The Reciprocal Relationship Between Implementation Theory and Program Theory in Assisting Program Design and Decision-Making


  • Ralph Renger University of Arizona
  • Gabriele Bartel Das Land Rheinland-Pfalz
  • Jirinia Foltysova University of Arizona


Process and impact evaluation are two fundamental purposes of evaluation.   The evaluation literature is replete with examples how to complete high quality process and impact evaluations.  Often the data from these two evaluation purposes are analyzed independently.  To do so, however, does not recognize the full potential of the data to assist decision-making.  The importance process evaluation results play in the interpretation of impact evaluation has been documented by several evaluators.  However, there is a dearth of discussion and examples of how the results of an impact evaluation and program theory can inform process evaluation and shape implementation theory.  The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the reciprocal nature of program theory and implementation theory highlighting two situations in which program theory is essential in a) developing a higher quality implementation theory and b) interpreting the process evaluation results.

Author Biographies

Ralph Renger, University of Arizona

Dr. Renger is a professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona where he teaches undergraduate and graduate prorgam evaluation

Gabriele Bartel, Das Land Rheinland-Pfalz

Ms. Bartel is a home economic teacher for the Rheinland-Pfalz school district.

Jirinia Foltysova, University of Arizona

Miss Foltysova is a drPh student in the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona