As a school leader you are undoubtedly always striving to improve your school and do better for your learners. In doing so, you more than likely work hard to adopt and embed new strategies that encourage teachers to try new things and learn from their experiences.
But, do you ever stop to think about how you introduce new ideas? Or how you manage the changes that come from adopting new strategies, in order to maximise their chances of success?
‘Putting evidence to work’, the long awaited guide to implementation recently published by the EEF, aims to: “describe and demystify the professional practice of implementation – to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.” In other words, it’s your new implementation bible.
The guide is a translation of existing research into actionable guidance for schools, and was compiled by drawing on a series of recent reviews that interpret and summarise research on implementation in education. These have been broadened and supported by insights from wider literature on implementation science, as well as findings from individual studies, including the EEF’s own evaluations of education interventions.
It starts with two important factors that influence a school’s ability to implement effectively:
- Treating implementation as a process
- School leadership and climate
The rest of the guide outlines implementation through a series of four stages – explore, prepare, deliver and sustain. Below is a brief outline of each one. Each stage is fully explored in terms of leadership approaches, practical recommendations and checklists for leaders.
- Specify a tight area of focus for improvement that is amenable to change.
- Determine a programme of activity based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before.
- Examine the fit and feasibility of possible interventions to the school context.
- Make an adoption decision.
- Develop a clear, logical and well-specified implementation plan:
1. Specify the active ingredients of the intervention clearly: know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’.
2. Develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies. Download a free guide to change management here >
3. Define clear implementation outcomes and monitor them using robust and pragmatic measures.
- Thoroughly assess the degree to which the school is ready to implement the innovation.
- Once ready to implement an intervention, practically prepare for its use:
- Create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives:
- Introduce new skills, knowledge and strategies with explicit up-front training.
- Attend to the implementation infrastructure.
Queen Elizabeth High School in South Wales are using video to help large numbers of staff share resources, ideas and strategies, collaborate with local feeder schools, ensure consistency and improve behaviour management. Find out more here >
- Adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the turbulent initial attempts at implementation.
- Reinforce initial training with follow-on coaching within the school setting.
- Use highly-skilled coaches.
- Complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration. Discover how video can make coaching and collaboration easy >
- Use implementation data to actively tailor and improve the approach.
- Make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented.
- Plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation from the outset.
- Treat scale-up as a new implementation process. Learn how video makes scalable sharing simple >
- Ensure the implementation data remains fit for purpose.
- Continuously acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices.
Ultimately, great ideas, strategies and interventions will only succeed in your school if they are introduced well and used effectively day-to-day by staff. This new guide from the EEF will help with that, by supporting school leaders, like yourself, in the process of effective implementation.