Fall 2023 - 61355 - PA 397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis


This course overviews the various methods and tools used in the design and management of programs and policies in international development and humanitarian assistance work. This course strongly emphasizes a practical and mixed methods approach to the means by which we design projects and collect, analyze and use data to understand what works and what doesn’t work in international development and humanitarian assistance. We will also examine some of the key challenges in managing evaluations at the project and organizational levels, and the ethical and analytical concerns that arise therein. 

We will begin by examining some of the key steps in project design and meta-evaluation, in order to learn how to construct projects and programs that are well informed by prior experience and “evaluable.” We will emphasize training in qualitative data collection and impact evaluation design (case studies). At the end of the course, we will also critically examine the feedback mechanisms and learning culture of agencies, and how evaluation is used (or not) within aid and humanitarian organizations for accountability and learning. The core objective of this class is to move beyond understanding how to design and conduct evaluations in theory towards managing evaluations under real world constraints.

Grades for the course will be determined by in-class participation, three written assignments applying evaluation concepts, and a final group paper detailing an evaluation design. Assignments will focus on the critical assessment and application of evaluation tools and the design of an approach paper for a program or project evaluation. This class will not include any formal “problem sets” or quantitative work. Students seeking more exposure to advanced quantitative analysis are highly encouraged to take other sections of AEM and other course offerings that focus on these methods.

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