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Implementation Fidelity Studies

Implementation fidelity studies are an interim step between program design and outcomes assessment. As shown in the diagram below, implementation fidelity studies examine the extent to which the program or intervention was implemented as planned.

Conceptual Model

Implementation fidelity study focuses on the program or intervention, and includes examination of adherence and quality.

Implementation fidelity studies in Student Affairs always include two critical elements: 1) adherence, and 2) quality. When assessing adherence, auditors (as they are sometimes called) examine how closely the actual program activities or intervention match with what was originally planned. This may include the amount of time spent on the program element, the coverage of the topic, or even whether the planned component was included in the presented program. When assessing quality, auditors assess clarity, how compelling or memorable the element was, the appropriateness of the delivery technique, and so on. (More in-depth implementation fidelity studies may also include assessment of exposure and responsiveness. For more information see Gerstner & Finney, 2013.)

Why Should I do an Implementation Fidelity Study?

There are many reasons to do an implementation fidelity study:

  • When assessing a program or service it is important to know whether or not the program or service is being implemented as planned. 
  • Implementation fidelity studies provide another way to think through the design of a program. Implementation fidelity studies ask program designers to carefully plan each element of a program, state a purpose or goal for each element, and estimate how much time they will spend on each program element. 
  • Implementation fidelity studies are a relatively easy way to identify aspects of a program that need to be improved

Next Steps

1. If you are ready to get started on your implementation fidelity study, you can use the template below to begin your work.

Template for Implementation Fidelity Study

View a Checklist for Implementation Fidelity assessment from the Student Affairs Assessment Academy.

View PowerPoint Slides for Implementation Fidelity assessment from the Student Affairs Assessment Academy.

2. Feel free to self-audit your program or service, or identify a colleague to serve as the auditor for your study. You may also contact the Office of Student Affairs Assessment at and he can serve as your auditor or help you identify someone.

3. If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Student Affairs Assessment at or 231-5210. If you have completed an implementation fidelity study, please consider sharing a summary of your results or any improvements or suggestions you have for the template.



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Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7701 - Fax: (701) 231-8176
Campus address: Old Main 100
Mailing address: Dept 5000 PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Site Manager: Vice President for Student Affairs Office

Last Updated: Monday, July 11, 2016 2:37:15 PM
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