. If the key individuals involved in the decision are not motivated to support the practice, chances are not good that it will be adopted. To increase the chances for acceptance, an analysis of the controlling contingencies should be conducted. A contingency is a dependency between two events, if one occurs the other is likely to occur. A contingency analysis helps to identify who is likely to support the intervention and who is likely to oppose its adoption and also why they are so inclined.

A contingency analysis that supports adoption needs to indicate that on balance the intervention is more reinforcing and less punishing than the alternative intervention.

Key success factors:


Obstacles
It is important to identify and subsequently surmount the many obstacles that stand in the way of adoption of an evidenced-based intervention.

Below is a list of potential obstacles:

Tools for Adoption




Critical Factors in Successful Implementations: Phase 2 - Sustainability Back to Top

Phase 2 - Sustainability


Outcomes
The formal adoption of the intervention by decision-makers initiates Phase 2 (sustainability) and application of the intervention with consumers. To attain the optimum results in student performance that were identified in the laboratory it is essential that following elements be present:

Performance Management Strategies

Motivation
As in Phase 1-Adoption, motivation plays a pivotal role in supporting sustainable practices. Education involves people, and when working with people it goes without saying, motivation is supreme. Unless people are motivated to perform truly nothing can happen.

Key success factors:
Leadership
Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective. The leader is able to articulate a concise set of values and outcomes that focus the performance of others and directs the organization to meaningful accomplishments.

Planning

Obstacles
Tools for Sustainability

Annual plan - the annual plan is a vital leadership and management tool. It provides guidance and direction to all stakeholders. The plan comprises specific outcomes that, if accomplished, will mean that the mission of effectively educating students has been accomplished. The annual plan should identify clear targets that are objective and measurable. It provides specific strategies for personnel to follow in meeting the outcomes. The plan must indicate who is responsible for meeting the goals and when this needs to be accomplished. It is important to involve stakeholders in the development of the plan.

Accompanying documents:

Key indicator report - the key indicator report is designed to provide stakeholders: administrators, supervisors, service providers, and consumers with feedback on critical performance areas. It is important that the number of items tracked be limited. It is recommended that no more than ten indicators be represented. The report should be distributed at least monthly, but sooner is always better. It is important that the information be reviewed regularly. There are two categories that comprise the Key Indicator Report, outcomes and indicators that directly lead to the outcomes. It is important that only mission critical data be incorporated. It is easy to overwhelm the report with too many indicators resulting in failure of the tool.

Annual reports - annually a summary of the previous year s efforts should be completed. This report serves to maintain communication, identify areas to address in the coming year, and reinforce personnel for success.

Contingency analysis - the contingency analysis is designed to support initiatives that are identified as critical to any important initiative. In this case we are referring to annual plan goals. The contingency analysis builds a knowledge base of stakeholders affected by the accomplishment of an annual plan goal. More importantly, the plan identifies each stakeholder s motivation with regard to the issue at hand. The contingency analysis identifies strategies to pursue in rearranging the contingencies and motivation for key stakeholders so that they support the initiative.
 
 
 
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