Classroom Change: How the EEF’s Implementation Guide Can Support Classroom Practice

The EEF has recently published their guide to implementation entitled ‘Putting Evidence to Work’, which provides a detailed, analytical framework designed to ‘help implement any school improvement decision, whether programme or practice, whole-school or targeted approach, or internal or externally generated ideas’.

Whilst this guide might seem to be aimed primarily at school leaders, the evaluative framework it offers can be of benefit to classroom teachers who wish to implement any kind of change to their practice. Teachers are, after all, the leader of their classroom.

‘Putting Evidence to Work’: The Nuts and Bolts

The EEF guide presents its model of implementation as a cycle comprising five steps:

  1. Decide what you want to achieve.
  2. Identify possible solutions and strategies.
  3. Give the idea the best chance of success.
  4. Did it work?
  5. Secure and spread change.

All five steps are important for successful implementation, and to help achieve these steps the EEF guide offers recommendations that can be categorised into four stages.

  1. Explore

What the EEF Guide Says:

Implementation happens in stages and takes time. There is no typical time that an intervention takes to be fully embedded in a school system: it is not unusual to spend two to four years on an implementation process for a whole-school initiative. Additionally, schools need to treat implementation as a major priority, and also prioritise what needs to change. Ultimately, there should be fewer but more strategic choices in place.

Furthermore, it is crucial to specify a tight area of focus that is amenable to change, define the problem that you want to solve, and then determine a programme of activity based on evidence about what has and has not worked before. Keeping your school’s context in mind is important in order for the implementation to be feasible.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Pinpoint one area of your classroom practice to implement a change.
  2. Check what the research evidence suggests might work in the context of your classroom.
  3. Ensure that your curriculum planning supports the longevity required for successful implementation of a new process or practice.

2. Prepare

What the EEF Guide Says:

The guide places significant emphasis on the need to identify the active ingredients of an implementation plan, and explains that active ingredients are the ‘well-specified features or practices that are tightly related to the underlying theory and mechanism of change for the intervention’. If the active ingredients of the plan are clearly identified, then it is more likely that the intended outcomes will be achieved. These active ingredients should be shared widely and be non-negotiable, but know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’. If there are explicit expectations regarding the active ingredients, then change will be easier to successfully embed.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice::

  1. Identify the active ingredients of the new classroom practice.
  2. Consider which students will be affected by the new practice, and how.
  3.  Identify and explicitly share the non-negotiable active ingredients. For example, you may be implementing a new questioning practice, and a non-negotiable is that no student opts out of responding to a question.
  4.  Consider how you will adopt a ‘tight but loose’ approach in your classroom. For example, will you offer alternative ways of responding to questions for different students?

3. Deliver

What the EEF Guide Says:

The focus of this stage is on quality assurance and quality improvement. Data and experiences should be gathered while applying the new approach, and this information used to understand, and act on, important barriers to implementation. Leaders should seek to support staff in using the innovation in the best possible way so they can become increasingly familiar with the new practices and routines. Good coaching and mentoring practices are instrumental in this support.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Seek out CPD support in terms of expert coaching and mentoring for your own follow-up training in the new classroom practice.
  2. Identify a series of short, medium, and long-term implementation outcome measures to monitor the new practice.
  3. Decide how and when you will use data from class monitoring to actively tailor and improve your classroom approach.

4. Sustain

 What the EEF Guide Says:

Participants in the implementation of new practices have to feel trusted to try new things and make mistakes without fear of recrimination. Consequently, creating a culture of implementation is important, and this can be achieved through supporting and acknowledging people who display attitudes and behaviours that promote good implementation of new practice.

Part of effective implementation also includes being able to sustain and scale up an innovation.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Plan for how you will recognise and celebrate instances where students are engaging with, and benefitting from, the changed classroom practice.
  2. Plan for how you will share your implementation plan and outcomes with other teachers across your school and beyond. Also consider where you can get support from school leaders.
  3. Consider how you could scale up this approach, for example by implementing the practice with a larger cohort.

Fran Haynes.

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EFF – Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation

click here for the full details

The EFF published this really helpful guidance just before half term:

EEF-Implementation-Guidance-Report

EEF_-_Implementation_Guidance_A3_Recs_Posters_v1

Process

EEF-Flash-Marking-Implementation-Logic-Model

Why is implementation important?

Schools are learning organisations. They continuously strive to do better for the children and young people in their charge. In doing so, they try new things, seek to learn from those experiences, and work to adopt and embed the practices that work best.

Implementation is what schools do to improve: to change and be more effective.

And yet implementation is a domain of school practice that rarely receives sufficient attention. In our collective haste to do better for pupils, new ideas are often introduced with too little consideration for how the changes will be managed, and what steps are needed to maximise the chances of success.

The purpose of this guidance is to begin to describe and demystify the professional practice of implementation – to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.

It can be used to apply any school improvement decision: programmes or practices; whole-school or targeted approaches; internal or externally generated ideas.

How is this guide organised?

This guide starts with two important underlying factors that influence a school’s ability to implement effectively: a) treating implementation as a process b) school leadership and climate.

The remainder of the guide is organised around four well-established stages of implementation – Explore, Prepare, Deliver, Sustain – with actionable recommendations at each stage.

School Implementation Process

Foundations for good implementation
  • Treat implementation as a process, not an event. Plan and execute it in stages.
  • Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.

Figure 1: Implementation can be described as a series of stages relating to thinking about, preparing for, delivering, and sustaining change.

Recommendations Summary

1

Foundations for good implementation

Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages

1

Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages

Implementation

Evidence strength

Successful implementation happens in stages and unfolds over an extended period of time  [1]. It is not a single event that takes place when the decision to adopt a new teaching practice is made, or on the day when training begins. Schools’ implementation processes begin before this adoption decision and last for a long time after.

Take, for example, the development of new teaching strategies through professional development. Effective professional development typically includes both up-front training and follow-on supporting activities back in the school  [2]. This is necessary to develop both a thorough grasp of the rationale underpinning a new approach, and for staff to be able to apply the resulting strategies and knowledge in practice. Inevitably, this all takes time, with most effective professional development lasting at least two terms, and often longer (see Box 4: Characteristics of effective professional development).

Implementation can be described as a series of stages with activities relating to thinking about, preparing for, delivering, and sustaining, change  [1] . Although these processes overlap, the ‘staging’ of implementation is such a crucial feature that we structure the main body of the guide in these distinct sections.

Allow enough time for effective implementation, particularly in the preparation stage; prioritise appropriately.

There are no fixed timelines for a good implementation process; its duration will depend on the intervention itself – its complexity, adaptability, and readiness for use – and the local context into which it will be embedded. Nevertheless, it is not unusual to spend between two and four years on an implementation process for complex, whole-school initiatives [3] [4].

One implication of this timescale is that schools should treat implementation as a major commitment and prioritise appropriately. Organisations across all sectors, not just education, tend to take on too many projects simultaneously and underestimate the effort involved in implementing innovations effectively. Schools should probably make fewer, but more strategic choices, and pursue these diligently. Reviewing and stopping some existing practices may be required before delivering new ones ( see Prepare – thoroughly assess readiness).

An overall feature of this guidance is its emphasis on activities that occur in the Explore and Prepare phases; in other words, before the actual implementation of a new programme or practice takes place. Creating sufficient time to prepare for implementation in schools is both difficult and rare. Nonetheless, investing time and effort to carefully reflect on, plan, and prepare for implementation will reap rewards later. The better you ‘till the soil’, the more likely it will be for roots to take hold.

Finally, recognise that implementation doesn’t always follow a neat, linear process. It can be full of surprises, setbacks, and changes of direction and, at times, appear more like a skilful art than a systematic process. Keeping these dynamics in mind while progressing through an implementation process can be helpful in managing frustrations. Setbacks and barriers are natural features!

Checklist questions

  • Do we implement changes across the school in a structured and staged manner?
  • Is adequate time and care taken when preparing for implementation?
  • Are there opportunities to make fewer, but more strategic, implementation decisions and pursue these with greater effort?
  • Are there less effective practices that can be stopped to free up time and resources?

Foundations for good implementation

Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation

2

Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation

Implementation

Evidence strength

The success of implementation will depend on engaged leaders who, while being actively involved themselves, also involve others in taking charge of specific activities.

Set the stage for implementation through school policies, routines, and practices.

School leaders play a central role in improving education practices through high-quality implementation  [5] [6]. They actively support and manage the overall planning, resourcing, delivery, monitoring, and refinement of an implementation process – all of which are discussed in detail in this guide.

