SPOL30010 Policy-making, Implementation & Evaluation

Academic Year 2022/2023

In this module a number of questions which are fundamental to the analysis of public policies are explored, with a focus on social policies. These are:
• Why do governments introduce social policies to address some social problems and not others?
• What are the factors which influence decisions regarding the design of these social policies?
• Why do the outcomes achieved by social polices often differ from their objectives?
• And, how can we evaluate social policies and reform them to ensure that are more effective in future?
In this module the extensive international literature on each of these issues is examined and applied to the analysis of a number of case studies of contemporary International and Irish social policies

The module will be delivered through lectures, tutorials and small group work.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
1. appraise the literature on the formulation and implementation of social policies.
2. employ this literature in the analysis of Irish social policy formulation and implementation.
3. comprehend the key methodologies used to evaluate social policies
4. apply these research methodologies to the design of social policy evaluations.
5. critique the use of policy evaluation in Irish social policy making.
6. Critically analyse key texts and research on social policy making, implementation and evaluation.
7. work effectively as a group

Indicative Module Content:

The opening lecture will introduce the module and to the policy cycle

This will be followed by a series or lectures organised around three core themes of the module. Three guest speakers with a policy practice background (e.g. civil servant, non-profit sector) will contextualise each theory block at the end.

Policy Making:
- introduction to theories of policy-making and the factors which influence policy design.
- Power Resources: Pluralism and Elitism
- Institutionalism
- Rational Choice Theory and Game Theory
- Networks
- Ideas and Knowledge Transfer

Policy Implementation
- introduction to policy implementation theory
- Top down theories of policy implementation
- Bottom up theories of policy implementation
- Incrementalism and Mixed-Scanning

Policy Evaluation
- Introduction and Ethics
- Evaluation Designs
- Impact evaluation
- Conducting and writing up evaluations.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning








Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module will use a blended learning approach to delivery. This will encompass:

- two tutorials on writing a book review
- small group critical reading groups.
- some online tools and techniques
- basic data analysis with Excel through online tutorial. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:


Learning Exclusions:


Learning Recommendations:

No prior learning requirements. To get an idea about some of the topics covered in the policy cycle watch the video below.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: Critical review of a key public policy book. 1500 words Week 7 n/a Graded No


Assignment: 24 hour exam. Evaluation of a policy programme. 750-1000 words Coursework (End of Trimester) 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
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive individual feedback on their projects and also from their classmates in their online critical reading groups.

For the course the following three textbooks will be used. For each lecture, the required chapters are highlighted.
Cairney, P (2012), Understanding public policy: theories and issues, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Library.
Hill, M and Hupe, P (2014), Implementing Public Policy, (3rd ed) London: Sage. Library.
Fox, C, Grimm, R, Caldeira R (2016), An Introduction to Evaluation, London: Sage. Library.

Other recommended textbooks are:
Knill, C. and Tosun, J. (2012) Public Policy. A New Introduction. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Library ebook, hardcopy.
Hill, M. and Varone, F. (2017) The Public Policy Process. 7th Edition. London: Routledge.
Sabatier, P. (ed.) (2007), Theories of the Policy Process. Westview Press.
Rossi, P., Freeman, H., Lipsey M. (2004) Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th ed. London: Sage.
Weiss, C. H. (1998) Evaluation: Methods for Studying Programs and Policies. 2nd Edition, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Further mandatory reading for some lectures, see outline for specific lectures:
Béland, D. (2016) ‘Kingdon Reconsidered: Ideas, Interests and Institutions in Comparative Policy Analysis’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 18 (3): 228-242. pdf, link.
Köppe, S. and O’Connell, P. (2017) Case Study on Intreo. The one-stop-shop for job seekers in Ireland. Dublin: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. pdf, link.
Cooper, C. A. and Marier, P. (2015) ‘Does it Matter Who Works at the Center? A Comparative Policy Analysis of Executive Styles’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 1-16. pdf, link.
Saetren, H. (2014) ‘Implementing the third generation research paradigm in policy implementation research: An empirical assessment’, Public Policy and Administration 29(2): 84-105. Pdf, link.

Book Review List

For the book review, please select one of the following books. If you have another book in mind, please speak to your module coordinator for advice, but consider that it should address public policy issues of policy-making and implementation:

Hacker, J. S. and Pierson, P. (2010) Winner-Take-All Politics. How Washington Made the Rich Richer – And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Jagannathan R. and Camasso M. (2013) Protecting Children in the Age of Outrage. A New Perspective on Child Protective Services Reform. Oxford: OUP.
Lipsky, M (1980), Street-level Bureaucracy: dilemmas of the individual in public services, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Mills, C. W (2000), The Power Elite, New York: Oxford University Press.
Norris, M (2016) Property, Family and the Irish Welfare State. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pierson, P. (1994) Dismantling the welfare state? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pressman, J and Wildavsky (1984) Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington are Dashed in Oakland, Berkley: University of California Press.