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Implementation is Collaborative and Relational

We have a remarkable body of evidence of what works in education, implementation, and improvement. We are familiar with John Hattie’s meta-analysis’ and seminal work on effective teaching and learning practices. We understand the importance of implementation and improvement sciences and their direct application to improving educational outcomes. All of these evidence-based resources have a remarkable convergence of research, theories, ideas, and strategies intended to help us confront complex problems that do not have easy answers.

Why, then, do we continue to see the adopt and abandon cycle which burdens our systems, impacts learning outcomes for students, exhausts teachers, and erodes trust from our stakeholder communities? What is missing when we adopt an innovation, i.e., program, practice, policy, procedure, and product (5 P’s)? IMPACT has done extensive research on this phenomenon.

What is missing is the intentional and carefully crafted inclusion of the human element, a focus on high quality, job-embedded, collaborative professional learning, and the building of collective efficacy through the use of implementation teams and collaborative structures. Collaboration is a relational practice formed through:

  • dialogue,

  • engagement,

  • trust,

  • commitment,

  • feedback,

  • and sharing of ideas.

No progress will be made in the absence of learning from and with the group.

We noticed that there needs to be sufficient preparation and planning for collaborative professional learning to effectively assist the implementers in adopting and gaining competence in the new skills, new attitudes, and beliefs for implementation to succeed. “Even the best-designed professional development may fail to produce desired outcomes if it is poorly implemented” (Darling-Hammond, et al., 2017). The inverse is also true; even the best-designed implementation will fail if high quality, job-embedded and collaborative professional learning about implementation and the innovation is poorly designed. What we have noticed over the years is, schools may accurately identify appropriate evidence-based practices yet, those practices often fail to produce the socially significant outcomes that they were identified for in the first place. We contend that to reach full implementation and realize intended outcomes of selected innovations, a well-designed, high-quality collaborative professional learning system should be considered an essential component of a comprehensive implementation effort. IMPACT has developed an implementation framework that intentionally incorporates these critical evidence-informed components:

  • collaborative adult learning,

  • building buy-in,

  • strengthening relationships,

  • developing collective efficacy,

  • equity in voice and stakeholder engagement,

  • collaborative problems solving, and

  • meaningful leadership structures that develop implementers' capacity.

The IMPACT framework is based on implementation and improvement science, professional learning research, and change theories, as well as our work leading and supporting school systems over the last twenty-plus years. However, please know this is just one framework among many that describe the implementation process. What is different about the IMPLEMENT for IMPACT Framework is the intentional inclusion of addressing what we have seen as the missing element in implementation science work: high quality, job-embedded, collaborative professional learning structures and collective efficacy to support the relational element of implementation. Research is clear one-shot workshops and simple “training” are not effective and do not result in knowledge transfer that is transformative and develops competent, skilled implementers. (Joyce and Showers, 2002).

“In addition to the development of knowledge, skills, and effective implementation, professional training should allow people to learn how to be more effective learners. For teachers to become effective learners, they need specific attitudes and skills, including persistence, understanding of the transfer of training, understanding of the need for theory and the ability to use peers productively.” (National College for School Leadership, 2003)

Strategic implementation work is relational, requiring a robust collaborative professional learning system that involves change processes designed to impact the implementer's knowledge, attitudes, skills, aspirations, and behaviors. For that reason, IMPACT LLG puts learning at the forefront of all implementation practices.


Darling-Hammond, Linda, et al., Effective Teacher Professional Development. Learning Policy Institute, 2017.

Fullan, Michael. Leading in a Culture of Change. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Joyce, B. R., & Showers, B., Student Achievement Through Staff Development, (3rd ed.), Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2002.

Reichert, Janene Jakes, and Robert C. Morris. Short Reviews: Student Achievement Through Staff Development, Longman, Inc., 2003


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