Digging deep into the EEF Implementation Guide

6 June 2018

Author: Shaun Allison


Earlier this year, the EEF published ‘Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation’.  This is rapidly becoming essential reading for teachers and leaders, as it addresses a key process that is often done poorly in schools i.e. effectively implementing a new idea.  We have new ideas all the time in schools (often too many), but a great idea, implemented poorly, is likely to go nowhere.  So, considering the implementation phases described in this report, is invaluable:

As we discuss and use this document more and more at Durrington, it is becoming increasingly apparent to us that there are five key ideas involved in this process (known as ‘implementation outcomes’) that are worth deep and careful consideration, when thinking about implementation.  They enable you to monitor how effectively the implementation process is going.  This is important, because by doing this you can then make any necessary adjustments to the new approach, to ensure that is has the best chance of being successful – they keep implementation on track.  They are:

  • Active Ingredients
  • Fidelity
  • Acceptability
  • Reach
  • Feasibility

This article will explore the importance of the five implementation outcomes and exemplify them using an example of a whole school implementation that took place here at Durrington.

Active Ingredients

Professor Jonathan Sharples describes the active ingredients as ‘the essential principles and practices within a programme that relate to the underlying mechanism of change. What behaviour will you seen when it is working?

So for example, about 4 years ago at Durrington we wanted to implement a change to get a more consistent and effective approach to teaching across the school.  We identified 6 evidence informed pedagogical principles (challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, questioning and feedback) and wanted our teachers to be shaping their teaching more around these and avoiding faddish and gimmicky approaches.  You can read more about it here.  Critical to this was the understanding that this was a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching.  The message we gave to our teachers was to do these six things well, but in a way that suits your subject and the students you are teaching.  The six principles were our active ingredients.

It is vital to identify the active ingredients of the new approach you are implementing from the start.  What are the aspects of the new approach that you want staff to be ‘tight’ with, in order to give it the best chance of being successful and where/how are you prepared for them to be with ‘loose’ with it?


Once you are clear about the active ingredients, it is easier to think about how you will check for fidelity i.e. the degree to which staff use a new approach as intended by its developers.

‘A common challenge when adopting new programmes and practices is ensuring they are being used as intended. Staff may like some aspects of an intervention more than others and ‘cherry pick’ their favourite elements; new ideas and practices may lead to unintended adaptations to a programme that diminish its effect; people may struggle with some aspects of an approach and leave these elements out. The use of an approach, therefore, can vary greatly from teacher to teacher.’ (p35)

With this in mind, you need to plan in advance how you will ensure that the new approach is being implemented with fidelity.  For our example, lesson observations became one of the vehicles for this, as well as our general discussions about teaching, curriculum planning and discussions around student work.  So rather than grading lessons, we would give teachers formative feedback about how the principles were being implemented in their lessons.  When talking about curriculum planning, we would use this as a starting point for discussions around the level of challenge in the curriculum.  These were all good fidelity checks.


Acceptability as an implementation outcome is the degree to which different stakeholders, perceive a new approach as being agreeable.  Put crudely, if fidelity is about compliance, acceptability is about ownership.  It’s clear to see why this as such an important implementation outcome, as when you get to this point, it is a strong indication that the implementation of the new approach is going well.  Again, you need to plan how you will judge this.

For us, there were a number of signs:

  • We saw the six principles being implemented well, in most lessons, most of the time – without prompting.
  • They became a feature of subject initiated CPD e.g. in department meetings, curriculum teams would be discussing effective explanation of a topic.
  • Colleagues would want to share how they were implementing the principles in their lessons, with their colleagues during INSET days and other CPD events.


With acceptability, comes reach i.e. how many students is it serving and having an impact on?  As the six principles we introduced at Durrington are evidence informed and have been shown to contribute to effective teaching, we make the assumption that if they are being implemented well, students are more likely to achieve well.  So, where there is underachievement, one reason for this could be that the reach of this approach is not as we would like it to be i.e. the teacher or teachers in a curriculum area might not be implementing the six principles as effectively as they could be.  When this is the case, we will look at the teaching and explore whether this is the case, and if any further support needs to be put in place to address this e.g. coaching the teacher/s.


The final implementation outcome is feasibility.  This is the ease and convenience with which the approach can be used by staff and integrated into a school’s daily routines.  So once the new approach underway, it is important to monitor feasibility and put in support or make appropriate changes to make it easier to implement.  For example, we changed our traditional ‘department meetings’ to ‘subject planning and development sessions’ to facilitate a more consistent and effective implementation of the six principles within subject teams.  These are fortnightly meetings of subject teams, where they discuss what they are teaching over the next fortnight and how to teach it well, with a particular focus on the six principles e.g. how can we really challenge the students to think hard about this topic?  What’s the best way to model this particular piece of extended writing?  What are the best hinge questions to use in this lesson? More about these here.

The example used here, implementing an approach to teaching, is an example of whole school implementation.  However, it clear to see how these five ‘implementation outcomes’ are important to consider whether you are implementing a new approach at a whole school level, or across a subject team, or as a teacher trying out a new approach to teaching.


Posted on 6 June 2018
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