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Implementation of EBIs: Tips for School Psychologists

Evidence-based interventions (EBIs) represent practices for which empirical evidence links the application of those practices with demonstrated outcomes. With the increasing pressure to improve services to children and to be accountable for such services, the emphasis on EBIs has increased tremendously. Significant efforts in the field of school psychology have been made to raise awareness among school personnel of EBIs and their implementation. School professionals, including school psychologists, must implement services that will maximize favorable outcomes. Unfortunately, there is almost a 20-year lag between the availability of EBIs and their adoption (Walker, 2004). Despite evidence for the efficacy of an intervention (i.e., positive outcomes in an experimental setting), reluctance to change practice from what is currently being done can lead to resistance when school psychologists try to implement EBIs in their schools. Nevertheless, school psychologists should persevere in their efforts for the benefit of students. The inclusion of response to intervention in federal law and its growing adoption in districts across the country make facility with EBIs particularly important for school psychologists. This includes how to select EBIs, implement them, and communicate with school staff about the process, expected benefits, and results of doing so.

Selection of EBIs to Enhance Implementation

A. Choose an EBI supported by well-designed research that includes:

  • Clear description of the intervention
  • Complete report of the study sample
  • Use of valid outcome measures
  • Sufficient controls
  • Effect sizes
  • Explanation of clinical significance of result

B. Select an EBI that provides a practical advantage over what is currently in place.

  • In order to get school personnel on board, the EBI must have an observable and practical impact on a current, relevant concern and have shown positive results.

C. The EBI should be consistent with the values and practices of the school setting.

  • Is the EBI a good fit with the school's needs?
  • Does the EBI align well with other programs in place?
  • Does the EBI match the educational philosophy of the administration and school culture?

D. The EBI must be easy to understand and to implement by school personnel with a moderate degree of training.

E. Determine that the necessary resources can be made available to implement the EBI.

F. Ensure that the EBI can be implemented with integrity (i.e., as described in the supporting research).

Communications Tips. Identify who in the building needs to support adoption of the EBI at the outset. Understand their likely perspective (e.g., what are their priorities? Do they have positive or negative preexisting experiences with similar "new" approaches?). Define how the EBI will address a concern related to behavior or achievement. Select the most important points (3â€"4) that you believe will help create "buy-in." Have data to back them up. Create a one-page fact sheet outlining the problem, how the EBI addresses it, and the benefits.

Implementation of EBIs

Successful implementation of EBIs requires the school psychologists' knowledge of capacity building and systems change. Through effective consultation skills, school psychologists can build alliances with administrators and key stakeholders that will facilitate such changes. It is important to remember that certain organizational structures need to be in place prior to implementing EBIs, since they most likely represent a change in practices.

A. Identify a specific need by assessing the educational environment and the target population.

  • Start on a small scale (i.e., one setting).
  • Focus on a specific need to increase perceived utility and value to the organization.

B. Select an EBI in consultation with administrators and relevant school personnel.

C. Determine whether the EBI can be implemented with integrity.

  • Specify any modification that needs to be made in its application.

D. Secure support and necessary resources (i.e., finances, personnel, time).

E. Develop a plan for implementation of the EBI that includes ALL relevant personnel.

F. Conduct inservice training for school personnel who will be involved with the implementation of the EBI.

G. Implement the EBI and monitor progress.

H. Collect data on implementation and outcome to determine effectiveness of EBI with your specific population.

Communications Tips. Plan ahead how and when you will keep relevant personnel updated on implementation. Have a process for observation and feedback to staff, both to make adjustments if necessary and to include in updates as appropriate. In addition to a final report, consider writing an article to summarize the effectiveness of the EBI to share as a district resource. If appropriate to the EBI, prepare a streamlined update or article for parents as well.

Potential Barriers to Acceptance and Implementation of EBIs

A. Lack of administrative support for change.

B. Lack of readiness for change in practice.

C. Lack of alliances in the school setting.

D. Inconsistency with current routines and practices.

E. Insufficient fiscal or personnel resources.

F. Inadequate staff development.

G. Insufficient communication.

Any of these factors may contribute to a lack of support and participation for EBIs. When a change of practice is proposed/implemented, there is likely to be resistance. A collaborative partnership among school personnel, including the school psychologist, is likely to decrease the probability of heavy resistance. Also, adaptations may need to be made to the EBI (within the limits of treatment integrity) to accommodate the concerns of the school personnel and increase feasibility of treatment integrity.

Resources for School Psychologists

The need for better integration between research and practice is obvious. One way to promote the awareness and application of EBIs among school psychologists is to provide research findings in a way that is both practical and relevant. There are several resources for school psychologists to obtain the latest progressive research-based practice. These include:

School Psychology Forum: Research Into Practice

School Psychology Quarterly: Special section on Empirically Supported Interventions

School Psychology Review: Special Series on Innovative Research and Practice

Best Practices in School Psychology IV and V

Best Practices V Online Resource Center

Communiqué

Reference

Walker, H. M. (2004). Commentary: Use of evidence-based interventions in schools: Where we've been, where we are, and where we need to go. School Psychology Review, 33, 398â€"407.