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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Howard E. Mccurdy
PB AF 513
Seattle Campus

Public Policy Analysis

Production and use of analysis to support public policy decisions. Defining problems, devising alternative solutions, clarifying stakes in choices, predicting impacts of choices. Skills developed by working on specific policy problems. Assumes familiarity with statistics, microeconomic theory, and institutions and processes of American government. Prerequisite: PB AF 516 or permission of instructor.

Class description

This course is designed to provide you with experience in policy analysis to integrate skills and knowledge that you have developed in core courses in economics, public management, quantitative analysis, and budgeting. Policy analysis is the art, craft, and science of providing problem-solving advice to managers, policy-makers, or citizens. Policy analysis requires several distinct sets of skills: technical understanding of analytical tools, understanding the policy context within and outside of your organization, and the ability to produce and communicate practical advice. In this course, we will use short cases and a quarter-long project to practice these skills.

Student learning goals

Define and describe policy and management problems.

Identify key policy goals and criteria to assess possible strategies

Craft appropriate and feasible policy options by borrowing, adapting, and creating

Analyze and predict the effects of alternative policy options

Communicate policy advice in written and oral presentations

General method of instruction

Howard McCurdy holds faculty appointments at both the Evans School and the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. While section B will cover the same basic material as the other two sections, Professor McCurdy will give slightly more emphasis to the analysis of policies in which science and technology and the federal government play a leading role. Dr. McCurdy is the author of seven books on the U.S. space program and is frequently consulted on matters involving space exploration and science policy. Before completing his doctorate at Cornell University, he received his bachelorís and masterís degree from the University of Washington. He grew up in Seattle and returns frequently to write and assist with teaching and other activities at the Evans School.

Recommended preparation

Purchase the two textbooks assigned for the class and review the exercise ďThe Trouble with Green Lake.Ē Since the course meets on the first day of the Spring term, students may complete the readings for the first week after the class, but are encouraged to look at examples of past papers before arriving. Think about the person or persons with whom you might like to work on the course project and the policy issue that you might wish to address

Class assignments and grading

Class Participation: This course is designed as a workshop and in-class participation is crucial. Please come prepared to contribute to class discussion by examining the readings, integrating discussion about your course project, and providing thoughtful feedback on the work of other students. Case memos: Students will pick one of five case options in which they take the position of a decision-maker receiving the report. The options generally consist of finished policy analysis reports that summarize the policy problem, policy goals, possible strategies to deal with the problem, and the groupís advice. Review the report and make a decision. Summarize your decision and the rationale for it in a two page memo. The assignment is designed to acquaint students with the format of policy analysis reports and the challenges that decision-makers face in utilizing them. Students may complete this work in pairs or in a larger group if they are working in that group for their term projects. The memo is due by noon on the day the case will be discussed in class. The memos will be used as part of class session and students should be prepared to discuss their memos in class. Course project: The course project is designed to give students experience in completing a policy analysis report on a topic of their choice. Students work in pairs or in small teams and are given feedback on three stages of the analysis (problem identification; policy options; finished report). Reports and recommendations are summarized in a class presentation to the professor and a small group of students who make a decision based on the report (but do not participate in its grading).

Grades are assigned by the professor and are based on the case memo and course project and, to a lesser extent, on class participation.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Blake N Cooper
Date: 02/19/2010