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Implementation Science: Understanding and finding solutions to variation in program implementation

Lee E. Nordstrum (RTI International, Edina, Minnesota, USA)
Paul G. LeMahieu (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, California, USA)
Elaine Berrena (Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




This paper is one of seven in this volume elaborating upon different approaches to quality improvement in education. This paper aims to delineate a methodology called Implementation Science, focusing on methods to enhance the reach, adoption, use and maintenance of innovations and discoveries in diverse education contexts.


The paper presents the origins, theoretical foundations, core principles and a case study showing an application of Implementation Science in education, namely, in promoting school–community–university partnerships to enhance resilience (PROSPER).


Implementation Science is concerned with understanding and finding solutions to the causes of variation in a program’s outcomes relating to its implementation. The core phases are: initial considerations about the host context; creating an implementation structure; sustaining the structure during implementation; and improving future applications.


Few theoretical treatments and demonstration cases are currently available on commonly used models of quality improvement in other fields that might have potential value in improving education systems internationally. This paper fills this gap by elucidating one promising approach. The paper also derives value, as it permits a comparison of the Implementation Science approach with other quality improvement approaches treated in this volume.



Nordstrum, L.E., LeMahieu, P.G. and Berrena, E. (2017), "Implementation Science: Understanding and finding solutions to variation in program implementation", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 58-73.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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