In addition to these practical roles, they also create an organisational climate that is conducive to change  [7]. Leaders set the stage for good implementation by defining both a vision for, and standards of, desirable implementation practices in their school. For example, if there is an explicit expectation that staff use data precisely to inform teaching and learning, or to participate in ongoing professional development, schools are more likely to find implementation easier than where such expectations do not exist or where they are only implied.

Implementation is easier when staff feel trusted to try new things and make mistakes, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported with high quality resources, training, and encouragement to try again and keep improving. In such supportive contexts, leaders develop a sense of enthusiasm, trust, and openness to change  [8].

If not present already, an ‘implementation friendly’ climate cannot be created overnight. It requires continuous nurturing over time through a consistent focus on a school’s implementation practices.

Identify and cultivate leaders of implementation throughout the school.

While dedicated leadership of implementation is key, it is also important to recognise that implementation is a complex process that requires leadership at different levels of the school.

A culture of shared leadership can be nurtured by explicitly creating opportunities for staff to take on implementation leadership responsibilities. One way to achieve this is to use dedicated implementation teams (Box 1: Implementing changes). Another approach is to intentionally acknowledge, support, and incentivise staff who display behaviours and attitudes that support good implementation. In this way, implementation leadership becomes a shared organisational activity with a broad base of expertise to draw on.

Build leadership capacity through implementation teams.

Effective implementation requires schools to pay regular attention to specific, additional activities; however, the busy everyday life of a school can make this investment of time and effort difficult.

Dedicated implementation teams can be a solution to this dilemma  [9] [10]. They draw together multiple types of expertise and skills, from a range of different perspectives, to guide and support the implementation process. They build local capacity to facilitate and shepherd projects and innovations, and continuously remove the barriers that get in the way of good implementation. This may involve identifying effective interventions to implement, developing plans and assessing readiness when preparing for implementation, collecting and synthesising data during delivery, and consolidating the use of the new practices across the school – to name just a few examples.

info_outline Implementing changes to Teaching Assistant deployment

Effective implementation teams typically combine both educational and implementation expertise, rely on formal and informal leaders, and can draw on external, as well as internal, colleagues. It is important that implementation teams are adequately resourced.

Box 1 shows how an implementation team was created at a school in Sheffield to oversee a process of changing the way teaching assistants (TAs) are deployed, trained, and used. This case study illustrates the benefits of thoroughly preparing for implementation.

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Box 1: Implementing changes to Teaching Assistant (TA) deployment at Pye Bank Primary School in Sheffield.

As part of EEF’s campaign, ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants’ in south and west Yorkshire, Pye Bank Primary School, in Sheffield, went through a structured process of changing the way TAs are deployed in the school. The headteacher, Maureen Andrews, established this initiative as a key school improvement priority and created the time, resources, and initial vision for the effort. Dedicated leadership was key, as changing TA deployment is a complex challenge requiring changes in practices throughout the school – for leaders, teachers, and TAs – as well as structural changes that require leadership input, such as changing TA working hours and timetables.

To oversee the implementation process, Maureen created a ‘development team’ (an implementation team) made up from representatives across the school. This team:

  • conducted a thorough review of current practices in the school relating to TA deployment;
  • identified specific barriers to change;
  • created a detailed implementation plan (called an ‘action plan’ in this case);
  • organised training for relevant staff members; and
  • developed a set of implementation outcomes, monitored the changes, and solved problems as they arose.

A video of the team that led the change is available above. You can view a full case study of Pye Bank Primary School’s journey in relation to TA deployment here:  https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/making-best-use-of-teaching-assistants/ta-online-course/

Checklist questions

  • Does our school have a climate that is conducive to good implementation?
  • Does the school leadership team create a clear vision and understanding of expectations when changing practices across the school?
  • Do staff feel empowered to step forward and take on implementation responsibilities?
  • How do day-to-day practices affect the motivation and readiness of staff to change?

Explore

Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement

3

Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement

Implementation

Evidence strength

The implementation process begins with exploration. In this phase, a school clearly defines the problem it wants to solve and identifies potential solutions in the form of educational programmes and practices. These activities are broadly equivalent to the first two steps in the EEF’s evidence-informed  school improvement cycle.

Specify a tight area of focus for improvement that is amenable to change.

The first activity is to identify a tight and specific area of focus. The objective is to identify a clear priority that is amenable to change. Don’t start with a solution and look for a problem!

Use a range of pupil-level data sources to identify the nature and magnitude of challenges and problems. The analysis of questions from national tests or diagnostic standardised tests can help pinpoint specific areas of need. In addition to examining pupil-level information, data on staffing, resources, and stakeholder perceptions should also be considered.

Take care not to define the problem too broadly. For example, a summary of Key Stage 2 data for an incoming Year 7 cohort may indicate that the average reading score is low, but a more detailed analysis might reveal that pupils’ decoding skills are good but their comprehension is poor.

Questions to consider include:

  • What does local data and experience tell us about the greatest barriers to driving up standards?
  • How can we define and measure those barriers?
  • What do we hope will change?

Resources such as the EEF’s Families of Schools database can be helpful in analysing and interrogating student performance data when answering these questions. This free, online tool groups schools into families of 50, presenting a school’s data in comparison to its 49 most statistically similar schools nationally. The aim is to help schools to interpret their data and learn from colleagues in similar contexts.

Determine a programme of activity based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before.

Once schools have identified and specified an educational challenge, they inevitably turn to considering how they can best meet it through potential programmes and practices. The goal is to identify interventions and approaches based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before.

One source of evidence to draw on is the school’s own insights and evidence of what has been effective. At the same time, schools should also aim to draw on external evidence of what has been shown to work in similar contexts. Try and adopt a disciplined approach to innovation rather than be novel for novelty’s sake. EEF resources such as the Teaching and Learning Toolkit, Guidance Reports, and Promising Projects can all provide valuable ideas for evidence-based improvement strategies. Questions to consider at this stage include:

  • How have similar problems been tackled before in similar locations to mine?
  • How strong is the evidence behind the approach?
  • Is it cost effective?

Examine the fit and feasibility of interventions to the school context.

Once a possible intervention or number of interventions have been identified, schools should interrogate the extent to which its objectives – the purpose, recipients, practices, and outcomes – align with the school’s needs and values. Questions to ask include:

  • Does a programme or practice fully meet the needs of our school in addressing the defined challenge?
  • Is it likely to lead to better outcomes in our school?
  • Do the values and norms of an innovation align with ours?
  • How likely is it for a new approach to be accepted and acknowledged by those who would be using and supporting it?
  • How can the new programme or practice be funded in both the short and the long term?
  • What internal or external support is needed to enable the use of the innovation in the school?
  • What other potential implementation barriers may emerge from the use of an innovation, and how easily could they be removed?

Further questions may be relevant to raise, depending on the setting in which the implementation will take place. By involving all relevant key stakeholders in this process, both the description and understanding of problems to be tackled, and the selection of solutions can be based on the broadest possible knowledge and expertise. This will also create immediate opportunities to build shared ownership and leadership of an implementation process.

The ‘Explore’ phase ends with a decision to adopt a new programme or practice.

Checklist questions

  • Are we confident we have identified a strong school improvement priority that is amenable to change?
  • What are we looking to achieve by adopting a new programme or practice?
  • Have we systematically identified the right approach to achieve these goals?
  • Is there reliable evidence it can have the desired impact, if implemented well?
  • Is it feasible within our context?

Prepare

Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources

4

Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources

Implementation

Evidence strength

Having decided to deliver a specific programme or practice, the focus turns to preparing the school and its staff. This phase can be intensive, requiring a significant effort to ensure the school is in a position to deliver the new approach effectively. As this section is extensive, and potentially overwhelming, we have organised the recommendations as three interconnected sets of activities:

  1. Develop a clear, logical, and well-specified plan:
    1. specify the active ingredients of the intervention;
    2. develop an appropriate package of implementation strategies; and
    3. define a set of clear implementation outcomes.
  2. Assess the readiness of the school to deliver the implementation plan.
  3. Once ready to implement an intervention, practically prepare for its use:
    1. create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives;
    2. introduce new skills, knowledge, and strategies with up-front training; and
    3. prepare the implementation infrastructure.

Although there is logic to this sequence (see Figure 1), schools may decide to approach the process differently to suit their needs. For example, it may be felt there is value in conducting an initial readiness assessment before creating a detailed implementation plan.

Create a clear, logical, and well-specified implementation plan.

An important first step when preparing for implementation is ensuring there is a detailed and shared understanding of the programme or practice that has been selected. This can be aided by creating a well-specified plan, which, in turn, can act as a basis for practically preparing for implementation  [4].

