Topic 2: Research and Rationales

Why are Implementation Teams Important?

Organized and effective Implementation Teams make a big difference for achieving socially significant outcomes.  Without Implementation Teams to do the work of implementation, districts, schools, regions, and states are left to their own imaginations to figure out implementation science and best practices.  Implementation by exhortation, like other ineffective approaches, nets about 15% use of effective innovations and hoped for outcomes.  In their studies of the use of several comprehensive school reforms in thousands of schools, Vernez et al. (2006) and Aladjem & Borman (2006) found that about 10% of the reforms were used as intended (with fidelity) after 5 years of funding. 

A modest investment in competent Implementation Teams to support the use of comprehensive school reforms could have led to dramatically improved use and outcomes, and could have created a lasting implementation resource in those schools and districts.  For example, with the support of competent Implementation Teams, over 80% of attempted implementation sites met criteria for certification (fidelity).  Without the support of Implementation Teams, only 30% met certification requirements (Fixsen, Blase, Timbers, & Wolf, 2001).  The authors also found that the time required to achieve certification (fidelity) was reduced from nearly 7 years to 3.6 years.  Thus, Implementation Teams contributed to increased success and efficiency.  Implementation Teams have been called a new lever for organization change in education (Higgins, Weiner, & Young, 2012)

Studies by Balas and Boren (2000) and Green and Seifert (2005) tracked typical results for evidence-based programs.  Their results indicate that 14% of well-researched innovations are used in practice and it takes 17 years to accomplish that modest level of use.  This pace of implementation leaves education systems churning around a mediocre mean (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Grigg et al., 2003; Kutner et al., 2007) as innovation is slow and few innovations are used effectively in practice.  These data emphasize how critical it is to have organized, active capacity provided through Implementation Teams.  Just as students need effective teachers, teachers and administrators need effective supports to ensure implementation.

Why are Implementation Teams effective? 

In their review of literature on dissemination and diffusion of innovations, Greenhalgh, Robert, MacFarlane, Bate, & Kyriakidou (2004) made helpful distinctions between passive and active forms of assistance for ensuring that effective implementation occurs. Greenhalgh and her colleagues noted that the field has shifted from what they call, ‘letting it happen’ and ‘helping it happen’ to ‘making it happen’ approaches.  Hall and Hord (1987) made the same distinctions with respect to school leadership.  Principals who employed more active, making it happen approaches to using innovations were much more successful.  Fixsen, et al. (2011), have made use of these distinctions and applied them to characterizing implementation approaches:

“Letting it happen” – A policy or program has been mandated or adopted and, with minimal supports, practitioners are expected to make the translation from information to practice and are held accountable for the intended outcomes.

“Helping it happen” – A policy or program has been mandated or adopted and materials, training resources, and websites are provided to support practitioners.  The practitioners are left to figure out how to solve problems that arise, and are held accountable for achieving positive outcomes.

“Making it happen”– A policy or program has been mandated or adopted and active and purposeful implementation best practices are provided to help practitioners and administrators.  The Implementation Team is accountable for developing the implementation support systems, resolving organization and system issues that arise, and achieving positive results.


Activity 3.1
EBP Drive Around

Jot down different EBPs/EIIs that you have experienced, participated in or led and pick one of those initiatives that has been in place the longest. Then, “drive around” the Implementation Drivers diagram and reflect on the questions provided.

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