Effective evidence-based teaching strategies can fail with poor implementation

New EEF guidance report aims to support schools to put evidence to work

Writing in this week’s TES magazine, Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), argues that good and thoughtful implementation of teaching and learning strategies can be the difference between success and failure.

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file_download A School's Guide to Implementation

He urges schools to give their innovations the very best chance of working by carefully planning, carrying out and sustaining change. The article highlights a new guidance report from the EEF - A School's Guide to Implementation - that aims to support schools to put evidence to work in their classrooms.

According to Sir Kevan:

There are many barriers to implementing new programmes and approaches effectively in schools - the bombardment of new ideas and initiatives, limited time and resources, and the pressure to yield quick results, to name just a few. As a result, it can be too easy to overlook the critical steps needed to maximise the chance of success. Creating the right conditions for implementation – let alone the structured process of planning, delivering and sustaining change – is hard grind.

Yet good and thoughtful implementation of a new teaching and learning strategy can mean the difference between it succeeding or failing. It really is that stark. With so much at stake, it is absolutely crucial schools give their innovations the very best chance by working carefully through the who, why, where, when and how of managing change.

Published today, Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation frames implementation in four stages that can be applied to any school improvement decision:

Explore

  • 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.

Prepare

  • 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.
    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:
    1. Create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives.
    2. Introduce new skills, knowledge and strategies with explicit up-front training.
    3. Attend to the implementation infrastructure.

Deliver

  • 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.
  • Use implementation data to actively tailor and improve the approach.
  • Make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented.

Sustain

  • Plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation from the outset.
  • Treat scale-up as a new implementation process.
  • Ensure the implementation data remains fit for purpose.
  • Continuously acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices.

The report also provides guidance on how schools can create the right environment for change, from supporting staff to getting leadership on board. This report sits alongside the EEF’s other guidance reports – focused on literacy, maths, and making best use of teaching assistants – providing the basis for an overall advance towards evidence-informed school improvement.

  1. Updated: 10th May, 2018

    A School’s Guide to Implementation (full text)

Notes to editors

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £96.3 million to 160 projects working with over 1,000,000 pupils in over 10,000 schools across England. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.