There is no set way of conceptualising and developing an implementation plan. Logic Models are one popular tool that can help (see Figure 2); other schools may take a less formal approach. Whatever method is chosen, the objective should be to describe:

  • the issue you want to address;
  • the approach you want to implement, for example the active ingredients of the intervention;
  • the changes you hope to bring about by using the intervention;
  • who will be affected by these changes and how;
  • the implementation activities planned to contribute toward this change;
  • the resources required; and
  • any external factors that could influence results.

Out of this planning process should emerge a range of outputs that subsequently can be used to structure and monitor the implementation effort:

  • a clear description of the intervention;
  • a set of well-specified ‘active ingredients’;
  • an appropriate package of implementation strategies; and
  • a series of short, medium, and long-term implementation outcome measures.

An example of a Logic Model is provided in Figure 2, developed by Meols Cop High School, for their project ‘Flash Marking’ – an approach to improve marking and feedback in Key Stage 4 English lessons  [11].

Figure 2: Example of implementation plan – Flash Marking

1a. Specify the active ingredients of the intervention clearly; know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’.

Effective interventions often have a set of well-specified features or practices that are tightly related to the underlying theory and mechanism of change for the intervention  [12] [13]. These features or practices are sometimes called the ‘active ingredients’ of the intervention.

Specifying the active ingredients of an intervention enables educators to identify which features need to be adopted closely (that is, with fidelity) to get the intended outcomes. The more clearly identified the active ingredients are, the more likely the programme or practice is to be implemented successfully  [14] [15].

When preparing for implementation, try and distil the essential elements of the programme or practice, share them widely, and agree them as non-negotiable components that are applied consistently across the school. For example, if the intervention is focused on developing classroom teaching, capture the key pedagogical strategies and behaviours that will reflect its use. There may be some key underlying principles that you also want to specify and share.

Ultimately, the active ingredients of an intervention can relate to any aspect of the intervention that is key to its success – the important thing is that you know ‘where to be tight and where to be loose’ ( see Box 5: Fidelity) Figure 2 outlines the active ingredients for an EEF-funded intervention, Flash Marking.

While it is entirely feasible for schools and external programme developers to develop their own approaches to specifying the active ingredients of interventions, schools may find Theory of Change tools helpful in this process  [16]. If you are looking to implement a programme outside of the school, speak to the developers for their thoughts on the key activities and principles (they may not be documented).

Inevitably, there are limits to how accurately you can specify the active ingredients of an intervention before its use. Schools should therefore carefully monitor and assess the implementation of the active ingredients during delivery and use this data to refine the design of the intervention over time ( see Deliver – using imple mentation data).

Table 2: Examples of implementation strategies, adapted from the ERIC framework

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Strategy Definition
Access new funding Access new or existing money to facilitate the implementation effort.
Alter incentive structures Work to incentivise the adoption and implementation of the innovation.
Audit and provide feedback Collect and summarise performance data and give it to staff to monitor, evaluate, and modify behaviour.
Change physical structure and equipment Evaluate current configurations and adapt, as needed, the physical structure and/or equipment (e.g., changing the layout of a room, adding equipment) to best accommodate the innovation.
Conduct small scale pilots of change Implement changes in a cyclical fashion using small tests of change before system-wide implementation. This process continues serially over time, and refinement is added with each cycle.
Conduct educational outreach visits Have staff meet with experienced providers in their practice settings to learn about the approach.
Conduct ongoing training Plan for, and conduct, ongoing training.
Create a learning collaborative Facilitate the formation of groups of staff/schools and foster a collaborative learning environment to improve implementation.
Create implementation teams Change who serves on the team, adding different disciplines and different skills to make it more likely that the intervention is delivered successfully.
Develop academic partnerships Partner with a university or academic unit to bring training or research skills to an implementation project.
Develop and use tools for monitoring implementation quality Develop and apply quality-monitoring systems with the appropriate language, protocols, standards, and measures (of processes, student outcomes, and implementation outcomes).
Develop educational materials Develop and format manuals, toolkits, and other supporting materials, to make it easier for staff to learn how to deliver the approach.
Distribute educational materials Distribute educational materials (including guidelines, manuals, and toolkits) in person, by mail, and/or electronically.
Identify and prepare champions Identify and prepare individuals who can motivate colleagues and model effective implementation, overcoming indifference or resistance to the intervention.
Inform local opinion-leaders Inform providers identified by colleagues as opinion-leaders or ‘educationally influential’ about the innovation in the hopes that they will influence colleagues to adopt it.
Involve executives and governor boards Involve existing governing structures (e.g., boards of directors, board of governors) in the implementation effort, including the review of data on implementation processes.
Make training dynamic Make training interactive, with active learning through observation, meaningful discussion and reflection, demonstration of skills, deliberate practice, and feedback.
Mandate change Have leadership declare the priority of the innovation and their determination to have it implemented.
Model and simulate change Model or simulate the change that will be implemented prior to implementation.
Obtain formal commitments Obtain written commitments from key partners that state what they will do to implement the innovation.
Provide follow-on coaching and mentoring support Use skilled coaches or mentors (either internal or external) to provide ongoing modelling, feedback, and support that helps staff apply new skills and knowledge in practice.
Recruit, designate, and train for leadership Recruit, designate, and train leaders for the change effort.
Remind teachers Develop reminder systems designed to help teachers to recall information and/or prompt them to use the programme or practice.
Revise professional roles Shift and revise roles among delivery professionals, and redesign job characteristics.
Tailor strategies Tailor the implementation strategies to address barriers and leverage facilitators that were identified through earlier data collection.
Use an implementation advisor Seek guidance from experts in implementation.
Use train-the-trainer strategies Train designated teachers or organisations to train others in the innovation.

1b. Develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies. 

When planning for implementation, a broad range of strategies are available to educators. Some will be very familiar (such as training, coaching, audit, and feedback) and some less so (such as using implementation advisors or train-the-trainer strategies). Table 2 outlines a range of different implementation strategies that schools may consider adopting [17].

Typically, the application of a single strategy alone will be insufficient to successfully support the implementation of a new approach. Instead, a combination of multiple strategies will be needed [18]. When selecting implementation strategies, aim for a tailored package that supports change at different levels of the organisation – individual practitioners, departmental teams, school level changes, and so on [19]. The objective is to align these strategies so they reinforce each other and are sequenced appropriately. For example, activities designed to increase staff motivation, such as recruiting opinion-leaders, would typically precede training and professional development.

Build your implementation plan around the active ingredients of your intervention:

  • If structural changes are necessary across the school to accommodate the active ingredients, ensure these are planned in advance and maintained over time. If you think it needs three sessions a week to be successful, make time for three sessions a week!
  • If you are developing training manuals and implementation resources, ensure they are tightly aligned to the key components and objectives of the intervention. At the same time, retain sufficient scope for appropriate adaptations where there is flexibility.
  • Professional development activities should focus on understanding and applying the key intervention strategies. Many of the EEF’s most promising projects are precise in terms of the teaching practices they are introducing or changing, with the training and coaching activities focused squarely on making these changes [20].

Evidence-based programmes have particular value in this respect, as they often contain a structured set of implementations strategies that have been tested and refined over time [21]. In doing so, evidence-based programmes can act as useful tools to support the implementation of evidence-based practices. Details of evidence-based interventions can be found at the EEF’s Promising Projects webpage and the Institute for Effective Education’s Evidence for Impact database.

In addition to using any implementation strategies that are captured within an evidence-based programme, schools should also consider additional activities that can create ‘readiness’ for that programme in their context, such as developing a receptive environment for the intervention.

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Box 2: Continuously monitor and improve the quality of implementation.

A key element of effective implementation is monitoring how well a new programme or practice is adopted and whether it achieves the intended outcomes. Schools should regularly monitor and review data that describes the progress and quality of implementation, and apply this information to refine the use of the intervention over time.

Determining how well implementation is progressing relies on having a clear understanding of what ‘good’ implementation looks like. How tightly should teachers adhere to the principles of a new approach? Should it be used by all teachers? If so, by when? How quickly would you expect it to be integrated into existing structures and curricula? Questions like these introduce the concept of ‘implementation outcomes’ – the implementation goals a school wants to achieve throughout the change process  [32].

Examples of common implementation outcomes include:

  • fidelity – the degree to which staff uses an intervention as intended by its developers (see Box 5);
  • acceptability – the degree to which different stakeholders – such as teachers, students, and parents – perceive an intervention as agreeable;
  • reach – how many students it is serving;
  • feasibility – the ease and convenience with which the approach can be used by staff and integrated in a school’s daily routines; and costs.

It may be that several practical activities contribute to these overall implementation outcomes, as can be seen for ‘fidelity’ in the example of Flash Marking in Figure 2.

