SPOL20210 Investigating Social Services

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module seeks to examine how one assesses the quality of social services, that is, how one works out how good they are at doing their job. It focuses in particular on the difference between an inputs-oriented versus outcomes-oriented approach to the analysis of social services and applies this framework to particular social services in Ireland and other OECD countries.

The module will begin with three weeks of lectures on the general characteristics of service evaluation, with particular reference to the performance-oriented approach. From week 4 onwards, the class will break up into smaller groups. Each group will focus on a particular social service area and, for a mid-term assignment, each member of the group will write a 1,500 word essay on the development of policy in that area in Ireland. Working collectively, each group will then seek to work out what it would mean to analyse that service in an outcomes-oriented way, and will produce a poster in which they present their findings on the service area they have analysed.

An indicative list of seminar topics can be obtained from the following link and shall guide registration for the seminars.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

• Grasp key terms and concepts in the analysis of social services, particularly what ‘performance orientation’ means, as distinct from inputs or process orientation;

• Develop a systematic understanding of the major issues in a particular social service area;

• Apply basic analytical techniques to the assessment of how social services perform;

• Learn how to work in a peer-group environment and design an academic poster targeted at non-specialists.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is provided through a mix of in-class lectures, group discussions and team-based learning (for creating group posters). 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

There are no prior learning requirements, but core reading will be the following book and we highly recommend to by the latest edition:
Curry, J. (2011) Irish Social Services. Fifth Edition. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Social Policy Special Project (SPOL30240)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Mid-semester assignment (1,500 word essay) Week 6 n/a Graded No


Group Project: Poster & group presentation Week 9 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Dr Micheal Collins Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Maria Pierce Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr. Tobias Gunning Tutor
Tobias Gunning Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3 Thurs 10:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3 Tues 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 4 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 5 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 6 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 10:00 - 10:50