Best Practices in Public Management Project
THE PEDAGOGY OF
Identifying What Is and Should Be
Taught in MPP and MPA Programs
This page provides the outline of a planned monograph with the working title of The Pedagogy of Governance: Identifying What Is and Should Be Taught in MPP and MPA Programs, one of the three main products of the Best Practices in Public Management project funded by the SSHRC. The two others are the Atlas of Public Management and a planned monograph with the working title of Channels of Influence: Canada, the OECD, and Best Practices Advice.
Overview of Our Analysis
Creating the curricular database – course titles and descriptions organized under 33 public policy and management subjects
We have created a database of curricular content in the form of course titles (linked to course descriptions and, where available, to detailed course syllabi) for the course offerings in over one hundred MPP/MPA Programs (those offering MPP, MPA and similarly named degrees) in 17 countries. We have assigned the courses to one or other of 33 Subjects in the field of public policy and management. The names and descriptions of these subjects have been drawn from the names used for courses in MPP and MPA programs, the names for ministries in OECD governments, and the names of branches within international governmental organizations providing advice on public policy and management.
Identifying how much is taught – credit and course equivalencies, course-weeks, and potential hours of learning
Programs differ in the amount of instruction and study required for a degree and in the format of the units of instruction. We identify how much is taught by generating Credit and Course Equivalencies based on our estimates of the total hours of instruction associated with the instructional units used by each program. We use the one-semester-equivalent course (referred to in some North American universities as “3 credit hours”) as the standard unit of instruction, equivalent to 3 hours of instruction per week over 12 course-weeks. The number of one-semester-equivalent courses required to graduate ranges from 10 to 20 with most programs being in the range of 12 to 18.
A student’s hours of learning associated with a class, course, or program are greater than the hours of instruction because hours of learning include the time spent in pre-reading, further reading and assignments associated with the in-class instruction. We define hours of learning as the sum of the hours of in-class Instruction plus the hours of outside-class study. Although most programs do not specify the expected number of hours of outside-class study those that do suggest an expectation of about 10 hours of instruction plus study in each course-week. Because the actual hours of learning by any student in any course-week will depend on the rigour of the syllabus, the expectations set by the instructor, and the motivation of the student we add the adjective "potential" to the following identities:
1 course-week = 10 potential hours of learning 1 course = 12 course-weeks = 120 potential hours of learning
Identifying differences in the subject matter taught in different programs – 4 curricular attributes, the PEACO algorithm, and 13 curricular types
Programs differ in the subject matter of the courses they offer and the subject matter they include in required courses. In order to quantify these differences we distinguished the subjects (and thus the courses assigned to them) on four attributes: 1) domain (assigning each subject to one of four subject-matter domains); 2) policy/management orientation (designating each subject as policy-oriented or management-oriented); 3) math-econ intensity (designating each subject having or not having a high content of mathematics and/or economics); and 4) public/international affairs (designating each subject as archetypal public affairs, archetypal international affairs, or neither). For each program we can calculate the proportion of enrolment-adjusted course offerings (PEACO) in each subject. The PEACO Algorithm takes account of the difference between a required and an elective course by assuming that the probability of a typical student taking take a course is equal to the number of electives taken available divided by the number of elective courses offered. We can then compare the PEACO profiles of the programs along the four attributes of domain, policy/management orientation, math-econ intensity, and public/international affairs. The results for the first three plus the degree length (number of one-semester course equivalents required to graduate) are displayed in Curriculum Comparison Tables and in Program Rankings by Curricular Attributes. Programs with similarly quantified attributes have been grouped into 13 MPP/MPA Curricular Types (e.g., medium course requirement, policy-oriented, higher math-economics content). All the 100+ programs reviewed have been ranked and grouped in this way.