Having defined a set of appropriate implementation outcomes, schools will also need to develop a set of robust and pragmatic measures to capture these outcomes  [22]. Data can be drawn from statistical databases and administrative systems used in schools, or can be collected directly from students, staff, or other stakeholders through surveys, interviews, and classroom observations. Wherever possible, use implementation measures that have been tested in similar contexts and shown to yield accurate and consistent results. Unfortunately, well-specified and evidence-based measures of implementation are rare, so take care to ensure any ‘home grown’ measures are capturing the intended implementation outcome precisely.

Capturing useful data on implementation means little unless it is acted on. Create a means of summarising data in formats that make it easy for staff to understand, and provide regular opportunities to tailor strategies in response to this data ( see Deliver – using implementation data).

1c. Define clear implementation outcomes and monitor them using robust and pragmatic measures.

To monitor the use of a new approach, and ensure it is being delivered with high quality, schools will need to define the implementation outcomes they want to achieve and develop an appropriate set of measures (see Box 2: Monitoring implementation).

When selecting implementation outcomes and measures, aim to capture both early signs of successful implementation as well as data on how the intervention is being embedded and adapted over time. Of course, there is a practical limit to what you will be able to measure, so pick implementation measures that are key to the intervention and its delivery. A good starting point is focusing on whether the intervention has been implemented as intended by measuring fidelity in relation to the active ingredients of your intervention  ( see 1a). Before a school can begin monitoring the adoption of a new approach, the implementation outcomes need to be agreed and understood by those staff who are using the intervention.

Implementation monitoring and data collection processes also need to be operationalised. They need to fit with school routines and be usable for staff as part of their daily work. Data collection processes that are complicated and require extensive resources run the risk of not being supported and sustainable in a busy work environment  [22]. Simple and quick to collect measures, on the other hand, will likely find greater acceptance among staff and be easier to integrate into implementation processes. Clearly, this highlights a tension between reliability and feasibility.

As an example, if a school was introducing a small-group literacy intervention for struggling readers, it may decide to capture data on the degree to which the intervention was being delivered as intended – the fidelity of delivery. A member of the implementation team may decide to review timetables and measure the frequency of sessions, observe the delivery of interventions sessions, or speak to pupils for their perspectives on the intervention. This data could be summarised in a standardised format and discussed regularly as part of implementation team meetings.

Thoroughly assess the degree to which the school is ready to implement the innovation.

At this point, a school should have a clearer idea of what it will implement, how it will implement it, the ways in which it will monitor that process, and the resources required to make it a success. With a more concrete plan emerging, now is a natural point to take the temperature on how ready it is to put that plan into action.

There are many different definitions and understandings of implementation readiness, and the field is far from a consensus on how this can be measured and assessed. One helpful model posits implementation readiness as a combination of three components: the organisation’s motivation to adopt an innovation, its general capacity, and its innovation-specific capacity  [23]. Box 3 unpacks these three elements in more detail.

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Box 3: A framework to review implementation readiness. [23]

Implementation readiness = motivation + general capacity + innovation-specific capacity

The motivation to use an innovation depends on many factors, including the complexity of the new programme or practice, its compatibility with existing structures, the perceived advantage of the innovation compared to other approaches, and the norms or values of staff, to name just a few.

An organisation’s general capacities include factors such as staffing levels, leadership capacity, administrative availability, and the overall climate and culture in the school – all of which are foundations for a school to be able to work with any type of innovation (see Foundations – school leadership and climate).

The innovation-specific capacities relate to the knowledge and skills needed to work with the specific programme or practice to be adopted. They include the capability to train and coach staff, the presence of required staff positions, and the availability of technical equipment required for the application of a new intervention, amongst others.

Schools can use this framework to determine the degree to which they are ready to adopt a new approach, identify barriers that may impede implementation, and reveal strengths that can be used in the implementation effort. This assessment can be based on simple questions that address critical features of an innovation, but it can also include more sophisticated measures to evaluate the school’s implementation climate, its general motivation or other underlying characteristics.

Examples of questions to consider during a readiness assessment include:

  • Who are key individual and organisational stakeholders who need to be involved in the implementation process? In what ways?
  • Are these staff sufficiently skilled? If not, does our plan contain the appropriate blend of professional development activities?
  • How motivated are staff to engage in this change process? How well does the innovation align with our shared educational values?
  • Are we able to make the necessary changes to existing processes and structures, such as timetables or team meetings?
  • What type of administrative support is required? Who will provide it?
  • What technical equipment is needed to deliver the innovation?
  • How will we collect, analyse, and share data on implementation? Who will manage this?
  • Does the intervention require external support that needs to be sourced outside of the school? And crucially…
  • What can we stop doing to create the space, time, and effort for the new implementation effort?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list; it should be expanded and tailored so it fits the needs of the local context. Importantly, judgements relating to readiness should be seen as a matter of degree rather than binary positions (ready or not) and aim to draw on a range of stakeholder perspectives across the school.

By building a collective understanding of the implementation requirements, and the degree to which the school is able to meet those requirements, the leadership team should be in a position to judge whether or not they can begin practical preparation for implementation. If they are ready, the practical implementation activities – such as staff training – can begin.

If they are not (which is quite possible), schools should revisit the implementation plan and adapt it appropriately. It may, for example, be decided that additional implementation strategies are needed, further funding secured, or new individuals brought into the implementation effort.

It may even be decided that it is not suitable to implement the programme or practice at that moment. If that is the case, a range of alternative options need to be explored (see Explore – determine a programme of activity).

Schools may decide to approach implementation planning and judging readiness the other way around, or in parallel: what is important is that they operate as an iterative process.

Once ready to implement an intervention, practically prepare for its use.

3a. Create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives.

School leaders set the foundation for implementation by aligning it with a school’s mission, vision, and goals. Nevertheless, for this vision to be become a reality there needs to be common understanding of the objectives and widespread buy-in. Having decided to commit to a new approach, school leaders need to create a common and explicit understanding of what will be expected, supported and rewarded during the implementation process (24). It is important that leaders:

  • communicate the purpose and importance of the innovation, and what is expected from staff in its use;
  • clearly articulate the alignment between the intervention, student learning needs, and the school’s broader purpose and values using internal data and external evidence where appropriate;
  • ensure there is shared, clear understanding of the active ingredients of the approach; and
  • use existing lines of communication – such as staff and governor meetings – and create repeated opportunities to discuss the planned change.

While communication is certainly valuable in developing a theoretical understanding of what is expected during the implementation process, it is unlikely by itself to be sufficient to change perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours among staff. Therefore other, more action-oriented, strategies may be required, such as:

  • recruiting the efforts of school opinion-leaders – student, community, and teacher leaders – to articulate the benefits of the intervention. Where possible, opinion-leaders should be assigned specific roles within implementation teams (see Foundations – building leadership);
  • identifying advocates for the innovation who can champion its adoption through modelling and supporting others to use it effectively;
  • directly participating in activities that are conducive to good implementation – ‘walking the walk’. This will signal a recognition of its priority while at the same time providing an arena for modelling the desired behaviours; and
  • developing incentives and rewards that can be used to acknowledge individual and team behaviours that contribute to successful implementation (for example, promotion, monetary, or symbolic rewards).

3b. Introduce new skills, knowledge, and strategies with explicit up-front training. 

A large body of evidence, including from evaluations funded by the EEF, shows the benefit of high-quality, up-front training for teachers  [2] [25] [6] [26]. The typical purpose of this training is to develop an understanding of the theory and rationale behind a new approach, and introduce the necessary skills, knowledge, and strategies (See Box 4: Characteristics of effective professional development).

Schools should aim to factor in a number of common features of effective up-front training when introducing new programmes or practices:

  • Create opportunities for staff to reflect on their existing beliefs and practices, and challenge them in a non-threatening manner.
  • Make training interactive, with active learning through observation, meaningful discussion and reflection, demonstration of skills, deliberate practice, and feedback.
  • Focus both on generic and subject-specific pedagogy. Provide structured support to help staff apply general pedagogical strategies to specific subject areas.
  • Use a range of media and delivery approaches, including video, to demonstrate skills and exemplify good practice.

When developing or attending training, ensure it captures the ‘active ingredients’ for the intervention that were set out in the implementation plan.

3c. Prepare the implementation infrastructure.

The implementation of a new approach often relies on a range of simple things that facilitate its use: the proactive support from an administrator, the availability of digital devices that are configured properly, a process for keeping a record of decisions, and so on. Examples like these relate to the governance, administration, and resources that support an intervention [14]. These factors are unusual in that they tend not to be noticed when working well, however, they are important in removing barriers to implementation and allowing staff to focus on developing and applying new skills.

