Policy evaluation and impact assessment

(Master’s level 12-hour course, Master’s in political science, Public policy track, Sciences Po, since 2021)

This course offers an introduction to policy evaluation, with a focus on impact assessment. How can we evaluate whether and how a given public intervention has reached its goals? Should other criteria be mobilized in such assessment, beyond the policy’s stated goals? Who conducts impact assessment, why and with what effects? These are some of the questions we will address, drawing on an exploration of the history and the current stakes of the interdisciplinary field of policy evaluation. The general principles of the main quantitative and qualitative methods (randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental methods, theory-based evaluation…) will be presented, as well as the main current debates in the field. Policy evaluation being an important area of professional activity for political science majors in the public as well as the private sectors, this course has an important professionalization component. It will also be of interest to more research-oriented students, by pointing to the need to explore a policys consequences, as a complement to other moments of the policy cycle.

Teaching format

The teaching format for this course is highly participative and promotes active learning. The course combines a diversity of teaching approaches to favor an efficient appropriation of evaluation practices and theories by students : hands-on case studies, guided reading of selected texts, interactive lectures. Group work will be regularly organized and encouraged.

Course outline

(click on session title to download slides)

Course presentation

  1. Introduction to policy evaluation
  2. Experimental approaches
  3. From “What works?” to “How does it work?”
  4. What metric, whose values? A reflection on evaluative criteria
  5. Evaluating, what for? The utility and uses of evaluation
  6. Evaluation and research

Assessment format

This 12-hour course will be graded with single grade based on a personal takeaway note to be sent by December, 15th at the latest. Even though the deadline is at the end of the semester, the exercise is conceived in a way to favor your engagement with course content throughout the semester. It is conceived as a tool of the active learning process promoted in this course. As such, it will draw on reflections and content you will have developed and need to take notes on throughout the semester. This assignment is meant to reflect your engagement with the course: how you have engaged with the content since the beginning of the course, notably through personal reflections and notes on course content or in relation to it, individual oral participation, and group discussions.

Therefore, it is crucial that you work on this assignment step-by-step, as of the first session of the course, and not just before the due date. If you have followed the step-by-step indications given throughout the sessions and taken written notes on your course engagement after each session, the final preparation of this assignment shouldn’t take long.

This note will present the main “takeway points” of the course for you. It is not meant as a summary of the whole course, but as a more personal perspective on what you have learned in this class: whether and how it has challenged your previous views of the topic, what you would like to remember from it, and how it resonates with your fields of interest and/or might be useful for you in the future. If you have several points in mind, you will need to be selective, in order to be able to fully develop your thinking/argument on a limited number of point (3-4 for example).

In this note, you are also expected to make precise references to in-class interactions (for example, a comment made by one of your peers, an example of debate that took place in group discussion).

When you refer to course content in this note, make sure to be specific : define the terms you use, quote bibliographical references (used in the course or found elsewhere). In the note, you are expected to refer to at least one academic article identified through browsing one of the specialized evaluation journals listed below. Please paste at the end of your note the reference of the article posted on the course forum with your comment (10 lines maximum), as well as the source found on one of the evaluation repositories presented on session 5, with a short comment (10 lines maximum). The word limit for this final assignment is 2 500 words, not counting the copy/paste from your contributions on the 2 forums.

NB : All files must be sent to anne.revillard[a]sciencespo.fr  in a .PDF format, and make sure to include your NAME on top of the page

(Suggested) list of peer-reviewed evaluation journals:

Evaluation, Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, American Journal of evaluation, Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, Evaluation review, New directions for evaluation, African Evaluation Journal, Evaluation Journal of Australasia

(Suggested) list of evaluation repositories: