How can an educator implement an evidence-based practice or program with fidelity?
Page 5: Risks of Adapting Evidence-Based Practices
Recall that fidelity of implementation refers to the implementation of a practice or program as intended by its researchers or developers. When educators adapt a practice or program with proven success by omitting or changing any of its components, they may well render it ineffective. Whenever a change is made to a core component—what is taught, how it is taught, or the amount of time it is taught—you significantly increases the risk of not achieving the expected outcomes.
For example, a teacher is planning to use an EBP that should be implemented two times per week for 45 minutes each session for 10 weeks. He realizes that, realistically, he can spare only 35 minutes per session and only has 9 weeks left in the semester. He believes that the changes that he needs to make to implement the EBP with his class are insignificant. However, the cumulative effect of his changes is that the students receive 30% less intervention time than if he had implemented the EBP as intended.
Oftentimes, educators like the one in the example above make seemingly small changes to core components of a practice or program, not realizing that even minor changes can decrease the effectiveness of the EBP. They are often tempted to make adaptations to an EBP to make it less complicated or to make it fit within their time and budget constraints. Although the teacher thought he was making a relatively small change, in fact he made a major adaptation by changing a core component. In this case, he changed the amount of time it is taught (i.e., exposure/duration), decreasing the length of sessions as well as the number of sessions.
Considerations When Adapting
Given the risks associated with making adaptations to an EBP, nevertheless there are times when you might feel it necessary to adapt an EBP. For example, you might find that no EBP matches your criteria (i.e., student and setting, resources, and evidence level), that your children or students are not engaged, or that they are not making the expected gains. If considering making changes to an EBP, you should do so with caution and keep in mind that research indicates that adaptations are more successful when:
- They are made after first implementing the EBP with fidelity. This allows the educator to practice implementing the EBP correctly and allows him or her to assess the children or students’ responses when it is implemented as intended.
- Changes are made to one component at a time. This allows the educator to assess the children or students’ responses to that change before making others. If multiple components are adapted at the same time, and learner performance changes, it is difficult to determine which adaptation affected the performance.
- Changes are made to non-core components (i.e., minor adaptations) as opposed to core components (i.e., major adaptations).
|Examples of Changes to Non-Core Components
|Examples of Changes to Core Components
* Adaptations to core components are not recommended.
Bryan Cook describes the balance between implementing a practice or program with fidelity and adapting to meet one’s unique needs. (time: 3:03).
Bryan Cook, PhD
Professor, Special Education
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
For Your Information
When an adaption is made to an EBP, the effectiveness of the practice or program might be changed—learner outcomes might be better, worse, or the same than if the EBP were implemented as designed. It is important to monitor progress to determine how the young children or students are responding. This will be discussed in greater detail in the next Module in this series: