Education Endowment Foundation:Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation

Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation

A guide to implementation applicable to any school improvement decision

Schools are learning organisations. They continuously strive to do better for the children and young people in their charge. In doing so, they try new things, seek to learn from those experiences, and work to adopt and embed the practices that work best. 

Implementation is a key aspect of what schools do to improve, and yet it is a domain of school practice that rarely receives sufficient attention. In our collective haste to do better for pupils, new ideas are often introduced with too little consideration for how the changes will be managed and what steps are needed to maximise the chances of success. Too often the who, why, where, when, and how are overlooked, meaning implementation risks becoming an add on’ task expected to be tackled on top of the day-to-day work. As a result, projects initiated with the best of intentions can fade away as schools struggle to manage these competing priorities.

One of the characteristics that distinguishes effective and less-effective schools, in addition to what they implement, is how they put those new approaches into practice. Often, individuals and schools that implement well tend do so by instinct, or what might be called common sense. Unfortunately, good implementation occupies a rarefied space of uncommon common sense’, with too few explicit discussions of the characteristics and qualities that make it effective.

The purpose of this guidance is to begin to describe and demystify the professional practice of implementation – to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is in principle; what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day work of people in schools.

Guidance Report

Second Edition


School Phase


Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.

Allow enough time for effective implementation, particularly in the preparation stage; prioritise appropriately.


Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.

  • Set the stage for implementation through school policies, routines, and practices.
  • Identify and cultivate leaders of implementation throughout the school.
  • Build leadership capacity through implementation teams.

Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement.

  • Identify a tight area for improvement using a robust diagnostic process.
  • Make evidence-informed decisions on what to implement.
  • Examine the fit and feasibility of possible interventions to the school context.
  • Make an adoption decision.

Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.

Develop a clear, logical, and well-specified implementation plan:

  1. Specify the active ingredients of the intervention clearly: know where to be tight’ and where to be loose’.
  2. Develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies.
  3. Define clear implementation outcomes and monitor them using robust and pragmatic measures.

Thoroughly assess the degree to which the school is ready to implement the innovation.

Once ready to implement an intervention, practically prepare for its use:

  1. Create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives.
  2. Introduce new skills, knowledge, and strategies with explicit up-front training.
  3. Prepare the implementation infrastructure.

Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time.

  • Adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the initial attempts at implementation.
  • Reinforce initial training with follow-on coaching within the school.
  • Use highly skilled coaches.
  • Complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration.
  • Use implementation data to actively tailor and improve the approach.
  • Make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented.

Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continually acknowledge and nurture its use.

  • Plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation from the outset.
  • Treat scale-up as a new implementation process.
  • Ensure the implementation data remains fit for purpose.
  • Continually acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices.

Active Ingredients Summary

This summary provides further information on what we mean by ‘active ingredients’, how to identify them, and ways in which they can be used to support implementation.Uploaded: [289.4 KB pdf]

Professional Development Summary

This summary provides more information on Professional Development, drawing on recommendations in the guidance report.Uploaded: [338.4 KB pdf]

Example of Implementation Plans

Examples of implementation plans created by schools in the Research Schools Network.Uploaded: [560.9 KB pdf]

Gathering and Interpreting Data Summary

A poster with suggestions on how to use data effectively to identify school improvement priorities.Uploaded: [386.9 KB pdf]

Implementation Card Sort Activity

An interactive activity to introduce some of the key themes in the guidance report.Uploaded: [173.7 KB pdf]

Implementation Plan Template

A template to help create a clear and logical implementation plan.Uploaded: [123.0 KB pdf]

Implementation Process Diagram

A diagram showing the implementation process.Uploaded: [173.6 KB pdf]

Implementation Plan Template

Editable Implementation plan template.Uploaded: [20.8 KB word]

Master Checklist

An aggregated set of checklists from across the guidance report, to help reflect on the recommendations in the report.Uploaded: [244.1 KB pdf]

Expected, supported, rewarded’ Planning Template

A template to help school leaders and programme developers clearly communicate what will be expected, supported, and rewarded during the implementation process.Uploaded: [125.7 KB pdf]
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Support for schools

Research Schools Network

Our Research Schools aim to lead the way in the use of evidence-based practice and bring research closer to schools
Read more aboutResearch Schools Network