Having assessed the readiness to deliver an intervention (see above), schools should have a clearer idea of the resources and support that are needed. This is likely to include:

  • dedicated administrative support from staff who are fully briefed on the purpose of the intervention, and understand their roles in supporting its use;
  • appropriate governance, with a clear mandate and operating procedures;
  • technical support and equipment – with staff trained and skilled in its use;
  • printed and digital resources that are licensed and up-to-date;
  • dedicated space to deliver the intervention, which is regularly timetabled; and
  • a realistic amount of time allocated to implement the intervention, review implementation data, and address problems.

Remember, this is more about repurposing existing time, effort, and resources than adding lots of additional infrastructure.

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Box 4: Characteristics of effective professional development.

Effective professional development includes both high-quality initial training as well as follow-on coaching/support to apply new skills and knowledge back in the classroom.

Regardless of the specific objective and content of a new intervention – be it introducing new instructional methods or building subject knowledge – the process of implementation requires not only organisational, but also individual, changes in behaviour. To achieve these changes, effective implementation is almost always supported by high-quality professional development [2] [6] [25] [26].

In this guide, we break professional development down into two distinct activities: up-front training and follow-on coaching. Training is used to describe initial activities to develop an understanding of the theory and rationale behind the new approach and to introduce skills, knowledge, and strategies. This training usually starts before an intervention is used in the school, hence is situated in the Prepare phase of this guide. Characteristics of effective training are  discussed in 3b.

Coaching refers to a range of different types of follow-on support that almost always takes place within the school setting after changes to practices have begun. It involves working with skilled coaches or mentors (either internal or external) who provide ongoing modelling, feedback, and support to help apply the ideas and skills developed in initial training to practical behaviours. As such, coaching is situated in the Deliver section of this report. ( See Deliver – Characteristics of effective coaching).

A common mistake in implementing new programmes and practices is only providing up-front training, with little or no follow-on support.

At the same time, professional development processes are unlikely to be successful without also ensuring there is high-quality content and a sharp focus on pupil outcomes. Many of the EEF’s most promising projects are precise in terms of the teaching practices they are introducing and provide explicit training and support to help teachers apply general pedagogy to specific subject domains i.e. pedagogical content knowledge  [20].

Ensure there is a rhythm, duration, and alignment to professional development activities.

Overall, the evidence suggests that professional development should be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a single event. There needs to be appropriate timing of initial training, follow-on support, and consolidation activities to fit both the school cycle and the iterative nature of adult learning  [2].

The content of professional development activities should also be aligned and purposeful so that individual learning activities collectively reinforce one another and revisit the same messages. For example, in-school coaching activities should build on, and reflect, the ideas and strategies that are introduced in initial training. Inevitably, this all takes time, with most effective professional development lasting at least two terms, and often longer. Hence, school leaders and programme developers need to design interventions that allow for frequent and meaningful engagement, and move away from a model of one-day, one-off training  [2].

Checklist questions

  • Is there a logical and well-specified implementation plan?
  • Do we have a clear and shared understanding of the active ingredients of our intervention and how they will be implemented?
  • Have we selected the right set of implementation strategies, in the right order?
  • Are we able to capture the desired (and undesired) changes in practices?
  • Have we honestly appraised our capacity to make those changes?
  • Are staff and the school practically ready to adopt the new approach?

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Deliver

Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time

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Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time

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Implementation

Evidence strength

‘Deliver’ is a vulnerable phase in which the new programme or practice is applied for the first time. To begin with, even highly experienced educators and administrators may feel awkward as new behaviours and structures are learned and old habits set aside, creating feelings of unease or ‘incompetence’ which can be demoralising and potentially derail the implementation effort.

The focus of this phase, therefore, is on quality assurance and quality improvement. Data and experiences should be gathered while applying the new approach, and this information used to understand, and act on, important barriers and facilitators to implementation.

Leaders should seek to support staff in using the innovation in the best possible way so they can become increasingly familiar with the new practices and routines. Good coaching and mentoring practices are instrumental in this support.

Adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the initial attempts at implementation.

As mentioned, the initial period of applying a new approach is often challenging as staff get to grips with new ways of working. A key role for leaders during this period, therefore, is to manage expectations and encourage ‘buy-in’ until positive signs of change emerge  [6]. Having clear and achievable short-term measures of implementation are important in capturing these changes and demonstrating early signs of success.

Barriers and challenges almost inevitably emerge as a school moves through an implementation process. Some challenges will be more of a technical nature: qualified staff may leave the organisation meaning that new staff need to be hired and trained; or a school may identify a gap in skills and need to develop a new strand of training. Challenges like these can be met using the routine processes and operating procedures that already exist in a school, such as human resources, professional development, and timetabling.

Other implementation challenges can be more unfamiliar: for example, a new practice may require videoing teaching in the classroom raising concerns among staff, parents, and students. Such problems are rarely met with ready-made, routine solutions, and call for a more adaptive leadership style. They require dialogue, involvement, negotiation, and the collaborative development of solutions  [27]. In the example provided above, a meeting of parents may need to be called to work through any concerns regarding videoing in the school.

Research suggests that leaders are prone to applying the wrong leadership style when tackling implementation problems  [27]. Take care in choosing the appropriate approach, recognising that problems may require a blend of technical and adaptive solutions.

Reinforce initial training with follow-on support within the school.

While up-front training is important in developing a conceptual understanding of a new approach, crucially, training alone is unlikely to be sufficient to yield changes in practice. Often, it is only when follow-on support is added to training, in the form of expert coaching or mentoring, that teachers are able to apply their conceptual understanding to practical classroom behaviours  [2] [6] [13] [28].

An increasing body of evidence demonstrates the impact of coaching on improving implementation and learning outcomes  [28]. Nevertheless, coaching varies in its effectiveness, depending on how it facilitates professional learning [26]. A number of activities emerge as being useful which schools should seek to factor into their post-training support:

  • Create opportunities for explicit discussions around how to apply new ideas and strategies to classroom practice and adapt existing practices.
  • Model the delivery of new skills and strategies.
  • Encourage staff to deliberately practice specific skills and apply what they have learnt by experimenting back in the classroom.
  • Structure in time for reflection on the success of experimentation and what can be improved next time.
  • Observe classroom practice and provide regular and actionable feedback on performance and implementation.
  • Provide ongoing moral support and encouragement.

As these coaching activities require dynamic and frequent interactions with teachers, they almost always take place within the school setting.

Use highly skilled coaches.

The skills of the coach or mentor are important. Less effective coaches adopt a more didactic model where they simply tell teachers what to do, passively observe practice, and evaluate staff performance against a set observation rubric  [26]. More effective coaches:

  • offer support in a constructive, collaborative manner;
  • help teachers take control of their professional development, while at the same time providing appropriate challenge; and
  • have the trust and confidence of teachers and regularly engage with school leaders.

Coaching support can be provided either by internal staff or external specialists, with successful examples of both approaches emerging in EEF-funded evaluations of promising programmes  [20]. More research is needed on the skills and experience of successful coaches; however, it appears that having significant experience in working with teachers (more than five years), and expertise across multiple areas – specialist pedagogical knowledge, adult learning, feedback, monitoring, and so on – are likely to be important [2] [26] [28].

Complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration.

Another important form of follow-on support is peer-to-peer collaboration in the form of approaches like professional learning communities. Here, the evidence is more mixed, with some forms of collaboration not appearing to add value to implementation and student outcomes  [2]. This suggests schools should think precisely about the content of such groups and the nature and purpose of the work they are engaged in.

The features of effective peer-to-peer collaboration are still contested. A collegial problem-solving approach is recommended, with clear objectives, structured content and processes, and a tight focus on improving pupil outcomes  [2]. Loosely defined and unstructured collaborations are unlikely to work. Coaches and mentors – either internal or external – can play a valuable role here in guiding, monitoring, and refining the work of collaborative groups [26] [29].

Use implementation data to actively tailor and improve the approach.

By now, schools should have developed an appropriate set of implementation outcomes and a process for collecting and analysing this data. These tools are now used to monitor the progress and quality of implementation, and apply that knowledge to inform decisions about the delivery of the intervention.

Data can be used to identify barriers that arise in using the new approach, which, in turn, should be used to tailor the intervention by, for example, restructuring teams, adapting implementation strategies, redistributing resources, or enhancing staff support. Data may also point to implementation strengths and facilitators that can be used to enhance the wider use of the innovation, for example, by identifying early adopters who can mentor and coach other colleagues.

Most importantly, implementation data will only be meaningful if it can then be applied in daily practice. This requires that data – such as fidelity scores for staff using a new programme – is summarised in digestible ways that make it easy for staff to understand and apply. Frequent opportunities should be created to review implementation data, address barriers, and tailor implementation strategies, for example as a standing item on school leadership team meetings.

Make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented.

