Innovations (i.e., evidence-based programs or practices) need to be teachable, learnable, doable and readily assessed in practice.
Before implementing an evidence-based practice, it is vital to have a clear understanding of the program and its suitability for your agency or organization. It is necessary to have sufficient detail about the evidence-based practice so that you can train staff and administrators to use it competently; measure the use of the practice with fidelity or integrity; and replicate it across all of your implementing sites such as classrooms, schools, and districts (Fixsen et al., 2013; Metz, 2016). The following criteria need to be in place to ensure that your evidence-based practice is usable:
- Clear description of the program
- Clear program components that define the program
- Operational definitions of program components
- Practical fidelity assessment
Not every evidence-based program or practice is a good fit with the needs, values and philosophy of your education agency or organization. Having a good description of a program and its foundations is necessary so that administrators and staff can make informed choices about what to use. The Hexagon Tool used during the Exploration Stage provides some guidance for assessing the fit of an evidence-based program or practice with the goals and needs of an organization. Using the Hexagon tool with a race equity lens can prompt teams to consider potential impacts of the program or practice on the focus population and whether or not implementation of the program or practice could advance equitable outcomes for all individuals.
Additionally, make sure that you can identify these components:
- Clear Philosophy, Values and Principles
The philosophy, values and principles that underlie the program provide the guidance for all educational and program decisions and evaluations, and are used to promote consistency, integrity and sustainable effort across classrooms, schools and districts.
- Clear inclusion and exclusion criteria that define the population for which the program is intended.
The criteria define which students are most likely to benefit when the program is used as intended.
Once an evidence-based practice or program has a clear description, it is important to identify program components by considering the key features that must be present to say that an evidence-based practice is being used. For example, providing behavior specific praise requires both an affirmation and description of the behavior. Without either of those components, that comment is no longer considered behavior specific praise. Program components are often thought of as the big rocks or key ingredients that make up an evidence-based practice.
The speed and eﬀectiveness of implementation may depend upon knowing exactly what has to be in place to achieve the desired results for students, families, and communities. Knowing the core intervention components also lead to confident decisions about what can be adapted to suit your school or district and facilitate measurement of effectiveness.
Knowing the program components is a good start. The next step is to express each core program component in terms that can be taught, learned, done in practice, and assessed in practice. Engagement, for example, is fundamental to interactive innovations. What does this mean for teachers? What should they say and do to ensure engagement of all students? What should be done to promote equitable benefits of the practice/program being implemented?
Practice profiles describe the core program components that allow an evidence-based program or practice to be teachable, learnable and doable in practice, and promote consistency across educators at the classroom, building and district levels.
How well are educators saying and doing those things that are in keeping with the program components and with the intentions behind the evidence-based program or practice? Are the intended outcomes being realized? An effective fidelity assessment provides evidence that the program is being used as intended and is resulting in the desired outcomes.
Look for these features in your fidelity assessment:
- The fidelity assessment relates to the program philosophy, values, principles and program components specified in the Practice Profiles
- The fidelity assessment is practical and can be done repeatedly in the context of typical educational systems
- There is evidence that the program is effective when used as intended
- The fidelity assessment is highly correlated with intended outcomes for students
Is My Program or Practice Usable?
In order for a program or practice to be usable, it must be defined with sufficient enough detail to be implemented with fidelity, measured in use, and replicated across multiple settings. With your team, consider a current practice or program and work through the tasks provided to determine if the program or practice is usable.