Using Root Cause Analysis for Evaluating Program Improvement

Rebekah Coşkun, Abigail Akande, Ralph Renger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


A common evaluation purpose is to determine whether a policy or program was implemented as intended: referred to as formative evaluation, process evaluation, or evaluating program improvement. A well-designed formative evaluation is important in: detecting program drift; providing timely feedback to program staff to make cost-saving mid-course corrections; reassuring the sponsor that quality assurance measures are implemented to protect investments; and interpreting impact/outcome evaluation. A formative evaluation should not just gather data on deviations from an anticipated course of action, but provide recommendations for improvement. Current methods for program improvement vary in their ability to solicit targeted recommendations. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a well-established, robust methodology used in a variety of disciplines. RCA has been primarily used by evaluators operating from a theory-driven orientation to evaluate the merit and worth of a program or policy. Surprisingly, a review of the literature suggests that RCA's utility as a program improvement tool has remained largely unrecognised in evaluation. This article illustrates the application of RCA in evaluating program improvement. The conditions under which RCA might be preferred over other formative evaluation methods are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-14
Number of pages11
JournalEvaluation Journal of Australasia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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