A key recommendation when developing a well-specified implementation plan is establishing a clear sense of the active ingredients of the intervention ( see Prepare – Specify the ingredients of the intervention clearly). Embracing a notion of active ingredients implicitly acknowledges the significance of ‘flexible elements’ – those features or practices within an intervention that are not directly related to the theory and mechanism of change, and where there is scope for local adaptations.

Local adaptations to interventions are almost inevitable, particularly in U.K. schools where professional flexibility and autonomy are highly valued  [15]. Staunch supporters of ‘fidelity’ have tended to view such adaptations as failures of implementation, however, this may be taking too pessimistic a view. Although the evidence base isn’t robust, there is an increasing body of research showing that local adaptations can potentially be beneficial to implementation, encouraging buy-in and ownership, and enhancing the fit between an intervention and the local setting [15]. Novel additions to interventions – in contrast to modifications – are likely to be most beneficial.

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Box 5: Fidelity – combine faithful adoption with intelligent adaption.

A common challenge when adopting new programmes and practices is ensuring they are being used as intended. Staff may like some aspects of an intervention more than others and ‘cherry pick’ their favourite elements; new ideas and practices may lead to unintended adaptations to a programme that diminish its effect; people may struggle with some aspects of an approach and leave these elements out. The use of an approach, therefore, can vary greatly from teacher to teacher, and the educational outcomes they achieve may not meet the initial expectations  [25].

If we want to enable effective change, we need to make sure that the core requirements of the innovation are being met.

Ensure programmes and practices are delivered as intended by the developers.

Fidelity is the implementation outcome most acknowledged and measured in implementation studies in education. It describes to what degree an intervention has been implemented as intended by its developers (both in-school and external developers). Fidelity can relate to structural aspects of the intervention, such as dosage (for example, the correct number of sessions are delivered) or training (for example, teachers are trained as planned and receive the necessary supervision). It can also refer to more dynamic aspects of the intervention, such as whether key teaching strategies are included in lessons, or whether the delivery of those strategies is sufficiently student-centred  [15] [25].

Systematic reviews of implementation studies in education consistently report a positive relationship between the fidelity with which an intervention is implemented and the outcomes for students  [6] [25].

Ensure you are being faithful to what matters – use ‘active ingredients’ as a guide.

At the same time, it is important to ensure that the focus on fidelity is in the right place. A theme running through this guide is the importance of specifying the ‘active ingredients’ of an intervention – those elements and features that are tightly related to an intervention’s theory and mechanism of change (see Prepare – Specify the ingredients of the intervention clearly) – which could, for example, relate to key pedagogical strategies, or to aspects of its delivery, such as the duration and frequency of lessons.

Specifying the active ingredients of an intervention enables educators to identify which features need to be adopted closely (with fidelity) to get the intended outcomes, as well as areas where there is scope for intelligent adaptations.

Too much flexibility can be damaging, however, with over-modification resulting in lack of impact, particularly where modifications are made to the core components of the intervention [13]. As such, teachers shouldn’t view fidelity as a threat to professional autonomy, rather see it as guide to understanding where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’.

The take-home lesson is stick tight to the active ingredients of an intervention until they are securely understood, characterised, and implemented, and only then begin to introduce local adaptations.

A school that has achieved a stable routinisation in the use of an innovation – with most staff able to naturally and routinely apply new behaviours and approaches – shifts its focus towards sustaining the new practice.

Checklist questions

  • Are we able to respond to challenges that arise during the initial stages of using a new approach? Can we use existing structures and processes or are novel solutions required?
  • Is appropriate follow-on support available to embed new skills and knowledge developed during initial training, in the form of coaching, mentoring, and peer-to-peer collaboration?
  • Is the intervention being implemented as intended? Are the active ingredients being observed in day-to-day practice?
  • Does implementation data suggest we need to adapt our implementation strategies?

6

Sustain

Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use

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Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use

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Implementation

Evidence strength

Plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation from the outset.

Depending on the scale and complexity of the changes, and the initial degree of alignment with the climate of the school, implementation can be, at the same time, tiring, energising, ambiguous, exhilarating, and overwhelming.

Implementation readiness – motivation, general capacity, and innovation-specific capacity – is therefore rarely static; it can be developed and built, but can also diminish and vanish. The loss of staff or opinion-leaders can fundamentally change how an intervention is perceived in an organisation, while reduction of budgets and other resources can limit its use.

These possibilities cannot first be addressed in the final stages of implementation [30]; schools should aim to plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation in the early stages. This may involve building contingency plans for turnover of staff, or considering additional funding sources to maintain the innovation over time. Take regular ‘pulse checks’ to ensure the stresses and strains of implementation are not adversely affecting the readiness of the school.

Treat scale-up of an innovation as a new implementation process.

If an implementation process is successful and reaches the Sustain phase, schools should shift their focus to consolidating the new programme or practice and enhancing its skilful use among all relevant staff. Sustaining an innovation may involve expanding its use to additional staff, teams, or schools as confidence grows in its use.

Like the initial implementation process, the decision to scale-up an approach should also be driven by local data and other available evidence. Start a scale-up process by conducting a thorough review of the previous implementation experience and the achieved outcomes. This may suggest an entirely new implementation process is required – potentially leading the organisation back to Explore – as the school re-assesses the needs of the intended recipients and the capacity to deliver the intervention at scale.

Ensure that implementation data remains fit for purpose.

When implementation has reached the Sustain phase, schools should continue monitoring implementation to capture how the intervention is being adopted and adapted over time. At the same time, the foundation and context for data collection may have changed: new cohorts of students may have different learning needs, changing policy agendas may have led to new reporting requirements, or decreased capacity within the school made collecting data challenging.

With these and other changes in mind, schools should review their capacity to collect and review implementation data on a regular basis to ensure it is being measured accurately over time [31].

Continuously acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices.

Once a new programme or practice is integrated into the normal routines of a school, there is a risk of assuming that the implementation process requires no further leadership support; however, to ensure that the changes brought to a school can be sustained, school leaders should continuously acknowledge, support, and reward its use (see Prepare – Create a shared understanding of the implementation process).

Sustaining implementation requires formal leaders to continuously engage in implementation processes, provide purposeful support, and ‘walk the walk’. Modelling of expected behaviours and demonstrating the use of evidence in daily routines are key ingredients of healthy, ongoing implementation leadership.

Checklist questions

  • Do we have a stable use of the intervention, as intended?
  • Is it achieving the desired outcomes?
  • Have we created contingency plans for any changes across the school that may disrupt successful implementation?
  • Is it appropriate to extend the use of the approach to additional staff? What is required to achieve this?
  • How can the existing capacity and resources be best used to support scale-up?

How was this guide compiled?

The guidance draws on a series of recent reviews that summarise and interpret research on implementation in education (2,6,24,27). These reviews have been supplemented by insights from the wider literature on implementation science, as well as findings from individual studies, including EEF’s own evaluations of education interventions. As such, the guide is not a new study in itself, rather a translation of existing research into accessible and actionable guidance for schools.

We have taken a pragmatic approach, with not every issue and factor relevant to implementation covered in detail. Instead, we have aimed to provide a manageable introduction and focused on areas where there is existing evidence that is not regularly applied.

While the evidence base on implementation in education is evolving quickly, it is nevertheless patchy. Some areas, like training and professional development, have a reasonably robust evidence base, whilst others, like implementation climate, have not been studied extensively. Hence, research from other sectors, such as social work or healthcare, is also used. Although the elements in the guide have supporting evidence, the overall process and structure we propose has not been evaluated. As such, the guide should be treated as a snapshot of promising evidence in implementation and an introduction to a rapidly developing field.

Further reading and support

The Active Implementation Hub, developed by the National Implementation Research Network in the US, contains a useful range of resources, videos and online modules that relate to themes covered in this report –  http://implementation.fpg.unc.edu

The UK Implementation Society aims to ‘build capacity and expertise for more effective, evidence-informed implementation of services for people and communities’, and is an excellent source of resources, expertise and support on implementation –  https://www.ukimplementation.org.uk/about

The Research School Network, developed by the Education Endowment Foundation and Institute for Effective Education, are a regional network of schools who can offer support and training on effective implementation – https://researchschool.org.uk. Contact Stuart Mathers at the EEF for information on support in your region.

In 2016, the Department for Education published a Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development. The accompanying implementation guide contains useful ideas and insights on how to apply the principles – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standard-for-teachers-professional-development

 

 

 

Evidence from Research Schools – practical examples.

Mobilising the Evidence

One of the most important roles for Research Schools such as us, is to support teachers and leaders who work in schools and colleges to mobilise the research evidence that is out there, so that it can make a positive difference to the students we teach.  At our INSET day today, five of our fabulous teachers did just this.  They shared how they have taken the evidence we have shared with them over the last couple of years and implemented it in their classrooms.

