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Best Practices in Public Management Project 


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. 


Monograph Outline

Preface and Outline

1.  Defining and Mapping the Field of Public Policy and Management

  • How Academic Disciplines are Defined
  • The Evolution of Names for the Discipline of Public Policy and Management
  • Discipline Names: How Universities Categorize Public Policy and Management Subjects
  • Ministry Names: How Governments Categorize Public Policy and Management Subjects
  • A Hierarchy of Subject Matter: Domains, Subjects, Topics and Concepts
  • Mapping the Field using the Atlas of Public Policy and Management

2.  Teaching Public Policy and Management: The Evolution of MPP/MPA Programs

  • Professions and Credentials
  • Diminished Distinctions between the MPP and MPA Degree
  • Proliferation of Degree Names
  • Dual Degrees and Joint Degrees
  • Public Affairs and International Affairs
  • The International Spread of Programs

3.  Dimensions of Difference in MPP/MPA Programs

  • Entrance Requirements, Tuition and Financial Assistance
  • Pre-Career or Mid-Career; On-Campus or Online
  • Institutional Structure: Academic Unit Delivering the Program and Responsibility for and Faculty Hiring and Promotion
  • Relation to other Units: Connections to Law School, Business School, International Affairs
  • Specializations
  • Professional Program Features: Role of Practitioners, Career Services, Relation to Research Centres
  • Internships, Co-op Placements, International Exchanges

4.  Quantifiable Differences in Curricular Design

  • Credit and Course Equivalencies
  • Hours of Instruction and Hours of Learning
  • Required vs Elective Courses and the PEACO Algorithm
  • Degree Requirements: Courses to Graduate
  • Policy or Management Orientation
  • Math/Econ Intensity
  • Curricular Types

5.  Content of a Core Curriculum

  • The Uniformity-Diversity Issue in MPP/MPA Programs
  • Learning Outcomes and the Influence of Accreditation and Standards
  • Deriving MPP/MPA Core Competencies from International Standards and Required Courses
  • The Curricular Content Unit (CCU) and the 10-Course Core Proposition
  • Competency Gap Analysis and Subject-matter Shortfalls
  • Normed Topics and Normed Course Outlines

6.  Conclusions and Recommendations 

  • Principal Similarities and Differences among MPP/MPA Programs
  • Extent to which a Common Core Currently Exists
  • Feasibility of Specifying a Core through Normed Topics
  • Value and Challenge of Specifying Learning Outcomes for Courses and Classes
  • Need for More Rigor in Design and Delivery of Core Courses
  • Next Steps and Research Questions

Possible Appendices 

  • Normed Course Outlines for the MPP/MPA Core
  • Program Rankings by Curricular Attributes
  • Public Affairs and International Affairs Degrees offered by the Universities in the Times Higher Education Top Fifty 




















































































Ignore below this page

Atlas Analysis Pages and Other References 

 Preface and Outline

  The Atlas of Public Policy and Management: An Online Database of Pedagogy and Advice
  Clark, I. D. & Pal, L. A. (2011). Academic Respectability Meets Professional Utility: Canadian MPA/MPP Programs and Professional Competencies.
  Berry, F. S. (2011). The Changing Climate for Public Affairs Education. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 17(1), 1-6.
  Schultz, D. (2012). Teaching Public Affairs: There Is No One Right Way. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 18(4), ii.

 1. Defining and Mapping the Field of Public Policy and Management

  What is Public Policy and Management? Some relevant literature and the Atlas usage
  Credit and Course Equivalencies: How academic requirements in North America, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia are compared
  Professional Program Features: Elements that distinguish MPP/MPA degrees from non-professional Master's degrees
  Atlas Framework for Analyzing Curricular Content: How the field of public policy and management is modeled and mapped to facilitate comparison of online content
  Clark, I. D. & Pal, L. A. (2013). Where the Streets Have No Name: Mapping the Discipline of Public Management. A Working Paper for the Best Practices in Public Management Project.
  Clark, I.D. and Pal, L.A. (2014) Here be Dragons: Taxonomies of Public Policy and Management used in Recent Handbooks, Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, A Working Paper for the Best Practices in Public Management Project
  Lynn, Jr., L. E. (2006). Public Management: old and new. Routledge, New York.
  Ferlie, E., Lynn, Jr., L. E. & Pollitt, C. Eds. (2007). The Oxford Handbook of Public Management. Oxford University Press.

 2. Teaching Public Policy and Management: The Evolution of MPP/MPA Programs

  PA and IA Degrees from THE’s Top Fifty: How the world’s highest ranked universities deliver Master’s degrees in public affairs and/or international affairs
  Ellwood, J.W. (2008). Challenges to public policy and public management education. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(1) 172-187.
  Allison, G. (2008). Emergence of Schools of Public Policy: Reflections of a Founding Dean, Chapter 3 in Moran. M., Rein, M. & Goodin, R. E., eds., The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, pp 58-79, Oxford University Press.
  Blunt, B. E. (1988). Development in public administration pedagogy, 1880 to the present. Pp: 601-31 in Handbook of Public Administration, ed. J. Rabin, W. B. Hildreth, and G. J. Miller. New York: Marcel Decker.

