The Active Implementation Frameworks (AIF) help distinguish fidelity assessment from teacher certification, accountability, or administrative review processes. The Active Implementation Frameworks are universal and apply to any attempt to use any innovation. Some innovations are evidence-based and some have been operationalized, but the vast majority does not meet either of these conditions.
Fidelity assessments are most reliable when the core innovation features have been identified, operationalized, and shown through research and evaluation studies to correlate positively with outcomes. It can take many years to conduct the studies needed to validate a measure of fidelity by demonstrating that the items or measure correlates well with positive outcomes.
Many innovations are evidence-informed and consist of individual practices that are predicted to produce improved learning and outcomes. But there are no validated fidelity assessments. In these instances, it is important to develop a fidelity assessment of some kind so that you can “get started and get better” at understanding and detecting the core features needed to produce outcomes.
Example: The PBIS School-wide Evaluation Tool
An example of a fidelity assessment is provided by Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a well-developed and researched approach to reducing discipline problems and suspensions and improving academic achievement in schools. State and national networks of trainers and coaches and a national data collection and reporting system support PBIS. The data supporting PBIS require specific features to be present if PBIS is to be effective. And research has been to demonstrate that higher fidelity is correlated with better student outcomes (PBIS, http://www.pbis.org/research/swpbs-outcome-measure).
In this example, fidelity assessment items are designed to detect the presence and strength of each PBIS core feature in a school environment. Notice that the data source may be a product, interview, or observation. These ways of assessing fidelity are summarized in the handout.