Recently, a close family member was rushed to the emergency room due to a drop in blood pressure. As it turned out, it was merely a side-effect to a new medicine. In the doctor’s efforts to cure one problem, another surfaced. Sometimes, in education we float from one ‘medicine’ to the next.
I’ve been considering the effectiveness of a new program my school has implemented. It didn’t take long to realize that what I’d like to measure is not it’s effectiveness, but the effectiveness of implementation. Nancy Protheroe’s article Fidelity of Implementation quotes The National Center on Response to Intervention‘s definition of Fidelity of Implementation as:
[It] is the delivery of content and instructional strategies in the way in which they were designed and intended to be delivered: accurately and consistently. Although interventions are aimed at learners, fidelity measures focus on the individuals who provide the instruction.
They go on to describe Five Elements of Fidelity:
- Adherence – How well did you stick with the plan?
- Duration of Exposure – How often does a student receive the treatment?
- Quality of Delivery – Is the instruction engaging, enthusiastic and clear?
- Program Specificity – Staying focused on the program and not adding contamination.
- Student Responsiveness – Are the students engaged?
What if the implementation is not going as expected and issues need to be addressed? Here, Nancy Protheroe, outlines issues of strictly adhering to the program implementation guidelines versus adapting the implementation due to issues which arise.
- Can your program be implemented without modification? – Determine if it is possible to implement the program with fidelity. You should strive to replicate only tried and true programs that have been tested.
- Retain the core elements – If you have to adapt a program, keep your goals in sight.
- Prepare your staff – Stress the importance of following expectations of this program.
- Meet the needs of your students – If a program is clearly not working, modify it to meet the unique needs of your students.
As a doctor may need to adjust a patient’s prescription, educators need to implement programs with specificity, yet be willing to adjust if they are not going as planned.