Action-Based-Learning Redesign: Quantitative Methods of Program Evaluation

Action-Based-Learning Redesign: Quantitative Methods of Program Evaluation

Academic Year:
2014 - 2015 (June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Overview of the Project:
Quantitative Methods for Program Evaluation (Public Policy 639), previously an elective for students with an intense interest in learning advanced quantitative methods, has transitioned to the capstone course required of all Master of Public Policy candidates at the Ford School of Public Policy. The course introduces students to the use and interpretation of multiple regression analysis and program evaluation. The goals of the class are to train students to critically consume and thoughtfully produce empirical, policy-relevant research. The course covers multiple regression, fixed effects, instrumental variables, regression discontinuity, panel data, differences-in-differences and propensity-score matching. This proposal addresses the challenge of maintaining a high level of engagement and learning while reaching a broader set of students. The redesigned course will "flip" instruction to focus on team-based problem solving. Students will watch short, online video lectures prior to class; I will conduct in-class clicker quizzes for immediate feedback on comprehension and then clarify any muddy concepts. The bulk of class time will focus on action-based learning, in which students will solve problems and conduct data analysis in groups. The problems they tackle in class will closely resemble the real-world problems they will encounter in their professional lives. The project evaluation plan includes ongoing testing of new resources (videos, problems, quizzes), and feedback in the form of student academic engagement (accessing the online materials, ability to respond to quizzes, in-class participation, completion of assignments), CRLT midterm evaluation, and end-of-term assessment. Through CRLT I will share my experience with interested faculty.
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

• Redesign the Ford School’s capstone quant methods course to shift the emphasis from traditional lectures to team-based problem solving • Create short, online video lectures • Shift to action-based learning model

Project Achievements:

Students responded very well to the in-class exercises. We saw students working effectively together to correct their own understanding and answering many of the questions that we ask during the practice exercise correctly in front of the class. We also noticed a sense of learning as a growth process (which takes a student from ignorance to mastery through practice) is easier to convey in the context of in-class practice. Being able to show a student that they can go from not understanding a concept to being able to understand and consistently answer problems of a particular sort through practice and working their way through confusion seems to be a great boon to overcoming the defeatist attitude that some students have with quantitative coursework.

Yes. I am teaching 639 again this winter term, and plan to push further the flipping of the class.
The course materials have been made available to the other teachers of this course (three faculty rotate through teaching three sections).
Advice to your Colleagues:
Be willing to make midcourse corrections as you go. Think of the flipping materials as part of a portfolio of teaching tools you can use, or leave aside, depending on how the class is responding. Frequent testing of comprehension with clickers and short quizzes let’s you gauge quickly whether what you are doing is working, or whether you need to choose another tool for this particular lesson.