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Operationalizing Implementation with Human and Learning-Centered Design (Part 1)

The effective adoption and implementation of evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs) is vital to improving instruction and student outcomes. Yet, multiple factors hinder the process of translating evidence and research-based practices into school and classroom settings. Sometimes the problem is associated with the design of the program or practice itself. For example, an EBP may have a high degree of complexity or require highly technical skills, making it challenging to implement consistently and accurately in every classroom. Additionally, if the program is a poor fit (does not align with the culture, climate, and context), it can create a significant barrier to quality implementation. However, and more commonly, the knowing and doing gap exists due to the form and function of the implementation itself. In other words, the implementation design becomes the barrier to intended results and overall impact on instruction and learning. Therefore, planning for quality implementation requires implementation literacy to include knowledge of implementation strategies and implementation design.

Implementation Science (IS) studies how EBPs can become active and effective to create educationally significant outcomes. Adapted from the Implementation Science Program at the University of Washington, Department of Global Health (2020), we view IS as a means to help us understand how to get ‘what works’ to schools who need it, with more incredible speed, fidelity, efficiency, quality, scale, and sustainability. Unfortunately, from our anecdotal experience working with thousands of organizations focused on learning, most schools and their leadership have little knowledge of IS. Therefore, they have little knowledge and understanding of implementation strategies and implementation design. Increasing an organization’s implementation literacy, learning how to operationalize evidence-based implementation strategies through effective design can be the difference between significant results in a relatively short time or just another failed and abandoned initiative.

Implementation strategies are designed to facilitate and foster the effective integration of EBPs into school and classroom settings. Selecting the proper implementation strategies to address barriers to implementation and improve implementation outcomes can significantly increase the impact of EBPs. Some examples of implementation strategies include but are not limited to coaching, funding for training, materials and or staff, incentives, small pilots, modeling, and ongoing job-embedded learning. BJ Powell and his colleagues identified 73 evidence-based implementation strategies known as “Expert Recommendations for Implementation Change” (Powell et al., 2015). Identifying the most appropriate and practical implementation strategies requires a deep understanding of the organization’s culture, climate, and context. But, how do you select and operationalize the “right” implementation strategies? We have found that the answer to that question lies in human and learning-centered design.

A human and learning-centered approach to implementation design is necessary to effectively identify and operationalize the most appropriate implementation strategies that lead to implementation integrity and sustainability. Human-centered design is a problem-solving approach that considers multiple stakeholders and perspectives (individual implementers, leaders, and others unintentionally affected) in the design process. Learning-centered design recognizes the value of job-embedded professional learning in change and emphasizes the importance of taking into account the needs of the adult learners by providing opportunities to construct meaning. In this case, the learners are those required to make a change due to implementing a new EBP.

At IMPACT Learning and Leading Group, we have identified six human and learning-centered components. These include Inclusion, Meaningful Leadership, Professional Learning, Assess & Adjust, Collective Efficacy, and Teams. In the following six issues, we will unpack each of these human and learning-centered design components and how they can help operationalize your EBP implementation efforts and maximize implementation outcomes.


Powell, Byron J., et al. “A Refined Compilation of Implementation Strategies: Results from the Expert Recommendations for Implementing Chan

ge (ERIC) Project.” Implementation Science: IS, vol. 10, implementationscience …, Feb. 2015, p. 21.

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