CREATE Week: Fidelity of Implementation in Rolling Out Educational Programs by Paula Egelson
Hi, I am Paula Egelson and I am the director of research at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta and a CREATE board member. Much of my current research and evaluation work centers on secondary career technical education (CTE) program effectiveness for teachers and students. The fidelity of implementation, or the degree to which an intervention is delivered as intended, for these programs is always a big issue.
Hot Tip: Pay Attention to Fidelity of Implementation as Programs Roll out
What we have discovered over time is that factors that support fidelity of implementation crop up later in the program development process more than we ever expected. For example, CTE programs are usually very equipment heavy. During the field-testing stage, we discovered that due to a variety of vendor and district and state ordering issues, participating schools were not able to get equipment into their CTE classrooms until much later in the school year. This impacted teachers’ ability to implement the program properly. In addition, the CTE curricula is very rich and comprehensive which we realized required students to have extensive homework and ideally a 90-minute class block. Finally, we discovered that many teachers who implemented early on were cherry picking projects to teach rather than covering the entire curriculum.
Once these factors were recognized and addressed, we could incorporate them into initial teacher professional development and the school MOU. Thus, program outcomes continue to be more positive each year. This speaks to the power of acknowledging, emphasizing and incorporating fidelity of implementation into program evaluations.
Rad Resource: Century, Rudnick, & Freeman’s (2010) American Journal of Evaluation article on Fidelity of Implementation provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the different components of Fidelity of Implementation.
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