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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

Assessing Dimensions of Program Fidelity

Below you will find six dimensions of program preparation and implementation. Each dimension is followed by a series of questions. These questions are designed to help the program practitioner think about how he/she may be compromising the fidelity of a particular program.

It's important to note that some compromise to the fidelity of a program may still be considered acceptable practice. However, if so many changes are made that the core components of the program are altered, you may want to re-consider the changes or think about using another program that may be better suited to your needs and the needs of the population you are serving.

Program Scheduling

  • Will the total number of lessons be completed or will some be skipped?
  • Will each lesson be completely entirely or will pieces of lessons be eliminated or changed?
  • Are lessons delivered in the recommended sequence and time intervals?

Educator - Student Interactions

  • Is the program facilitated in a student-centered learning manner (e.g., promotion of student discussions and interactions, engaging students in cooperative learning strategies)?
  • Is the teacher aware of, and does he/she accommodate for, different learning styles of his/her students (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic)?
  • Does the teacher encourage students to ask serious questions in class and/or use an anonymous question box?
  • Does the teacher answer student questions accurately and respectfully?
  • Does the teacher encourage students to voice different views and establish a norm for appreciating differences?
  • Does the teacher know the laws of disclosure and the local resources in the community, and can he/she make appropriate referrals to students?


Safe and Supportive Environment

  • Is a supportive and warm learning atmosphere created where ground rules are clear and followed, students are greeted, and privacy is respected?
  • Are positive statements about maintaining healthy lifestyles regularly provided?
  • Does the teacher discuss information and skills with individual students if needed?
  • Does the teacher set up the classroom in a way that encourages discussion?
  • Does the teacher use appropriate humor to make the atmosphere relaxed and non-threatening?

Program Implementation

  • Does the teacher know the curriculum well enough so that he/she does not have to depend on the written page to carry the lesson?
  • Does the teacher understand the relationship between lesson objectives and activities?
  • Does the teacher keep up-to-date on contraception, HIV, STDs and related issues?
  • Does the teacher adequately address the knowledge, affective and skills components of the curriculum?
  • Does the teacher provide clear descriptions of the skills in the curriculum and provide demonstrations?
  • Does the teacher use all the materials in the curriculum?
  • Does the teacher require students to complete all worksheets, assignments, and group activities?
  • Does the teacher provide ample time for student discussions?
  • Does the teacher review the previous day's lesson and message?
  • Does the teacher review learning objectives for each lesson with students?
  • Does the teacher adapt the activities so they are appropriate for students' background and culture?
  • Does the teacher have students state the clear messages identified about sexual behavior (e.g., abstinence is the most effective choice to avoid pregnancy and STDs, students should use condoms/contraception if they do choose to have sex) in assignments, role plays and discussions?
  • Does the teacher encourage the use of role plays by showing verbal and non-verbal enthusiasm?
  • Does the teacher ensure that students see others refusing sex and refusing sex without protection in role plays?
  • Does the teacher assign recommended homework, hold students responsible for the completion of homework, review homework, and give appropriate credit?
  • Is the teacher comfortable conducting condom demonstrations and does he/she conduct them in class?


Connection to Real Life

  • Does the teacher help students connect the lessons learned in classes to real life situations?
  • Does the teacher help students connect sexual risk taking prevention skills with other risk taking prevention skills (drinking, drugs, stealing)?

Administrative Readiness

  • Has the teacher received the recommended training for the program?
  • Does the teacher have a copy of the actual curriculum/program?
  • Does the teacher have the resources he/she needs to implement the program (e.g., flip chart paper, markers, VCR, etc.)?
  • Does the school or community-based agency support the implementation of the program?
  • Is the organization comfortable talking with parents about the program and addressing questions and concerns?

This worksheet was developed from information presented in the following documents:

Finding the balance: Program fidelity and adaptation in substance abuse prevention. (2002). Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Washington DC.

Practice profiles for Get Real About AIDS and Reducing the Risk. (1999). ETR Associates: Santa Cruz, CA.

Dissemination Self-Inventory. (January 2002). The National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory: Austin, TX.