Identifying what is taught – CCU building blocks, derived learning outcomes, and normed topics
We identify what is taught by disaggregating this curricular content into discrete building blocks that can subsequently be aggregated into courses or modules. Each building block is associated with a discrete learning outcome with assessment questions derived from observed course materials, and each can be taught during a standard period of learning. The aggregate learning outcome for a course is thus the sum of the learning outcomes associated with the building blocks, supplemented where appropriate by learning outcomes associated with the integration and interaction of the building blocks.
We call the standardized size of the building block a Curricular Content Unit (CCU), where a CCU is a body of subject matter learnable by an average MPP or MPA student with 10 hours of instruction-plus-study, typically 3 hours of in-class instruction and 7 hours of outside-class study.
Each building block is given a topic name, a topic description, a learning outcome with associated assessment questions, a list of concepts to be learned and a list of readings to be completed. We call these building blocks normed topics because their curricular content is normed to 1 CCU of subject matter. Topics can be grouped together under subjects (e.g., Economic Analysis), and a number of topics within a subject can be aggregated into a course (12 topics), module (6 topics), or half-module (3 topics).
Identifying what should be taught – international standards, 7 MPP/MPA core competencies, the 10-course core proposition, 120 normed core topics, and normed course outlines
We use two sources to identify what should be taught: 1) the content that we calculate to be needed to acquire the require competencies associated with national or international standards (e.g., those by NASPAA and UNDESA/IASIA); and 2) the content common to the required courses in respected MPP and MPA programs. The second is source is crucial because it provides substantive detail, particularly on the economic and quantitative subjects where the international standards are expressed in very high-level terms. We use this to identify 7 MPP/MPA Core Competencies with learning outcomes that align with those of 16 of the 33 public policy and management subjects. We refer to the content required to meet these core competencies as MPP/MPA core content.
We propose that the MPP/MPA core content should be teachable in 10 demanding core courses. This “10-course core proposition” asserts that the core content in MPP and MPA programs can be taught in 10 one-semester courses provided that they are carefully designed and (the demanding part) provided that the total learning time is equivalent to the potential learning hours in 120 course-weeks, that is 10 learning hours (typically 3 hours of in-class instruction and 7 hours of outside-class study) in each course-week. This proposition is intended to strike a balance between two competing curricular demands: 1) devoting sufficient learning time to core content to meet the competency requirements of the international standards (which are substantiated by the content of required courses in highly respected programs); and 2) leaving sufficient learning time in the curriculum for students to take advantage of the distinctive specialized and non-core course material offered in different programs. Given that MPP and MPA programs typically require between 12 and 18 courses for graduation, we believe that a 10-course core strikes the appropriate balance. If programs were to devote 10 carefully designed courses to cover the core, there would still be room for specialized and elective courses (i.e., for 2 such courses in a 12-course program and for 8 such courses in an 18-course program).
The 10-course core proposition means that the MPP/MPA core contains 120 CCUs of subject matter, each of which can be characterized by a normed core topic. The task of identifying what should be taught in MPP/MPA programs thus becomes the task of specifying 120 normed core topics and our first cut at these can be seen at Normed Core Topics. We have started the process of aggregating these normed core topics into Normed Course Outlines for 12-CCU courses, 6-CCU modules and 3-CCU half-modules that together would cover the MPP/MPA core.
Identifying differences between what is and what should be taught – competency gap analysis and subject-matter shortfalls
A competency gap analysis can be applied to each program by using the PEACO algorithm to compare the number of CCUs that the typical student in the program receives in each subject with the number of CCUs in each subject needed to meet the MPP/MPA core competencies. We call the calculated differences subject-matter shortfalls. They range from a total subject-matter shortfall of less than 20 CCUs in longer programs to over 60 CCUs (equivalent to 5 one-semester courses) in shorter programs with specialized missions. Subject-matter shortfalls would be expected in shorter programs with limited course offerings. But shortfalls also occur in the longer, well-established programs, where courses in the core subject matter are offered as electives but where the large number of electives in non-core subjects reduces the probability that the elective courses containing core subject matter will be selected.
Page Created by: Ian Clark, last updated on 15 June 2015.