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Implementation Science

This Foundational Concept can be found in the following module pages:

Educators face increasing pressure to respond to gaps in performance among groups of students (e.g., between typical students and students receiving special education services). Often, however, these gaps are perceived as deficits that reside within a student or group of students, reinforcing the misguided assumption that students with particular labels (e.g., students with a disability) cannot learn and progress like their typical peers.

Implementation science provides a new way to think about gaps, as well as issues related to instructional practice. In her 2015 implementation brief, The Potential of Co-Creation in Implementation Science, NIRN Co-director, Dr. Allison Metz, encouraged educators to move "away from a gap framework to one of 'co-creation' to allow for an explicit focus on assessing and understanding how various actors and groups must build trust and pathways to the use of research evidence to improve outcomes for populations of concern... Conditions that support this collaborative approach to identifying and solving problems of practice include: reconfiguring the problem space, jointly developing prototypes of analytic tools through iteration and learning, and zooming in on the needs of users of research evidence while zooming out to promote systems thinking among key stakeholders" (p. 1).

Using OIP collaborative learning teams-district leadership teams (DLTs), building leadership teams (BLTs), and teacher-based teams (TBTs)-provides a structure for reframing performance issues as problems of individual and collective practice ("reconfigure the problem space"), and uses analytic tools like the Ohio 5-Step Process to identify, test out, and evaluate the effects of their collective practice on student learning.

Addressing fidelity of implementation-or the degree to which team members did what they agreed to do in following through on team decisions about strategies to be implemented-is a key function of the work of DLTs, BLTs, and TBTs. NIRN describes fidelity assessment as "measuring the degree to which teachers or staff are able to use the intervention or instructional practices as intended" (

In thinking about fidelity of implementation, it's helpful to understand implementation drivers and how they can support teams in thinking about, or exploring, to implementing fully an agreed-on strategy or action.