Research School Network: The role of implementation climate in tackling disadvantage Jon Eaton, Kingsbridge Research School


The role of implementation climate in tackling disadvantage

Jon Eaton, Kingsbridge Research School

by Kingsbridge Research School
on the

The purpose of a Pupil Premium strategy is to structure – and communicate – the way we intend to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. By understanding needs, and by engaging with high-quality evidence, schools can develop an appropriately targeted response.

But any Pupil Premium strategy document is only as good as its implementation. There are numerous reasons why even well-conceived approaches can fail to have the desired effect. For example, if we rely on single-hit training events, initial enthusiasm can soon fizzle out. Similarly, a lack of shared understanding about what an approach involves can quickly limit its effectiveness and impact.

The concept of implementation climate’ can be a helpful way into thinking about the kinds of strategies a school might use to move from documentation to effective, sustained practice.

What is implementation climate?

With some variety, most definitions state that implementation climate is the extent to which people perceive that a particular evidence-based practice is expected, supported, and rewarded by an organisation (for reference, the box at the bottom of this page lists several definitions).

In other words, it’s whether staff perceive that the thing we’re asking them to do is visibly high on the agenda, and that we show we’re invested in it to the extent we claim by tangibly supporting and rewarding it.

The diagram below summarises this idea and points out that improving implementation climate can have a positive influence on subsequent implementation efforts. In other words, we should focus on implementing things well because it has a broader impact on the way the school implements things more generally.

Picture 2
Positive implementation climate

And we can easily picture the damaging effects of poor implementation by imagining the inverse:

Picture 1
Negative implementation climate

Showing that a strategy is expected, supported, rewarded

Practically, we might help staff to see what’s expected through regular communication, clear documentation, or by modelling and sharing examples of key practices. Support might be provided by giving staff sufficient time to learn how to use a new practice, or by sharing high-quality resources. To help staff feel rewarded, it can be powerful to acknowledge and share good practice, perhaps by forming a champion’s group’ or by bringing people into a dedicated implementation team that acknowledges and draws on their expertise.

Professional development is often a core implementation strategy and can play a key role in building understanding around what’s expected, supported and rewarded. The EEF’s Effective Professional Development guidance report reminds us that effective PD should build knowledge, motivate staff, develop teaching techniques, and embed practice. We can see how these elements play a role in positively influencing a school’s implementation climate:

Clean Shot 2023 09 21 at 16 09 10 2x

Why implementation climate is crucial in tackling disadvantage

The concept of implementation climate is particularly important for Pupil Premium strategies, since ALL staff need to view tackling disadvantage as their responsibility. It is a collective effort, and it matters in every classroom and in every interaction. For that reason, the EEF’s Pupil Premium guide tells us it should be an integral part of existing school development planning’. It is not a bolt-on. It is not something that happens away from the classroom. And it is not something that the Pupil Premium Lead singlehandedly takes care of. It is everyone’s business, and we help to make it everyone’s business by implementing our Pupil Premium strategy in such a way that – you guessed it – people know what’s expected, feel supported to enact it, and rewarded when they do it.

Further resources

The EEF Guide to the Pupil Premium is a practical guide to support schools to develop their pupil premium strategy based on the best evidence, and to meet updated DfE requirements.

DfE guidance on using the Pupil Premium

Definitions of implementation climate:

- an effective implementation climate” captures the extent to which employees perceive that the adoption, implementation, and use of an innovation such as EBP is expected, rewarded, and supported by the organization. (Ehrhart et al., 2014)

- targeted employees’ shared summary perceptions of the extent to which their use of a specific innovation is rewarded, supported, and expected within their organization. (Klein & Sorra, 1996)

- Implementation climate refers to employee’ perceptions of the extent to which use of an innovation, technology or intervention is feasible and expected, supported, and rewarded by colleagues and supervisors. (Kratz et al., 2019)

- Implementation climate is a shared perception among intended users of an innovation, of the extent to which an organization’s implementation policies and practices encourage, cultivate, and reward innovation use.’ (Weiner et al., 2011)


Ehrhart, M.G., Aarons, G.A. and Farahnak, L.R. (2014) Assessing the organizational context for EBP implementation: The development and validity testing of the Implementation Climate Scale (ICS)’, Implementation Science, 9(1). doi:10.1186/s13012-01401571.Klein, K.J. and Sorra, J.S. (1996)

The Challenge of Innovation Implementation’, Academy of Management Review, 21(4), pp. 1055 – 1080. doi:10.5465/amr.1996.9704071863.Kratz, H.E. et al. (2019)

The effect of implementation climate on program fidelity and student outcomes in autism support classrooms.’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(3), pp. 270 – 281. doi:10.1037/ccp0000368.Weiner, B.J., Belden, C.M., Bergmire, D.M. et al. 

Weiner, B.J., Belden, C.M., Bergmire, D.M. et al. The meaning and measurement of implementation climate. Implementation Sci 6, 78 (2011). – 5

Related Events

Show all events

More from the Kingsbridge Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more