Jared's Blog: Fidelity of Interventions

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    The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines fidelity as the "quality or state of being faithful" or "accuracy in details: exactness." This is what we strive for when we provide interventions, but is it always attainable? How do you ensure that a program is being implemented with fidelity? With many research-based programs, you can get the results they promise but only if you implement their program just exactly the way they intend it to be implemented.

    The first step that we took to ensure that we were providing interventions with fidelity was to make sure that the intervention met our needs.  We knew that we would be able to implement an intervention with more fidelity if we did not have to modify it to meet our needs.  Our most immediate need was to provide reading interventions to students.  Through our data, we found that a vast majority of students were having problems with phonemic awareness and fluency.  Our conclusion was that our core program maybe a little weak in this area or maybe we were not emphasizing these areas the way that we should.  In both instances we chose to take a two-pronged approach.  First, we looked at our core program and began to emphasize these two areas more.  Second, we chose interventions that were specifically designed to meet these needs.  We looked for interventions that needed little to no adaption to meet these needs.  Once again, we researched what was out there to use for interventions in these areas.  When we visited schools looking at core programs, we also looked at the interventions they were using and what were the targets of these interventions.  Another key aspect of choosing an intervention was to ensure that we had buy-in from all the staff.  We made sure that we answered all staff member’s questions and alleviated any concerns that staff members had before we made our minds up to purchase the intervention.  We made sure that each staff member had a stake in the intervention so that they would help to ensure that it was successful.

    The second aspect that we use to ensure fidelity in our interventions is to make sure that every staff member has the proper training and materials to implement the intervention.  With every intervention that we have employed, we have either brought trainers to our school or sent staff to training to bring information back and train the rest of the staff.  The first method of bringing someone in is preferable, also more expensive.  This is not always feasible or even available, but we have found that we have been able to implement interventions in a cleaner and more efficient manner  when we have been able to have someone come in to provide training.  Everyone received the same information and everyone is on the same page.  Everyone knows the purpose of the intervention and the students that it targets.   When we have sent people to be trained and then had them come back, we seem to have a lot more questions and inconsistencies when we implement these programs.  We have had to work through a few difficulties and contact some of the designers of the programs to get our questions answered and also to make sure that were implementing the intervention correctly and for its intended audience.

    Another issue that I have noticed as we move later into the year is program drift.  As teachers become more familiar and, may I dare say, a little complacent with the intervention, I have seen a slight drifting away from the program.  For example, a program may say that every time you start the students should repeat something five times, well a teacher may only have the students repeat it three times or may say, "We have done this so many times that we do not need to do this anymore," and skip the repeating all together.  True, the students may know it but to get the results that the program is advertising, we must implement the program the way it was intended.  Another unintentional drifting occurs when teachers try to slightly modify the program to meet a need that the program was not intended for.  A person may think, "My students are having a problem with this and so if I just tweak this program a little here I can use it for this problem."  These slight modifications may or may not work; however, in our next step of progress monitoring and looking at the effectiveness of the intervention it is now difficult to determine if the intervention is working or not.  We are not able to determine if student progress or lack of progress is because of the program or the modifications that we made to the program.  Now, I do not want to make it sound like we do not allow teachers the freedom to teach.  We just do it in a more calculated and systemic manner.  This keeps our data cleaner and more accurate and actually allows us to make quicker and more targeted changes when the need arises.

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