The course is structured into three “units”. The first provides students with the developmental psychology, political science, economics and human rights lenses through which to explore public policies for children. I present the developmental perspective, Linda White, Michael Baker and Martha Friendly have been kind enough to present the others respectively. The next “unit” consists of exploring and establishing an understanding of research methods. I do this by assigning readings about how to evaluate the quality of research and then devoting a class to developing a set of criteria for doing so as a group. I also give lectures on other methodologies including use of meta-analyses because I think is an important tool for policy makers.
I think that individuals who want to engage with policy development need to have a deep understanding of research methods so that they (like the teachers we train) can make evidence informed decisions. I try to help students develop this skill through my design of the final assignment. Specifically, students are asked to rate the quality of evidence used in a policy report and to write a paper about this experience and their understanding of the quality of evidence that supports this report. I have developed and refined this assignment over the years because I felt that we needed to strengthen and deepen the understanding of research of our students. Thus, even though this is a course on public policy for children, the theme of understanding the quality of evidence and research methods is central. In the final “unit” of the course we apply the lenses and methods we have discussed to a series of applied topics that vary from year to year.
Given my expertise and connections to the field these topics tend to skew to early years education topics. I do this by bringing in guest speakers who present different topics.