The development and utility of a program theory: Lessons from an evaluation

This article, written by Tim Clement and Christine Bigby, looks at the use and development of program theory in human service organisations.

The article concludes that policy and practice need to be informed by current knowledge and understanding of what works and that practitioners should be familiar with the findings of good-quality research.


"Background Adults with severe challenging behaviour can achieve good ‘quality of life’ outcomes in small supported accommodation services. Yet, the research indicates that they typically experience poorer outcomes than other adults with intellectual disability. This raises questions about the degree to which research has informed program design and implementation. Methodology Data from an evaluation of a residential support service outlines a program theory for supporting people with intellectual disabilities and severe challenging behaviour. Results One aspect of the program theory, the practice framework, which details how support staff should interact with service‐users, is illustrated through documentary, observational and interview data." (Clement & Bigby, 2011).


Clement, T. & Bigby, C. (2011). The development and utility of a program theory: lessons from an evaluation of a reputed exemplary residential support service for adults with intellectual disability and severe challenging behaviour in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24(6), November 2011, pp.554-565. Retrieved from:

'The development and utility of a program theory: Lessons from an evaluation' is referenced in: