Introduction to Process Evaluation

One common type of Process Evaluation is the appraisal of a program’s implementation. It documents whether the intended design of the program has actually been executed. There can be a number of different barriers to implementation that might include lack of funds, a shortage of personnel, unanticipated requirements or difficulty in locating the priority population. Without understanding barriers and the progress toward program implementation, trying to evaluate program impact or outcome is futile. An assessment of program implementation is often conducted using qualitative methods and is usually characterized as the program’s process evaluation.

Process evaluation addresses whether the program was implemented and is providing services as intended. It does so by documenting the program's development, operation and reasons for successful or unsuccessful performance. This information is invaluable when considering program replication. From a process evaluation, one might what to know:

As programs grow and evolve, they may change in unexpected ways that can reduce effectiveness. This “program drift” is not always negative – some programs improve on outcomes because they are able to adapt successfully to local needs. Whether drift results in stronger or weaker outcomes, it is important to be able to report these findings to learn about what is being done in a program and why.

The social science research methods used for conducting process evaluations are often qualitative because the evaluation questions tend to be exploratory in nature. Such methods include indepth interviewing of staff, participants and other stakeholders, observational methods and documents review.

The documents below are sample observation and review forms used to evaluate program implementation. Agencies looking for process evaluation tools to use in their own prevention efforts may be inspired by these forms.

Process Evaluation Tools: