Implementation Science for Justice Agencies
Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!)

Course Overview

Implementation is the Achilles heel of efforts to improve performance and adopt evidence-based and/or evidence-informed practices. This is nothing new, considering Robert Martinson’s (1979) conclusion that “nothing works.” Similarly, in today’s world, one might contend that “nothing is implemented.” Implementation is not just about trying to address the factors that facilitate uptake but rather about anticipating and advancing approaches to address the underlying culture and climate of both intra- and inter-agency contexts affecting change efforts. The Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!) at George Mason University (GMU) is working with two key partners—the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC))— to provide tools and approaches to break down some of the many barriers that plague implementation efforts during organizational reforms and other change efforts.

Some common implementation problems include: 1) translation of the science behind the new practice; 2) dissemination/communication to and among agency staff, partners, communities, and clients regarding the science and rationale for certain actions; and 3) routinizing to sustain the practice. These challenges are not insurmountable but can be crippling for ill-prepared and improperly equipped managers, trainers, and staff.

Our unique approach includes an innovative suite of training that empowers organizations and their managers, trainers, coaches, and staff to interpret and make sense of the scientific and scholarly work behind (or not) a practice or program. A nine-module interactive and collaborative course uses a variety of delivery mechanisms including readings, podcasts, presentations, interviews, lectures, and worksheets to meet every learning style and literally bring information to life for workshop participants. Additionally, course participants engage in guided data collection and analysis within their agency, allowing them to directly link course material to specific day-to-day challenges experienced within their organization. Finally, ACE! course developers offer customized training materials and ongoing, one-on-one support to course participants via email, phone, and in-person throughout the course and beyond so the learning does not stop when the course ends.

Please take a moment to browse this webpage to see what ACE! is doing to improve implementation with their agency partners. For more information on ACE!’s innovative approach to working with correctional agencies to overcome key implementation challenges, please contact ACE! Director Faye S. Taxman at or ACE! Deputy Director Danielle S. Rudes at


Implementation Science & PDSA Basics

For more information on our implementation science framework described in brief in the handout above, see Taxman & Belenko (2011).

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  Course Materials:
Course overview
Sample in-class exercise
Sample take home homework
Sample PowerPoint
  Translating Research & Course Accompaniments:
Podcast research summary
Sample reading list
Sample reading article


ACE! researchers are currently working with VADOC to implement the training course and collect data on the course and its effects. Data include in-course observations, participant-collected data, and interviews. As this data and findings from it are published, this site will be updated.

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