POLS 112 Assessment: Policy Forums and Class Led Discussions

Policy Forum Objectives:

  • To apply concepts introduced to contemporary issues and current events that relate directly to issues of government and the solution of collective problems.
  • To collaborate with peers to develop a deeper understanding of a chosen policy area.
  • To support each other’s learning and development.
  • To help establish and build community in the classroom.
  • To act as a writer’s group to assist each other.

Policy Forum Themes: Every Student will choose and join ONE Policy Forum Group
All policy proposals need to demonstrate a link to current Federal Laws & Policies

  • Defense/Foreign Policy
  • Environmental/Energy Policy
  • Crime/Public Safety Policy
  • Monetary/Fiscal Policy
  • Health/Social Welfare/Immigration Policy
  • Education Policy

Policy Proposal (5 points and 15 points)

1000 words (approximate)

Part I: Identify and Describe Problem (provide a brief title with keywords)

  • What is the nature of the “good” being sought?
  • What evidence is there to support the claim that the current allocation of this good constitutes a “problem” and what metrics/measures can you use to describe the problem?
  • What is the status quo policy?  What current federal statutes, administrative and case laws impact the problem?

Part II: Causal Mechanisms

  • What is the primary cause of this problem?  What evidence do you have that this cause is linked to the problem?  How do you measure this relationship?
  • What are the conditions/behaviors/traits that inhibit or prevent an equitable allocation of this good?
  • What solutions to the problem do you propose?  Specify the causal mechanisms involved in policy change and problem solution:  How does your solution address changes in technological innovation and political authority (legal rewards and sanctions)?  Explain in detail.

Part III: Policy Outputs and Outcomes

  • Measure and estimate the benefits gained from the policy change, as specific as possible
  • Measure and estimate the costs of 1) policy implementation as well as 2) possible unintended consequences and negative externalities
  • What are the potential unintended consequences (or negative externalities) that may arise from your policy solution?  How would you address these and other consequences as a way of evaluating the overall costs and benefits of your proposed policy?
  • Requirements: Uploaded to online forum BEFORE class.  Include a title (with problem and solution in the title), a list of references, at least three of which can be no more than 6 months old, and must be from reliable sources outside of class materials.  Acknowledgement of proof-readers and editorial assistance in your conclusion.


Student Led Discussions (20 points)

Starting with the lecture on Ideology, students will sign up in groups and prepare a newsletter and presentation on the materials covered on that day.  The newsletter must contain the following:


  1. Learning Objectives: The newsletter should identify three learning objectives from the exercise, then use course content to teach those objectives.  While you should identify and weave in key terms from this and earlier readings, do not just summarize the material.  Your primary job is to facilitate discussion that engages your classmates in developing a deeper understanding of key concepts presented in the materials.  Relate back to previous covered material, as part of developing a deeper understanding.


  1. Horns of the Dilemma: You need to identify the collective action problem (CAP) addressed by the institutions in question, as well as the limits of the institutional solution.  Typically this creates two sets of sub-optimal outcomes, where coordination costs are matched against conformity costs, with the goal of finding a “sweet spot” where collective benefits are achieved without risking excessive conformity/parasitism.


  1. Current examples:  Draw on current events as evidence.  Apply current policy discussions and events, and the actions of political elites, to demonstrate the nature of the social dilemma and institutional solution your team is addressing.


  1. For further consideration: Design 2-3 discussion questions that probe more deeply into the most difficult concepts addressed in the materials, issues that the group struggled with.  Identify areas for further research and additional research articles/content to develop deeper understanding.


  1. In-Class Presentation/Discussion Questions:  Prepare a 30-minute presentation that includes a) summary of the newsletter, b) introduction of discussion questions, c) facilitation of group discussion (you choose the format, small group, individual reflection pieces, etc.).


Extra Credit: This Land is Your Land

For an extra 2% of your overall grade, you may complete a journal analyzing the last century of American music.  This should be completed on a weekly basis, with a brief (~50 words) assessment of each song on the website, and a reflection on the week’s musical selection:

  1. What do you like/don’t like about particular songs?
  2. What is the significance of the songs as a reflection of American political culture?
  3. How do the songs fit into the broader cultural landscape of American political expression?


You may compare and contrast with additional music of your own choice.  You will turn in the document as a single essay in Week 10

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