What evidence?

Over the past couple of years, rather than flitting from one topic to another during INSET days, we have tried to focus on some key themes that we believe, if embedded across the school, will have a significant impact on student learning.  They are:

So today, five of our teachers talked about how they have done this.  Here is a summary of each presentation.

Retrieval Practice – Alex Mohammed (Science)

Like many teachers, Aex has been thinking about how he can support his students with retrieving and recalling knowledge from across the whole specification, in preparation for the new terminal exams.  He also wants to support students with elaborating on their responses, by linking together ideas and thinking more deeply about what the topic they are being taught.  So Alex, has turned to the ideas of retrieval practice and elaborative interrogation.

In order to do this, Alex has thought about the questions he asks students at the start of the lesson.  In the example slide above, you can see that he starts the lesson with a variety of recall questions.  The black questions relate to what they have studied in recent lessons (this is for a Y11 group).  The red questions go back to what they studied in Y10 – Alex calls these ‘link back’ questions.  When choosing his ‘link back’ questions, Alex tries to pick questions that have a common thread.  So for example here, they are all linked to blood and the circulatory system.  This encourages students to understand the links between the topics they study, an important aspect of elaborative interrogation.

As a result of this, Alex has noticed the following:

  • Students appear to have an increased knowledge of the specification.
  • Students are becoming adept at making the links between topics
  • They are also becoming better at self-prompting, leading to more elaboration in their answers.
  • Through having a ‘How Science Works’ push within these ‘link back questions’, students are becoming more familiar with the key core skills within science and other subjects.

Knowledge Organisers & Explicit Vocabulary Instructions – Beth Clarke & Kate Haslett (History)

In history, following Fran’s input at our November INSET day on explicit vocabulary instruction, Beth and Kate set to work on implementing these ideas in history.  They came up with a very clear plan of what they wanted to do:

Explicit vocabulary instruction

  1. Identify and agree tier 2 words, using the academic word list.
  2. Identify and agree tier 3 words.
  3. Discuss ways of implementing STI (see Fran’s post in the link above) and how to share strategies at Subject Planning & development Session (SPDS)

Knowledge Organisers

  1. Review what we already have in place for units of work.
  2. Use guidelines to make decisions about future knowledge organisers for history.
  3. Discuss three ways of using knowledge organisers in lessons and when to share strategies at SPDS.

Their starting point was their existing knowledge organiser (example above).  After much discussion, they decided that this had too much content on one page and wasn’t really in a coherent format.  So they set to work on splitting this up into three topics:

Each topic now has it’s own knowledge organiser, with 10 key people/events for students to focus on.  They also used this to clarify key tier 2 terminology that was used in exam questions.  Here’s an example:

Once they had produced them, the history team then discussed a consistent way of using them.  Students are given them at the start of the topic and are encouraged to use them to produce flashcards and dual coding activities (more on this later).  They are also referred to in lessons and used as a revision tool for quick quizzes at the start of lessons, where students are expected to spell the word correctly and recall the meaning.

To develop the use of the knowledge organisers further, when students produce a piece of extended writing, in response to a question, they highlight the words/names/events they have used from the knowledge organiser.  This reinforces the importance of these words/names/events.

Beth and Kate then went on to describe other ways in which they are developing explicit vocabulary instruction:

Sentence stems

Students have to complete a sentence that has been started for them that uses the new vocabulary.  For example:

1.In Anglo-Saxon England, the burh was …

2.The housecarls in Harold’s army were …

3.The submission of the earls at Berkhamstead was …

Test Sentences

Students are given the new vocabulary in two sentences.  they have to decide which sentence is using the new vocabulary correctly.  For example:

Example 1:

1.One way in which Anglo-Saxons lost their land was through forfeiture.

2. One way in which Anglo-Saxons rebelled against Norman control was through forfeiture.

Example 2:

  1. The housecarls in Harold’s army were untrained men obtained from the land.
  2. The housecarls in Harold’s army were highly trained and professional.

Dual coding

Students are encouraged to use visuals and writing to help them remember key events.

Geographical Literacy – Sam Atkins (Geography)

Sam has been looking to tackle the following challenges in his classroom:

  • The breadth of vocabulary in KS3 students
  • the ability of students to:

–Know and understand the contextual meaning of tier 2 (geographical) words

–Summarise

–Elaborate

–Question

These are important issues to tackle, as by doing so students will be able to articulate a wider range of responses and therefore produce higher quality responses.  Sam is seeking to eliminate the common response that we often hear from students:

“ I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it”

Like Beth and Kate, Sam has been using test sentences:

This usually includes 10 key words for a particular topic and is used as a homework task.  the same words are then reinforced by using sentence stems:

Sam has also been trialling an approach that brings together a number of metacognitive approaches, when supporting students with interacting with a text:

As you can see from the photograph above, students a given some text about a particular topic (in this case, the North Pole) that they read and stick in the middle of a double page spread.  They then do 4 things with this text:

  • Image – they turn the information in the text into an image, supporting the idea of dual coding.
  • Summarise – they pick out and summarise the key points from the text.
  • Elaborate – in this section, the student elaborates on the points made in the text further e.g. what are the risks to the north pole ecosystem?
  • Question – do they have a question they would like to ask the author, to find out more?

What has Sam noticed since implementing these approaches?

  • Students will continue to misspell words, even when re-writing alongside the model example. Repetition is crucial.
  • Accuracy in identifying the correct test sentence, does not always translate into accuracy when completing sentence stems. Effective practice is crucial.
  • Knowing what summarise/elaborate means, does not always mean knowing how to do it effectively. Modelling is crucial.
  • Students will ask questions about a text, to which the answer is already apparent. Explanation is crucial.
  • Initial attempts at dual coding by students may result in over-elaborate diagrams. Effective feedback is crucial.

Explicit Vocabulary Teaching – Tod Brennan (English)

Tod started his presentation by telling us a story of an actor friend of his who missed out on a number of roles.  When asked during auditions to ‘be bashful’ he would break into ‘Hi Ho’ from snow white and the seven dwarves, or bash the script on the table.  Why?  Because, he simply didn’t know what the word bashful meant.  He was an intelligent individual who had done really well in life, but just hadn’t been exposed to that particular word.  How many of our students don’t understand an exam question (even though they may have the subject knowledge) or might miss out on opportunities like this in the future, simply because of a limited vocabulary?

Tod has been addressing this by explicitly teaching tier 2 vocabulary (see example above).  He has been using direct and clear explanations, using ideas and examples that the students will probably understand.

He then develops this, by testing their understanding of this new vocabulary:

As can be seen from the slide above, Tod uses a number of approaches to support this.  For example, matching the words with the correct meaning, using new vocabulary to complete a sentence and writing a synonym for the new vocabulary.  By using a variety of approaches like this, students become immersed in this new vocabulary.

What has Tod noticed since implementing these new approaches?

  • This is just the start of their journey to using these words naturally.
  • It will be a battle, many students don’t encounter these words regularly and are unlikely to encounter them again.
  • It is therefore important that I revisit these words with them, and that we do it often.
  • A plan for the whole year’s vocabulary would enable this.
  • On a personal level I will use MCQ’s to further discussions about why certain words are wrong, and tease out small differences between synonyms.

Revision – use these approaches with students!

Top 10 Revision Strategies

In Evidence in Education, Memory for Learning, Teaching & Learning by Alex Quigley4 Comments

Year after the year, the same pressures attend exam revision. Each year teachers try the old favourites, alongside a few new revision strategies to keep our students interested. Happily, we now have a wealth of evidence to support some revision strategies over others as we approach the revision stretch.

We know that students are not the most reliable when it comes to judging their own learning, with regular self-testing proving the most effective antidote. We also know that some strategies, like re-reading and using highlighters, are largely ineffective, whereas as quizzing does the trick. We know that a little ‘deliberate difficulty‘ may well prove a good thing for revision, and that ‘cramming‘ is inferior to ‘distributed practice‘ (or spreading revision out over time), when it comes to remembering.

We should be careful not outsource an approach to revision to a company promoting the following strategies, or to puff up the confidence of our students. A successful approach to revision needs to be deeply rooted in subject knowledge, and sustained over time, so subject teachers need to explicitly teach the strategy, model it, and offer guided practice before we expect our students to use them effectively.

1. Quizzing. Good old fashioned quizzing is an ideal vehicle to get students self-testing, which is proven to be a robust revision strategy, so that students can calibrate their knowledge and remembering. There are various types of quizzes, of course, such as short answer quizzing, multiple choice or a hybrid of the two, with different question types suiting different purposes.

