I know that if I were to talk to any educator who has spent more than 2 years in the field and ask the question “How do you know how well you’ve implemented anything in your school?”, they would probably answer something like, “We never really know because we’re always on to the next thing.”

The problem that I see often plaguing schools is that the practice of implementation is not tended to in a way that helps it get beyond the initial implementation stage – we shift, move, augment, redo too quickly! It’s like beginning to exercise: I do one 30-minute walk where I break a slight sweat and I go home and expect my jeans (which were tight yesterday) to be loose and then try a new exercise the next day because the walk “didn’t work”! It’s not realistic to believe that I will see the effects of a long-term implementation immediately.

The National Implementation Research Network defines degrees of implementation this way:

  • Paper Implementation: We have a plan to do it
  • Process Implementation: We have figured out the logistics, resources and envisioned what it will look like
  • Performance Implementation: We have begun to see the effects of the implementation across the system

When you think of a recent program or professional development implementation in your school, have you gone beyond the Paper phase? If you did, did you move past the Process phase or did you get stuck? What helped you get beyond the first step? If you are stuck at Paper phase, is it because you are waiting for everything to be “perfect” before you start or are your plans too big to know where to start? If you made it to the Performance phase, how did you get there this time? What is the evidence that you are there?

These questions help us tend to the implementation at hand so that we can plan for full implementation and expect full effects in each classroom. Use these questions to prompt reflection at your next grade level meeting or leadership meeting and see where the conversation takes you.

Well, I’m heading out the door for my 30-minute walk…I’ve got some jeans to fit into…