Concepts, Methods and Techniques in
Political Science, Public Policy
and International Relations

Week 2: 22-26 january 2024

Learning about How Things Work - Evaluating Policy Using Case Studies

Derek Beach, Aarhus University

Teaching Assistant: Natalia Calfat

Course Description

How public policies are designed and implemented has enormous real-world importance. Learning about how things worked and did not work is therefore critical if we want to improve public policies. Learning about how things work requires ‘theory-based’ evaluation methods. This course introduces participants to theory-based evaluation methods and how they can be used both in the design, monitoring and evaluation phases of public policy. In the first part of the course, we will discuss the different types of claims made across policy evaluation methods, focusing on understanding the difference between the assessment of average treatment effects using randomized controlled trials, and more processual knowledge about how things work from theory-based case studies.

The second part focuses on how to better theorize a theory-of-change for projects in ways that explicate why a given policy intervention can be plausibly expected to produce a desired policy outcome. The third part of the course turns to how a theory-of-change can be used to monitor and evaluate public policies. The final part of the course discusses the types of lessons that can be drawn to enable better evidence-based policies to be developed and implemented. While the course primarily draws on examples from the field of development policy, the course is broadly applicable to all types of public policy.

Dates - This course runs January 22-26, 2024.

what we will learn


Familiarity with case study methods, or experience in social science research methods.