Fidelity assessment is defined as indicators of doing what is intended. This definition requires a) knowing what is intended, and b) having some way of knowing the extent to which a person did what was intended. Knowing what is intended is the subject of the Module 6: Usable Innovation. Knowing the extent to which a person did what was intended is the subject of this Module.

Education and human services are based on people interacting with each other in ways that are intended to be helpful whether individually (e.g., clinician with client, teacher with student) or in teams (e.g., IEP team with a student and family members). Given the complexities of human behavior, there is no expectation that people will be the same from moment to moment or day to day. With such variation in mind, fidelity assessments are designed to help detect and support consistent and relevant instruction and innovation behavior. When evidence-based approaches or other effective innovations are being used in education, fidelity assessments measure the presence and strength of an innovation as it is used in daily practice.

It has been noted elsewhere that the Initial Implementation Stage of using an innovation is the most fragile (Module 4: Implementation Stages). It is during this time that new Implementation Teams are forming and learning to function in districts and schools that have recently decided to try an innovation. Under these conditions, the Implementation Team's supports for teachers may be inconsistent and not always immediately effective. The idea that teacher fidelity assessment results are the products of Implementation Team supports for practitioners (teachers, clinicians) will be detailed in a later section of this module.