Home > Implementation for Educators Blog

Implementation is what we do

October 9, 2023

Shocktober has hit! The celebration of starting a new academic year is over and we are now into the daily routine of supporting teachers, making 1,000 decisions a day, and teaching to the hearts and minds of our students. All of this can seem overwhelming at times. In K-12 education we have a lot on our plates on a daily basis – testing, improvement plans, accountability, addressing staffing turnover, and the day-to-day operations of teaching students, just to name a few. As a result of the constant demands, when we begin to learn about implementation science and practice, we view the approaches and strategies as ‘something else’ we have to do. But in reality, no matter your role in the K-12 setting, you are part of implementation every day.

For example,

Teachers use evidence-based practices in their classrooms every day.

Coaches provide embedded professional learning support to teachers on evidence-based practices every day.

Principals support problem-solving and address building-level barriers to implementation. They also set the culture and collaborative nature of the work every day.

Central Office Staff – such as MTSS consultants, Data Specialists, Curriculum Directors, and Professional Learning coordinators – provide quality support to the school buildings and barrier bust every day.

Superintendents support community collaboration and communication district-wide every day. 

Regional Agencies design and implement professional learning and technical assistance support for the various practices implemented across their school districts every day.

State Agencies address legislation, policies, and guidance for required programs and standards every day.

So why is it that implementation is looked at as an additional activity to be done? Part of it has to do with the fact that over 100 implementation frameworks, models, and theories exist (Strifler, Barnsley, Hillmer, and Straus, 2020)! It is easy to get caught up in the approaches and strategies as one more thing we should be doing in education because the language is foreign, it appears too complex, or we are simply in cognitive overload. But what if we changed our mindset and looked at implementation as something we do every day? What if we took a step back and reviewed what we have in place and what we are doing and approach implementation as what we do?  

Let’s look at the Active Implementation Frameworks as an example.

Usable Innovation: What are you implementing?
Take a step back and examine what teachers are implementing…

  • High-Quality Instructional Materials
  • Evidence-based Practices
  • Classroom Management Program
  • Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum
  • Others?

Stages of Implementation: Where are you at with implementation?
Take a step back and examine your timelines for implementing…

  • A representative team comes together to select a new curriculum (exploration).
  • The professional learning coordinators and coaches meet to discuss professional learning plans for the year (installation).
  • Principals collect and review fidelity data (initial implementation).
  • Improvement teams look at implementation data and plan for small-scale changes (full implementation).

Implementation Drivers: What systems are in place to support the implementation?
Take a step back and examine your systems for implementing…

  • All new staff were trained in August on the newest literacy best practices and coaching schedules are in place for the year (competency drivers).
  • PLCs met for the first time to examine fidelity or integrity walkthrough data on the SEL program (organizational drivers).
  • The executive cabinet met to discuss the budget for the year and to identify needed resources for the math curriculum implementation (leadership).

Implementation Teams: What teams are in place to support implementation?
Take a step back and examine what teams you have and their functions…

  • The building leadership team met to discuss barriers to the new science curriculum.
  • The district improvement team met to review data available on the early adoption of a new Title I program.
  • The regional instructional department is looking at the data collected from two counties to decide the next steps for support.
  • The state-wide system of support team is reviewing the monitoring data of school districts struggling to guide their advocacy efforts with policy.

Improvement Cycles: Are you planning, doing, studying, acting?
Take a step back and examine your improvement processes…

  • Implementation is built into your building improvement plans for literacy.
  • Your improvement team meets monthly to review implementation data and make small changes to the plan.
  • The district improvement plan aligns all of the math initiatives for subsequent years and is focused on small changes with instructional practices.
  • The state department’s improvement processes require data use and a selection process.

Contextualizing our own implementation journey is critical to moving beyond something we have to do to something we do every day. Examine your own classroom, school, district, or agency journey. How are you approaching implementation?

SISEP’s role in K-12 education is to support you in learning more about implementation science and practice. We provide intensive, targeted, and universal support.

Intensive Support:  

  • Educational Agency coaching and professional development as it relates to the Active Implementation Formula and the Implementation Support Practitioner Core Competencies. SISEP enters into partnerships with State Departments of Education. If you are interested in intensive implementation science and practice support and are outside of a State Education Department, please contact NIRN.

Targeted Support:

Take your own implementation learning journey by accessing one of our free and globally used resources.

Implementation is what we do. How about you?

Learn more on the SISEP website or visit the AI Hub for more information.


Strifler, L., Barnsley, J. M., Hillmer, M., & Straus, S. E. (2020). Identifying and selecting implementation theories, models and frameworks: a qualitative study to inform the development of a decision support tool. BMC medical informatics and decision making, 20(1), 1-12. doi:10.1186/s12911-020-01128-8