Skip to main content

Implementation Science

Stages of Implementation

According to NIRN, there are four interrelated stages of implementation (see NIRN Module 4: Implementation Stages). The stages are (1) exploration, (2) installation, (3) initial implementation, and (4) full implementation:

Exploration. At the exploration stage, teams identify needs and options, and make decisions about whether or not to move forward with a particular practice (e.g., instructional strategy, action, intervention). Among the issues the team considers are whether the needs of students are identified, the "fit" of potential practice in relationship to the need, evidence demonstrating the use of the practice, availability of resources to support the practice, the readiness for use of the practice, and the capacity of the team to use the practice as designed and to sustain its use over time.

Installation. The installation stage involves creating the infrastructure and putting necessary organizational supports into place for implementing a particular practice. Such activities may include acquiring or repurposing resources needed to implement the selected practice, such as identifying sources for training and coaching, providing initial training for staff, finding or developing assessment tools, and providing access to needed materials, data systems, and equipment.

Initial Implementation. At the initial implementation stage, team members are beginning to use agreed-on strategies or actions. NIRN described initial implementation as "the most fragile stage," where the perseverance required for using new practices sometimes results in team members giving up and returning to the status quo. It's critical at this stage for the full and effective use of new practices to be supported and accomplishments celebrated. NIRN advises teams to "get started, then get better."

Full implementation. When the "new" practice becomes the standard practice or, more simply, the way business is routinely done, teams have achieved full implementation status. According to NIRN, full implementation is reached when 50% or more of the team use the practice as intended (i.e., with fidelity) and desired outcomes-something that is difficult to achieve without the necessary support.