TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Implementation Science Foundations

Implementation Science Foundations

Achieving outcomes is a result of three interrelated factors (1) an effective practice that is usable in context; (2) effective implementation utilizing best practices from implementation research; and (3) enabling contexts that create a hospitable environment for evidence-based practices to take hold. These three factors are operationalized through the processes and activities outlined in each of five Active Implementation Frameworks (AIFs) as described by the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN). To ensure outcomes for all students including students with significant cognitive disabilities, the Inclusive Education Roadmap (IER) incorporates elements of these frameworks.

Implementation science, the multi-disciplinary study of methods and strategies to promote use of research findings in practice, seeks to address this by providing frameworks to guide creation of conditions and activities that facilitate use of evidence-based practices.

Eccles & Mittman, 2006

This TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap (IER) is informed by the knowledge gained through implementation science. Each IER step is based on the implementation stages, drivers, teams, and improvement cycles.

Active implementation is centered around the ideas of implementation stages and drivers.

Stages of Implementation

Implementation is not an event.  It is a mission-oriented process involving multiple decisions, actions, and corrections designed to make full and effective use of innovations in education settings.  Change at the site, local, community, or state level does not occur all at once.  Research suggests it can take from two to four years to fully and successfully operationalize an evidence-based program, practice, or effective innovation (Bierman et al., 2002; Fixsen, Blase, Timbers, & Wolf, 2001; Panzano & Roth, 2006; Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982). The timer starts when an organization begins to consider change and ends when the change is fully in place and producing intended outcomes in all programs or sites in the community or state.  

The Stages of Implementation are stages that an organization progresses through when building sustainable systems that lead to the desired outcomes. The stages include:

  • Exploration Stage - beginning to explore building an inclusive education system that benefits each and every student, 
  • Installation Stage - developing an action plan and putting in place the infrastructure and processes to support inclusive practices, 
  • Initial Implementation - beginning to implement the action plan, and
  • Full implementation - reaching an organizational flow where the pieces fit together and are well implemented and supported to benefit all staff and students.

As more of the pieces of an inclusive education system are put in place and supported, the system as a whole moves forward in its stage of implementation. However, the change process is not linear. It is iterative. There is a continual process of assessing the extent of implementation and what is needed to determine the next steps. Realistically, this means that an organization will be at multiple implementation stages at any point in time.

Implementation Drivers

Strategizing how to build a cohesive inclusive education system comes from understanding features of inclusive systems, identifying priorities for transforming the system, then determining how to leverage the implementation drivers for inclusive education to support the change (State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices, n.d.-c). 

Implementation Drivers are the key components of a system's capacity to use programs or practices. Implementation Drivers ensure the development of relevant competencies, necessary organization supports, and engaged leadership.

There are two sets of implementation drivers

Competency Drivers: Competency drivers focus on building the capacity of the system to implement equitable inclusive instruction for all students, inclusive of students with significant cognitive disabilities. The drivers include:

  • Selection (setting criteria when selecting or recruiting districts, schools, and individuals to be part of the change process); 
  • Professional Development (having a well developed professional development plan that meets the array of needs in the organization); 
  • Coaching (using evidence-based coaching practices to transfer knowledge and skills to practice); and
  • Fidelity assessment processes (to develop, improve, and sustain practitioners’ ability to implement a practice or program as intended).

Organization Drivers: Organizational drivers are the organizational, administrative, and systems pieces woven together to create a work culture that supports inclusion and draws individuals to the work. The drivers include: 

  • Decision Support Data System (building data systems that are user-friendly and provide timely and accurate information for decision making at all levels of the system);
  • Facilitative Administration (internal processes, policies, structures, and use of resources that support inclusive practices, collaborative working environments, and a culture focused on staff and student learning), and
  • System Intervention (external policies and practices that help or hinder system change and efforts to alter or minimize the impact of any barriers).

Implementation Science Best Practices

Across implementation stages and drivers, successful implementation and scale-up requires at least two other implementation best practices: implementation teams and improvement cycles.

Implementation Teams are the “Who” of implementation.  An Implementation Team is an organized and active group that supports the implementation, sustainability, and scale-up of practices and programs by integrating the use of implementation stages, drivers and improvement cycles.  Forming an Implementation Team does not require new staff to engage in the work of implementation. Many times existing positions or teams can be repurposed to achieve the functions required of Implementation Teams. 

While there are many models for continuous improvement, Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycles provide Implementation Teams with a framework for problem-solving barriers. Many times, implementers, support staff, and teams experience similar, consistent barriers to implementing a program or practice as intended. Implementation Teams employ PDSA cycles to intentionally identify, problem-solve, and address these barriers and improve implementation.  

The PDSA cycles consist of four phases:   

  1. Plan - identify barriers or challenges, using multiple data points, and specify the plan to move programs or innovations forward and identify the outcomes that will be monitored,
  2. Do - carry out the strategies or plan as specified to address the challenges,
  3. Study - use the measures identified during the planning phase to assess and track progress, and
  4. Act - make changes to the next iteration of the plan to improve implementation

Action Plan Components: Inclusive Education Drivers

Implementation science research tells us that in step four of the IER, there are additional plan components necessary to the successful implementation of the Inclusive Education Action Plan:

  • data to support decision-making,
  • selection of partners,
  • professional development,
  • effective coaching,
  • faciliative policies and procedures, and
  • a communication plan.

These additional plan components are detailed here and within the Action Plan template.


Inclusive Education Action Plan