2. Flashcards. Flashcards are a very familiar tool used by students. Crucially, however, too many students fail to use them for effective self-testing – (only 30% in this research). Clearly, we need to train students to design, or find, effective revision flashcards, before then training them in their use. Students should also beware dropping flashcards they think they know.

3. Graphic organisers. Students need to be active in revision, not just reading their notes and doing some colouring in with a rainbow of highlighters. Graphic organisers are a handy vehicle to get students reconstructing their revision topics, making meaningful links and connections (in cognitive science, this is labelled the ‘generation effect‘).

4. Cornell note-taking. Another strategy that utilises the ‘generation effect‘ is the well-known note-taking approach: the Cornell method. Named after the US university, this strategy gets students thinking metacognitively, asking questions, noting key terms, and summarising the content being revised.

5. Exam wrappers. This helpful feedback strategy, labelled ‘exam wrappers‘ because they wrap around information on how the student has revised, offers important information for the teacher to help diagnose how effective, or extensive (or not), revision has proven. Also, it can prove a good way to help puncture student over-confidence in their revision. See these online examples HERE and you can find a useful Word template HERE.

6. ‘Just a minute’. A long time favourite strategy of mine, ‘Just a Minute’ takes the classic radio game and adapts it to almost any topic, text, or examination revision term. Put simply, students have to talk for a minute on the given term/topic – no pauses, no hesitations. Slips or repetitions or micro pauses lose a ‘life’ – three strikes and you’re out. This strategy harnesses the ‘self explanation effect‘. In short, if you can elaborate on a topic and explain it well, you have retrieved it from memory – a good revision act – as well as likely consolidating it too.

7. ‘Prepare to teach’. Similar to ‘Just a Minute‘, the ‘Prepare to teach‘ strategy involves the common idea of getting students to teach a peer a topic/term from their revision. Once more, it gets students to elaborate on their knowledge. Even expecting to teach appears to have a positive impact on students learning material, so this seemingly inconsequential tweak can have very beneficial effects.

8. ‘Select, elect’. Another revision strategy that gets students thinking hard about their revision is ‘Select, Elect‘. In simple terms, you get students to  ‘select’ the most salient facts, ideas, concepts, or terms, from a given revision topic, before then asking them to ‘elect’ what they deem the most significant knowledge or idea/concept that they need to understand for their examination. This gets students actively engaging with their revision material, whilst being metacognitive about what is the most salient information they need to remember.

9. Topic ranking. Remember that students are often not the best judge of their own revision and how  effective it may or not be. By getting students to rank their own knowledge of their topics being revised, they deploy the important metacognitive strategy of evaluating their learning. Though they will likely be inaccurate – indeed overoptimistic – in their judgments of their knowledge and learning, it still helps students better calibrate their revision and monitor their ongoing progress.

10. Past questions. Ok, so no rewards here for originality: students need to practice examination questions, over and over, well spaced over time. The effect of exploring worked examples or exam answers, as well as writing their own, helps students process, practice and refine their revision to meet the parameters of exam success.

Related reading:

Homework – what works?

The Truth About Homework

In Evidence in Education, Teaching and Learning by Alex Quigley0 Comments

“Most homework teachers set is crap.” Dylan Wiliam, ResearchEd 2014.

The subject of homework inspires strong opinions. Teachers, parents and students themselves all have a view on the matter and those views are often diametrically opposed. Dylan Wiliam, back in 2014, shared a very strong opinion that didn’t exactly condemn the evidence and action related to homework to the dustbin, but he poked a gaping hole into our every assumption about homework and its impact.

At Huntington School, we battled with the issues and surveyed the best available evidence, from the EEF Toolkit (Secondary and Primary – note the crucial differences here: homework is much more effective with older children), to specific recent studies on homework (this one via Dan Willingham). The IEEBest Evidence in Brief‘ newsletter has done a great job of collating homework research HERE. Certainly, knowing the evidence base can help our decision-making, though it is of course a little more complicated than that.

SO WHAT DOES THE EVIDENCE SAY?

Homework (or home learning, or “extended learning” as we relabelled it at Huntington) is seemingly most effective when it involves practice or rehearsal of subject matter already taught. Students should not typically be exposed to new material for their home learning, unless they are judged more expert learners. Complex, open ended homework is often completed least effectively; whereas, short, frequent homework, closely monitored by teachers is more likely to have more impact. This could include summarising notes; using graphic organisers to recast classroom materials; guided research; exam question practise; guided revision etc.

Home learning is proven to be more effective with older students than their younger counterparts. This is typically because they are more able to self-regulate their learning and they have more background knowledge to draw upon. For similar reasons, high ability students typically benefit more from home learning than low ability students.

Teacher scaffolding is essential to guide effective home learning. Parental involvement is desirable, but it should not be essential, otherwise the nature of the task is likely too complex for successful completion.

 

WHAT MAKES HOME LEARNING  EFFECTIVE?

Cathy Vatterott (2010) identified five fundamental characteristics of good homework: purpose, efficiency, ownership, competence, and aesthetic appeal.

  1. Purpose: all homework assignments are mean­ingful & students must also understand the purpose of the assignment and why it is important in the context of their academic experience (Xu, 2011).
  2. Efficiency: homework should not take an inordinate amount of time and should require some hard thinking.
  3. Ownership: students who feel connected to the content and assignment learn more and are more motivat­ed. Providing students with choice in their assignments is one way to create ownership.
  4. Competence: students should feel competent in completing homework. In order to achieve this, it’s benefi­cial to abandon the one-size-fits-all model. Homework that students can’t do without help is not good homework.
  5. Inspiring: A well-considered & clearly designed resource and task impacts positively upon student motivation.

 

We should pose ourselves some tricky questions:

  • Has the purpose of the homework been made clear to students?
  • Are the students in possession of all the resources required to undertake the task independently?
  • What are the existing beliefs about home learning (students & teachers) that we need to recognise/challenge?
  • How can we best leverage parental support for home learning that is effectively communicated?
  • How do you plan to provide specific and timely feedback to students on their home learning?

 

Maybe Wiliam is right and that regardless of the evidence, too much of the homework we set is just crap! The challenge is certainly a healthy one given the cost in terms of time for all involved. We should expect that every teacher and school leader understands the nuanced evidence that attends homework, with the differences that relate to individuals, groups and students of very different ages and stages of development. We will still be left with tricky decisions and no little disagreement, but we will be better off having tackled the issue properly.

If you want to read more about the evidence that attends homework, then try the following:

 

The blog first appeared on the Huntington Research School blog – take a look HERE and sign up for the newsletter from our great team of teacher-writers HERE.

Unpacking Meta-Cognition

Last week Samuel Ward Academy Trust shared the following image, a snapshot from Dr Jonathan Sharples’s presentation on their Trust PD Day:

metacog definition

So, this week, a little more elaboration on such a promising approach within teaching and learning.

A glance at the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit will highlight meta-cognition’s low cost (single ‘£’), high evidence strength (four padlocks) and high impact (+8 months)As seen below, when plotting toolkit strategies using cost per pupil and effect size, meta-cognition is clearly highlighted as one of the most promising set of approaches and interventions that we should consider for pupils’ learning.

source: J Sharples, EEF Presentation, Jan 2018

So what is involved?

With the help of extracts from the printable EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary and a couple of other useful sources, here we go …

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

Dylan Wiliam describes and explains it with clarity and precision in this short linked YouTube clip.

As broken down in the image at the start of this post, successful meta-cognition requires knowledge of task, strategies and yourself as a learner. Applying this knowledge through planning, monitoring and evaluating learning is something that we as teachers, parents and carers should take every opportunity to actively encourage and model.

This can often be done by encouraging pupils to ask themselves questions such as these from this Inner Drive poster below; the simple act of modelling this to pupils by verbalising your own thinking as a teacher, can be a powerful influence and illustrates the teacher as ‘model learner’.

At this point I would add that meta-cognition is not ‘achieved’ through a plethora of posters or checklists within lessons, rather by it being embedded within learning and instruction in the classroom. Hearing yourself and your pupils say things like these further question stems below would tend to indicate meta-cognition is ‘in progress’.

893783313a24bb57916668caf842ed19--art-classroom-classroom-posters

source: Pinterest

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils.

These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion.

A final example of how we can model and encourage meta-cognition, courtesy of the dual coding of Oliver Caviglioli, illustrates how just a few words/prompts can be all that is required:

Slide28

source: Oliver Caviglioli, teachingHow2 library

However, a word of caution …

The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed.

There is no simple method or trick for this. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then reduce the support to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary

So, what should we consider?

Before we implement meta-cognition in our learning environment, we should consider the following:

1. Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation.

2. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate specific aspects of their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently?

3. Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)?

4. Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track?

5. Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?