 3. Dimensions of Difference in MPP/MPA Programs

  MPP/MPA Programs: Comparative analysis and program summaries for 116 programs in 17 countries
  Patterns in Specialization: Observations from a global sample of over 100 public affairs programs
  Noteworthy Practices: Innovative approaches to specialization, international exchange, math-econ preparation, and student initiatives
  Comparisons with International Affairs Programs: How MPP and MPA curricula overlap with and differ from professional Master's programs in International Affairs
  PEACO Algorithm: How the proportion of enrolment-adjusted course offerings (PEACO) numbers are generated
  Infeld, D. L. & Adams, W. C. (2011). MPA and MPP Students: Twins, Siblings, or Distant Cousins? Journal of Public Affairs Education, 17(2), 277-303.
  Newbold, S. (2011). No Time Like the Present:Making Rule of Law and Constitutional Competence the Theoretical and Practical Foundation for Public Administration Graduate Education Curriculum, Journal of Public Affairs Education, 17(4), 465-481.
  Szypszak, C. (2011). Teaching Law in Public Affairs Education: Synthesizing Politidcal Theory, Decision Making, and Responisibility. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 17(4), 483-499.
  Lynn Jr., L. E. (2009). Restoring the Rule of Law to Public Administration: What Frank Goodnow Got Right and Leonard White Didn't. Public Administration Review, 69(5), 803-813.

 4. Quantifiable Differences in Curricular Design

  Curriculum Comparison Tables: How Master's programs differ in distribution of instruction by type of subject and core competencies
  Program Rankings by Curricular Attributes: Comparing courses needed to graduate and the subject-matter emphasis of the courses taken by typical student
  MPP/MPA Curricular Types: Categorizing programs on courses required, subject-matter orientation and math-economics content

 5. Content of a Core Curriculum

  MPP/MPA Core Competencies: Using competency standards to determine core subjects, course-week requirements, and competency gaps
  MPP/MPA Core Learning Outcomes: Linked learning outcomes for core competencies, core subjects, core topics and core concepts
  Describing Learning Outcomes: How learning outcomes for topics, courses and programs in public policy and management can be described
  Normed Core Topics: Subject matter for each of 120 course-weeks of instruction designed to meet MPP/MPA competency requirements
  Normed Course Outlines
  Clark, I.D., Eisen, B., Lennon, M.C., and Pal, L.A. (2015). Mapping the Topics and Learning Outcomes of a Core Curriculum for MPP and MPA Programs, Paper for the Annual CAPPA Conference Glendon College, Toronto, May 25-26, 2015
  Clark, I.D., Eisen, B., and Pal, L.A. (2014). Normed Core Topics: A method for adding granularity to required competency standards in MPP and MPA programs, Paper for the Annual NASPAA Conference Albuquerque, New Mexico, November 4-6, 2014.
  Clark, I.D., Eisen, B., and Pal, L.A. (2014). What are the core curricular components of Master’s-level public management education and how is learning within them assessed? A Paper for the CAPPA Research Conference Kingston, Canada, May 21-22, 2014.
  Clark, I.D. and Pal, L.A. (2014). The New World of Standards in Public Management Pedagogy: Comparing Universal Accreditation Competencies with the Actual Content of MPP and MPA Programs, A Paper for the IRSPM Conference Ottawa, Canada, April 9-11, 2014.
  Minard, P. and Pal, L.A. (2012). Standards and Best Practices, A Working Paper for the Best Practices in Public Management Project
  Clark, I.D. & Pal, L.A. (2011). Master's of Public Administration and of Public Policy: An Analysis of Academic Programs and Professional Competencies in Canada. Croatian and Comparative Public Administration, 11(4), 947-984.
  Mead, L. M. (2013). Teaching Public Policy: Linking Policy and Politics. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(3), 389-403.
  Getha-Taylor, H., Hummert, R., Nalbandian, J. & Silvia, C. (2013). Comptency Model Design and Assessment: Findings and Future Directions. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(1), 141-171.
  Jones, P. C., Roberts, G. E., Martin, E. P., Ahumada, E., King, S. M., & Kircher, P. (2013). The Development of an MPA Major Field Test. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(1), 97-115.

 6. Conclusions and Recommendations

  Clark, I.D. & Pal, L.A. (2015) Should CAPPA Have a Core? Lessons from International Comparisons of MPP/MPA Curricula, A Paper for the CAPPA Research Conference

 Possible Appendices

  See Normed Course Outlines for list of courses and modules that would require 17 pages
  See Program Rankings by Curricular Attributes for table that would require 5 pages
  See PA and IA Degrees from THE’s Top Fifty for material that would require 3 pages

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance