Last Updated: Monday, March 05, 2018

Using implementation science to support the implementation of interventions in real world contexts

What is this?

Local authorities and schools are increasingly using evidence-based practice and interventions to support them in achieving excellence and equity. One of the challenges of applying evidence-based practice is knowing whether it will be effective in achieving the same outcomes in different contexts.

Implementation science is the science of making interventions and programmes effective in real world contexts. It looks at the factors that might impact on the effectiveness of implementing an intervention in your context, including how you ensure fidelity to an approach. It also encourages schools to evaluate and measure outcomes along the way to ensure impact. 

This self-evaluation approach explores what implementation science is and helps schools to plan for the implementation of interventions. A film clip is also included, which provides an overview of how one school used implementation science when applying a whole school nurturing approach.

Who is this for?

​Headteachers, local authority representatives and partners

How to use this approach to improve practice

Implementation science is increasingly being used in training to help highlight to school leaders and practitioners the need to ensure that any approach is applied in a way that ensures fidelity to have the greatest impact. One example of this is whole school nurturing approaches training, which explores how to successfully support the implementation of a nurturing approach. Watch the video clip to learn how St.Modan’s High School in Stirling did this.

Improvement questions

Key improvement questions for practitioners using this approach include:

  • Is there an evidence base for the intervention or programme that you are planning to implement?
  • To what extent are you able to implement this intervention or programme to ensure fidelity?
  • What are the core components that might have an impact on the effectiveness of this programme or intervention?


PowerPoint file: Implementation Science - Turning evidence into practice (2.16 MB)

Word file: Framework for implementation (54 KB)

Explore this self-evaluation approach

Implementation science is an approach that focuses on supporting implementation of interventions in the real world whilst exploring the barriers to intervention effectiveness such as:

  • attitudes, beliefs and values of those delivering the intervention
  • recruitment and selection of suitable staff
  • organisational structures such as available resources
  • training, consultation and coaching
  • use of evaluation and data.

It explores the application of research into real world contexts.

Many bodies that advocate evidence-based research also focus on the implementation protocols that accompany programmes, thus enhancing practitioner effectiveness, e.g. CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning)

It can be challenging to transfer promising research findings or interventions that have been successful elsewhere into everyday practice. Even when successful outcomes are achieved within one study, replicating  these across different contexts may not necessarily produce similar results.

Implementation science recognises that when the same interventions are used but results vary significantly, this may be down to discrepancies within the implementation process. Consequently, research in this area has focused on what the core implementation components are to ensure that an intervention is effective, including to what extent a school or local authority is able to ensure fidelity to an approach. A number of models exist that look at the key stages involved in implementation. The implementation model illustrated in the accompanying PowerPoint and implementation framework are based on a model developed by Dean Fixsen.