Design and Implementation

Competency drivers develop, improve, and sustain the ability to implement an early childhood education (ECE) program. Competency is built through the selection, coaching, and training of staff who will implement the program. It applies to those working at all levels of program design and implementation, including staff from the state, staff from early childhood professional organizations (intermediary organizations), and staff from direct-service early childhood programs.

  • Selection: Selection is about recruiting, interviewing, and ultimately hiring the right staff—people who can successfully carry out their role in the program, whether at the state, intermediary, or direct-service levels. Consider the following questions: What knowledge, skills, abilities, and characteristics are needed? What is the best method for recruiting and selecting the staff? What are the criteria for selecting the staff?[1]
  • Training: Training that is specific to the program, helps staff learn about the new approach, and offers opportunities to practice can be critical to implementation success. Training can include information on the history, theory, philosophy, and values of the program; knowledge of the parts of and rationales for key practices; and opportunities to practice new skills and receive feedback in a supportive environment.
  • Coaching: Coaching—or on-the-job support—is an essential complement to training, as training alone is insufficient to achieve successful program implementation. Coaching occurs on the job and is designed to help individuals use the program or innovation as intended. Recommended coaching practices include developing a coaching plan that stipulates where, when, with whom, and why coaching will occur; using multiple sources of data to provide feedback to practitioners, including direct observation; and using coaching data to improve practice and fidelity.

Performance assessment provides an opportunity to use data to learn how well things are working and whether changes should be made that support staff (at any level) in implementing the initiative. Connect performance assessment to the outcomes of selection, training, and coaching. The following are recommended practices for assessing the performance[2] of staff at all levels—state, intermediary, and provider:

  • Develop and use transparent staff performance assessments.
  • Use multiple sources of data (for example, checklists, self-assessments, and direct observation).
  • Use positive recognition so assessments are seen as an opportunity to improve.
  • Use performance assessment data to improve practice and organizational fidelity.
  • Clarify roles and accountability for measuring and reporting performance assessment results (for example, the lead person is designated and supported).
  • Ensure that staff members are oriented to the processes and procedures used for performance assessment

The following are some examples of performance assessment questions:

  • Questions for state-level staff
    • Do we have the right criteria for selecting staff to review proposals from intermediary organizations to implement the initiative?
    • Do we have the right criteria for selecting staff to manage the contracts?
    • Do we have the right criteria for selecting a contractor?
    • Have we provided state staff with training and coaching that support them in the design, start-up, and ongoing management of the work?
  • Questions for intermediary organization staff
    • Do we have the right criteria for selecting staff to work with direct-service providers?
    • Do we have the right criteria for selecting staff who can work with state staff?
    • Have we provided staff with training and coaching that support them in their roles?
  • Questions for provider-level staff
    • Have we selected the right staff to participate in the launch of this initiative?
    • Have we provided these people with the necessary training to successfully implement the new program?
    • Have we provided staff with appropriate ongoing coaching for them to successfully implement the new program?

[1] Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2013). Implementing evidence-informed practice: A practical toolkit. Ottawa, Ontario: Author. Retrieved from

[2] Halle, T., Metz, A., & Martinez-Beck, I. (2013). Applying implementation science in early childhood programs and systems. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.