Framework 3: Implementation Drivers

An implementation drivers diagram portrayed as a triangle

Implementation Drivers are key components of capacity and infrastructure that influence a program’s success.  They are the core components needed to initiate and support classroom, building, and district level change.

The next Active Implementation Framework we would like to discuss is Implementation Drivers.

Implementation Drivers are based on common features that exist among many successfully implemented programs and practices. The structural components and activities that make up each Implementation Driver contribute to the successful and sustainable implementation of programs and innovations.

There are three types of Implementation Drivers:

When integrated and used collectively, these drivers ensure high-fidelity and sustainable program implementation. Let’s briefly look at each driver.

Competency Drivers

An implementation drivers diagram portrayed as a triangle with the words "compentency drivers" highlightedCompetency drivers are activities to develop, improve, and sustain teachers’ and administrators’ ability to 1) put programs and innovations into practice, to 2) benefit the students.

The four competency drivers include: selection, training, coaching and fidelity assessment. Collectively they can effectively provide professional development that makes a difference for both teachers and students.

  • Selection—Effective staffing requires the specification of required knowledge, skills and abilities that relate to program-specific needs. This means specifying skills and abilities that are pre-requisites for the work ahead and determining those that will be developed once the person is hired.
    • The criteria initially are used to select candidates among those already employed in a school or district who will be among the first to implement the innovation.  Subsequently, each new hiring opportunity is an opportunity to select with implementation in mind.
    • Once requirements have been identified, schools and districts must identify methods for recruiting candidates who possess these skills and abilities, as well protocols for interviewing and criteria for selecting teachers, administrators and even program or practice leads.
  • Training — Teachers, administrators and staff need to learn when, how, and with whom to use new skills and practices. Training should:
    • provide information related to the theory and underlying values of the program or innovation
    • use training processes grounded in adult learning theory to actively engage participants
    • introduce the components of and rationales for key practices
    • provide opportunities to practice and re-practice new skills and receive feedback in a safe and supportive training environment
  • Coaching — Most new skills can be introduced in training, but must be practiced and mastered on the job. Coaching is the key. Districts and schools should:
    • actively develop and implement coaching service delivery plans that detail how often, where, when, with whom, and why coaching will occur
    • use multiple sources of data to provide feedback to practitioners and always include  direct observation
    • use coaching data and information from coaches to inform training improvements and improve organizational supports
  • Fidelity Assessment  — Implementing the evidence-based program or innovation as intended is the outcome of selection, training and coaching.  This means that the entire organization is accountable for instructional or program quality.  Teachers are not in it alone. Districts and schools should develop and implement transparent fidelity assessments, use multiple sources of data to assess fidelity, institute positive recognition so assessments are seen as an opportunity to improve fidelity and use fidelity assessment data to improve practice fidelity, organizational and system supports.

Evaluation and Planning Tools: Compentency Drivers

Coaching System Delivery Plan Template
This template provides the basis for developing a Coaching Service Delivery Plan. The Coaching Service Delivery Plan is a proactive approach to purposeful and supportive coaching.

Coaching System Development Worksheet
The Coaching System Development Worksheet can be used to initiate those early discussions about the importance of coaching and the facilitative supports administrators need to consider to ensure a systemic commitment to coaching.

Training Plan Template
The tool is designed to help guide your team’s planning process in developing a training program. This tool can be used to guide discussions around rationale, core components, knowledge, skills, outcomes and assessment.

Organization Drivers

An implementation drivers diagram portrayed as a triangle with the words "organizational drivers" highlightedNow let's turn to the Organization Drivers.

Organization Drivers are used to intentionally develop the supports and infrastructures needed to create a hospitable environment for new programs and innovations. These supports may need to be developed across the building and district levels.  Let’s briefly touch on each component.

  • Decision-Support Data Systems —Better decisions are made when data are available to inform the decision-making process.  A functional decision-support data system includes quality assurance data, fidelity data and outcome data. Data need to be reliable, reported frequently, built into every day routines, accessible at the classroom and building levels and used to make decisions at the student, teacher, and building level.
  • Facilitative Administration — Administrators drive decision making. They make use of a wide range of data to inform decision making to support the overall implementation processes as well as keep staff organized and focused on achieving the desired outcomes. Administrators need to be committed to facilitating the development of an organization that is committed to the new program.  This means that administrators and their teams proactively look for ways to:
    • identify and effectively address challenges
    • develop clear communication protocols and functional feedback loops
    • adjust and develop policies, procedures, and guidelines to support the new way of work
    • reduce administrative barriers to using the program as intended
  • Systems Interventions — System Interventions are strategies to work with external systems or levels of the education system that are not under the direct control of the administrators.   Systemic issues and barriers that need to be addressed at a level above the organization need to be identified, communicated to relevant system partners, and resolved.   For example, there are issues that cannot be resolved at the building level and must be addressed by the district.  Similarly there are issues that the district cannot address without the support and engagement of the state department of education. Resources, regulations, and systems supports at each level need to be aligned to support implementation.

Leadership Drivers

An implementation drivers diagram portrayed as a triangle with the words "leadership drivers" highlghtedLeadership is foundational to the work of implementation.  Volumes have been written about effective leadership and there is strong agreement about the importance of knowledgeable and engaged leadership.  Within this Active Implementation Framework we are focused on the role rather than the authority position of a leader. We emphasize technical and adaptive leadership strategies because there are data to indicate that the ability to engage in such leadership impacts student achievement.  This does not mean that many other aspects of leadership are not important.

Video Vignette 16: Leadership and Innovation

Dean Fixsen from the National Implementation Science Network (NIRN) talks about the role leadership plays in implementing innovations (running time 26 sec.).


Integrated and Compensatory

Finally, a key feature of the drivers is their integrated and compensatory nature.

  • Integrated – means the philosophy, goals, knowledge and skills related to the new program or practice are consistently and thoughtfully expressed in each of the implementation drivers.  For example, if the use of data for progress monitoring is an important key feature of the innovation, then comfort and experience using data will show up in the selection process, be part of training, be a focus of coaching, and measured in fidelity protocols.  Similarly, the decision-support data system will function to provide timely, reliable data; the building and district administrators will ensure that resources are allocated to the data function; and barriers to creating such systems that are beyond the school level are communicated to the district and from the district to the state as necessary.
  • Compensatory – means that the skills and abilities not acquired or supported through one driver can be compensated for by the use of another driver. Let's continue with the example of data-based progress monitoring. If teachers and other school staff do not have experience with data at the point of hire but are enthusiastic about learning to use data, then training can compensate for skills not present at the point of hire.  Similarly, only so much can be learned during training, no matter how well done. Coaching and fidelity monitoring can compensate for the different skill levels that are achieved through training.


Activity 1.3
Getting started with Implementation Drivers

So, how could you leverage the Implementation Drivers framework in your work? Discuss these questions with your team and/or to write down your responses. Thinking about a specific innovation (practice or behavioral) may make this exercise more meaningful for you.

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