Regardless of the size of an implementation effort, changing the behavior of implementers is necessary to produce changes in student behaviors. Whether implementing a support plan for a single student in a single classroom or implementing a new instructional curriculum for an entire school district, the process is essentially the same. Planning and coordinating across individuals within the system is necessary. Establishing an implementation team is considered best practice within implementation science to facilitate these efforts. The ultimate purpose of the Implementation Team is to make sure all of the necessary actions are completed as the innovation (the intervention) moves through the stages of implementation. The sequence of the stages of implementation is captured in Figure 1.
Depending on the stage of implementing the innovation, the focus of the Implementation Team changes. During the Exploration phase (the first stage), the function is to determine the need for change, a process for evaluating the various options, a method for gaining input from all stakeholders, and finally, deciding which program (e.g., behavior support plan, curriculum, self-created) to adopt and develop, and a means for communicating the decision and rationale to all stakeholders.
During the Installation phase (second stage) of implementing an innovation, the emphasis of the Implementation Team is to assure all necessary personnel is hired and required training is accomplished. In addition to addressing staffing and training issues, it is essential to acquire all the necessary resources to implement the innovation. Finally, the Implementation Team has to prepare the organization for the change. Every segment of an organization with contact with the innovation will have to change its practices to support it. For example, when introducing a new, school-wide behavior management system that might involve tangible reinforcers, a reliable, efficient method for obtaining and replacing items will have to be developed. To do this might involve levels of the organization, such as purchasing budget that at first glance may not seem to be a part of the intervention. Another example could be introducing a supplemental reading support curriculum for struggling readers. Coordination will be necessary to make sure each student continues to receive all of the required instructional minutes for each content area rather than, for instance, pulling a student from math instruction to support additional reading support.
The first step in actual implementation is a small-scale initiative, perhaps at one school or class. The purpose of this initial implementation is for the Implementation Team can identify barriers and resolve issues without involving the entire system in adjusting the details of the implementation plan. It is inevitable that adjustments to the original plan will have to be made and often require several iterations of possible solutions before the implementation process is running smoothly. Some implementers can become discouraged that "getting it right" takes multiple efforts, and the magnitude of change is greater than expected. Another critical function of the Implementation Team during this phase is to keep everyone motivated and focused on the plan rather than prematurely abandoning the project before benefits are obtained.
Once the initial implementation efforts have proven successful, the innovation can be introduced into a second school or more classrooms. Once again, the Implementation Team is responsible for identifying barriers in these settings and developing possible solutions. This process continues until the innovation is introduced in all schools or classrooms that were part of the original plan. Fixsen and colleagues (2018) estimate that it takes 2-4 years to reach full implementation. When the intervention is fully implemented, the Implementation Team's role is to continue monitoring the quality of implementation to identify strengths and "drift" from the plans that may limit the effectiveness of the intervention. Given the complexities of a system, maintaining high-quality implementation involves a team dedicated to the task. One person cannot do it alone. It should be assumed that the intervention will require attention and adjustments beyond implementation. Consistent monitoring of the implementation efforts is essential for as long as the intervention is in place. The work of the Implementation Team is on-going. High quality implementation ensures continuous benefits for students.