Process evaluation of an
elementary school health learning
intervention in Finland
Marjorita Sormunen, Terhi Saaranen, Kerttu Tossavainen and
Department of Nursing Science, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
Purpose – This paper aims to present the process evaluation for a two-year (2008-2010) participatory
action research project focusing on home-school partnership in health learning, undertaken within the
Schools for Health in Europe (SHE) in Eastern Finland.
Design/methodology/approach – Two intervention schools and two control schools (grade 5
pupils, parents, and selected school personnel) participated in a study. Process evaluation data were
collected from intervention schools after 10 months of participation, by interviewing two classroom
teachers and three families. In addition, program documents and relevant statistics were collected from
schools during the intervention.
Findings – Teachers’ opinions on the development process varied from more concrete expectations
(School A teacher) to overall satisfaction to implementation (School B teacher). Parents believed that
their children would beneﬁt from the project later in life. The context and differences of the school
environments were likely to affect the development process at the school level.
Research limitations/implications – This paper demonstrates a process evaluation in two
schools and, therefore, limits the generalizability of the ﬁndings.
Practical implications – The process evaluation was an essential part of this intervention study
and may provide a useful structure and an example for process evaluation for future school-based
health intervention studies.
Originality/value – This study highlights the importance of planning the process evaluation
structure before the start of the intervention, brings out the relevance of systematically assessing the
process while it is ongoing, and illustrates process evaluation in an action research project.
Keywords Evaluation, Schools, Health, Health promotion, Action research, Health promoting schools
Paper type Research paper
To achieve positive and sustainable results from school health interventions, choosing
feasible interventions and ensuring their successful implementation are essential
(Levine et al., 2002). The increased complexity of social and behavioral interventions
requires researchers to recognize the extent to which intervention components have
been implemented, and why certain results have been achieved. Measuring the
outcomes and effectiveness of the intervention alone offers insufﬁcient understanding
of the effects of the interventions (Linnan and Steckler, 2002).
To respond to the requirements of detecting proper functionality of the program or
intervention, process evaluations are often conducted. Process evaluation addresses
both the structure and activities of the program or intervention, concerning the
physical setting or procedure, as well as the behavior of the participants. It is an
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 15 November 2010
Revised 9 March 2011
Accepted 16 April 2011
Vol. 112 No. 3, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited