Program evaluation: an introduction

Summer course co-taught with Agathe Devaux-Spatarakis, Master’s level 12-hour course, Master in Advanced global studies (MAGS), PSIA, Sciences Po, since 2021

Course description

This 12-hour course offers an introduction to the practice and theories of program evaluation. Is the definition of a given public policy in line with its asserted objective, with the social problem it aims at addressing? Through what mechanisms is the program expected to reach its goals? To what extent has it reached its goals? Were other options more cost-effective? What other consequences has this program had, and to what extent should they matter in the evaluation? Should the evaluation limit itself to the criteria set by the policy itself, or be open to other criteria? Who practices policy evaluation, and that does evaluation actually matter for policymaking? Here are some of the questions this course addresses, combining hands-on practice and reflections on theory.

Learning objectives

  • Understand the key debates that structure the field of program evaluation, and their parameters: debates around methods, around the goals and uses of evaluation, around the definition of evaluation criteria and the role of values;
  • Master key concepts of program evaluation and their definitions: inputs, outputs, results, impacts, program theory/theory of change, relevance, efficiency, coherence, sustainability, equity.
  • Develop practical skills in two key aspects of evaluation: theory of change analysis, and defining relevant indicators.
  • Identify the key types of actors of policy evaluation and the forms of institutionalization of the field.

Learning format 

The teaching format for this course is highly participative and promotes active learning. The course combines a diversity of teaching approaches to favour 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.