Stepping It Up
When you’re trying to bring about a change, how and when do you decide if your efforts are working? If your efforts are either misdirected or inadequate, it’s important to know this quickly so you can make an adjustment.
If you’re trying to lose ten pounds, and your strategy is to eat less red meat and take a walk three nights a week, at what point do you decide it’s not working? How do you know when you need to step up your efforts?
Whenever we’re pursuing a goal, we need progress indicators to tell us if we’re moving quickly enough toward our goal.
There are two things to measure:
1. Whether you’re actually implementing the strategies you intended
2. Whether the strategies are having the intended effect
Comprehensive improvement planning often fails to address these issues adequately. If the achievement of the goal itself is our only source of data, we may find out too late that our efforts were misdirected or inadequate. We need to ask two questions – early and regularly – to make this determination:
1. Are we doing what we planned to do?
2. Is it working the way we wanted it to?
The first question is about fidelity of implementation – are we really doing what we set out to do? Are we doing it correctly? This is often a multifaceted question, especially when implementing a complex intervention.
The second question is about effectiveness – is this strategy producing results?
If we’ve implemented our strategies faithfully, but without the expected results, we could have a problem with fidelity of implementation, or with the level of intensity.
If research has shown that the strategy consistently works, and we can tell we’ve implemented it with fidelity, the problem is probably one of intensity – we need to step up our efforts. There is no question that exercise leads to weight loss, but only if the exercise is done with enough intensity. Similarly, many programs we use in our schools are effective in achieving their stated goals, but only if implemented with fidelity and intensity.
If we’ve decided in advance what types of evidence to collect to answer each of these questions, supervising and evaluating programs in our schools becomes much easier.