“We have a problem. We want to fix it and we would like to go away fairly quickly.” This is a typical message we get. Usually, it is around a technology implementation or new program. We often see implementation as the overlooked step and in the end, it is what can make or break a solution.
“Okay, can you define the problem for us? Do you have data on this particular problem? Is there a stakeholder team and a plan?” As we dig in and start to define the problem we ask for data often find there are no answers. There isn’t always a willingness to spend the time on this step. There is often a rush to implement a new district-wide initiative. The result often is a “one-and-done” implementation strategy that has little impact.
We have found that when new technology or programs are implemented without following the best methodologies for implementation there is little change in culture, instructional strategies, and overall outcomes. As external facilitators, we work with districts and schools to achieve quality and effective outcomes through guidance on planning, responsibilities, and phases of the implementation.
Our model is about the solution that comes from defining the problem and is unique to each individual location. Processes are designed to achieve the best educational outcomes and barriers are examined for interventions. We call this the science of implementation. This is not some new fad. In fact, it has been around for decades in the health and aeronautical industries.
Implementation science is about the fundamental work of getting “what works” into the minds of the people who need it, with great efficiency, quality, fidelity, and relevancy. To do this one must have a systematic approach of research-based methods that focus on understanding the process (the “why” and “how”), context, and outcomes of implementation, with the end-goal of changing practice and behavior.
There are many frameworks that can be used for planning with implementation science. The key is to drive the process by the objectives of the organization. Frameworks typically focus on the following:
Example Implementation Science Framework
- Build leadership consensus on objectives and process
- Identify and prepare stakeholder champions
- Design professional learning
- Provide dynamic and engaging training
- Promote adaptability
- Provide ongoing coaching and feedback
- Gather and analyze data
What makes the implementation science model so unique is that it is focused on the factors of each site and personalizes application for success. It is collaborative and all members of the team are accountable for the implementation of the program. Desired peripheral outcomes include:
- Build Stakeholder Buy-in
- Provide Clear Communication
- Identify Knowledge Gaps
- Determine Appropriate Systems & Process
- Develop Equity
- Identify Strategies & Interventions
The goal is to make implementation effective and integrated so there is a measurable return on the investment. Our work focuses on the following process:
We work with District and School Stakeholder leadership teams to work through each of these 5 areas using tools and strategies to hone in on the right solution. As outside facilitators, we bring a neutral and empathetic approach to the partnership. From there we partner to create an implementation plan that focuses on the unique factors and evidence-based strategies selected. This includes:
- Ongoing Professional Learning
- Intentional and sustained
- Coaching & Modeling
- Data Collection
- Fiscal Resource Management
- SMART Goals
- Progress and Monitoring
- Student Data to be Collected
- Intervals defined
- Course Correction Indicators
Once we have set the plan we begin the implementation. This is not the time we walk away! Implementation requires changes in behavior and practice. The stakeholder leadership team, building administrators, teachers, and students are all accountable. This brings in “voice” for stakeholders. Monitoring is a collaborative effort and everyone is aware of the outcomes and goals.
Implementation strategies can include Professional Learning Pathways, Strategic Consults, Leadership Training, and Redesigning Systems/Process.
Outcomes may be:
- Adoption of New Product or Service
- Creation of New Program
- Fidelity to Process
- Sustainment of Programs
- Improvements in Performance
Finally, we look to reflect and adjust. We ask everyone to look back and see where they started. Then we ask them to look at where they are now and where do they want to go next? Then we conduct a survey on the goals and ask:
- Did we achieve our outcomes?
- Were the strategies for the implementation achieved the way we designed them? How would we change them for next time?
- How was our communication effective? Or ineffective?
- How can we improve?
For educators, implementation science focuses on producing new solutions and creating generalized knowledge. The product then results in applying knowledge and measuring success. By using the strategies learned, educators integrate and change practice patterns based on pre-determined outcomes. This moves organizations beyond “one-time” training and hope for success to an effective process that produces professional behavior change!
If you are considering this methodology we recommend that you be deliberate in your planning. The foundation is to focus on what works for long term sustainable change. It is also important to have organizational buy-in in order to achieve support from stakeholders.
“What Is Implementation Science? | Implementation Science at UW.” Impsciuw.Org, 2013, impsciuw.org/implementation-science/learn/implementation-science-overview/. Accessed 18 June 2020.