Evidence-based interventions have the potential to improve educational outcomes for students. Often these programs are introduced with an initial training but once the training has been completed often there is no additional follow-up support available. This can result in the educational initiative not being fully adopted and frequently abandoned soon after initial adoption. To change this cycle, on-going coaching or implementation support has been suggested as an alternative. The current study by Owen and colleagues evaluated the impact of implementation supports on student outcomes who participated in the implementation of Say All Fast Minute Every Day Shuffled (SAFMEDS). This program is designed to promote fast and accurate recall. In this instance, the goal was to increase fluency with math facts. This was a large randomized trial in which teachers received training on implementing SAFMEDS, and following training were assigned to either a No Support group, or an Implementation Support Group. Implementation Support consisted of three face-to-face meetings with a teacher and email contact initiated by the teacher. All of the students in the study had been identified as performing below standards for their age. The results suggest that across grade levels (Grade 1-2 and Grades 3-5) Implementation Supports resulted in small effect size improvements compared to the No Support Group. For Grades 1-2, the effect size was d=0.23 and for Grades 3-5 d=0.25. These are relatively small effect sizes; however, they are larger than the average effect sizes reported in the professional development literature that apply coaching elements to math programs. It should also be noted that the Implementation Supports consisted of three hours across a school year. This is a relatively low intensity dose of support and one that is likely to be practical in most school contexts.
The important take-away from this research is that some level of Implementation Support will likely be necessary to gain benefit from empirically-supported interventions such as SAFMEDS. The challenge for researchers is to identify the minimum dosage of Implementation Support to improve outcomes and the critical components of the Implementation Support so that it is efficient and effective.
Owen, K. L., Hunter, S. H., Watkins, R. C., Payne, J. S., Bailey, T., Gray, C., … & Hughes, J. C. (2021). Implementation Support Improves Outcomes of a Fluency-Based Mathematics Strategy: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 14(3), 523-542.