Classroom Change: How the EEF’s Implementation Guide Can Support Classroom Practice

The EEF has recently published their guide to implementation entitled ‘Putting Evidence to Work’, which provides a detailed, analytical framework designed to ‘help implement any school improvement decision, whether programme or practice, whole-school or targeted approach, or internal or externally generated ideas’.

Whilst this guide might seem to be aimed primarily at school leaders, the evaluative framework it offers can be of benefit to classroom teachers who wish to implement any kind of change to their practice. Teachers are, after all, the leader of their classroom.

‘Putting Evidence to Work’: The Nuts and Bolts

The EEF guide presents its model of implementation as a cycle comprising five steps:

  1. Decide what you want to achieve.
  2. Identify possible solutions and strategies.
  3. Give the idea the best chance of success.
  4. Did it work?
  5. Secure and spread change.

All five steps are important for successful implementation, and to help achieve these steps the EEF guide offers recommendations that can be categorised into four stages.

  1. Explore

What the EEF Guide Says:

Implementation happens in stages and takes time. There is no typical time that an intervention takes to be fully embedded in a school system: it is not unusual to spend two to four years on an implementation process for a whole-school initiative. Additionally, schools need to treat implementation as a major priority, and also prioritise what needs to change. Ultimately, there should be fewer but more strategic choices in place.

Furthermore, it is crucial to specify a tight area of focus that is amenable to change, define the problem that you want to solve, and then determine a programme of activity based on evidence about what has and has not worked before. Keeping your school’s context in mind is important in order for the implementation to be feasible.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Pinpoint one area of your classroom practice to implement a change.
  2. Check what the research evidence suggests might work in the context of your classroom.
  3. Ensure that your curriculum planning supports the longevity required for successful implementation of a new process or practice.

2. Prepare

What the EEF Guide Says:

The guide places significant emphasis on the need to identify the active ingredients of an implementation plan, and explains that active ingredients are the ‘well-specified features or practices that are tightly related to the underlying theory and mechanism of change for the intervention’. If the active ingredients of the plan are clearly identified, then it is more likely that the intended outcomes will be achieved. These active ingredients should be shared widely and be non-negotiable, but know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’. If there are explicit expectations regarding the active ingredients, then change will be easier to successfully embed.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice::

  1. Identify the active ingredients of the new classroom practice.
  2. Consider which students will be affected by the new practice, and how.
  3.  Identify and explicitly share the non-negotiable active ingredients. For example, you may be implementing a new questioning practice, and a non-negotiable is that no student opts out of responding to a question.
  4.  Consider how you will adopt a ‘tight but loose’ approach in your classroom. For example, will you offer alternative ways of responding to questions for different students?

3. Deliver

What the EEF Guide Says:

The focus of this stage is on quality assurance and quality improvement. Data and experiences should be gathered while applying the new approach, and this information used to understand, and act on, important barriers to implementation. Leaders should seek to support staff in using the innovation in the best possible way so they can become increasingly familiar with the new practices and routines. Good coaching and mentoring practices are instrumental in this support.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Seek out CPD support in terms of expert coaching and mentoring for your own follow-up training in the new classroom practice.
  2. Identify a series of short, medium, and long-term implementation outcome measures to monitor the new practice.
  3. Decide how and when you will use data from class monitoring to actively tailor and improve your classroom approach.

4. Sustain

 What the EEF Guide Says:

Participants in the implementation of new practices have to feel trusted to try new things and make mistakes without fear of recrimination. Consequently, creating a culture of implementation is important, and this can be achieved through supporting and acknowledging people who display attitudes and behaviours that promote good implementation of new practice.

Part of effective implementation also includes being able to sustain and scale up an innovation.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Plan for how you will recognise and celebrate instances where students are engaging with, and benefitting from, the changed classroom practice.
  2. Plan for how you will share your implementation plan and outcomes with other teachers across your school and beyond. Also consider where you can get support from school leaders.
  3. Consider how you could scale up this approach, for example by implementing the practice with a larger cohort.

Fran Haynes.

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