Evaluation and pedagogy

Read a bit every day, prepare for each class, and you will do well in this course.

  • 40 percent participation
  • 20 percent presentations
  • 40 percent final exam

With only four of us, if you don’t prepare, the class will be painful for everyone.

How to ensure that you pass this course with a good mark, and learn something in the process..


POE234 is a seminar, not a lecture course. The key materials each week consist of a class outline and notes provided online, and a list of required and suggested reading.  Suggested readings will be provided as electronic documents online.  Students will do the reading and preparation for the class in advance, then come to class where you will demonstrate familiarity with the material, we will discuss implications, and then engage in problem solving exercises. Some of the classroom tools we will use are:

  • Sixty-second summary (60s). For each assigned reading, be prepared to provide a clear 60 second summary of the most important information at the beginning of the class.
  • Sixty-second critique (60c). Having listened to, and absorbed, the 60s of another student, provide your own interpretation of the reading, highlighting what you got out of it that is different from the summary of your classmate.
  • Five-minute consensus report (5R). The learning objectives often call for understanding or evaluation of evidence. You will have read conflicting information and you will have your own ideas about subjects like equity, growth, innovation, public interests, and so on. In the 5R process you will work together to develop a consensus on a subject, which you will present as a 60s.  If you cannot arrive at consensus, one or more members of the group may offer a 60c.
  • The written alternative for 60s and 60c is a 300 word summary.
  • In addition to 60s and 60c, there may be unannounced quizzes on assigned reading.

Some preliminary calculations

The average reading speed of a college student is 450 words per minute. (Rachel Mercer, 2012). This course is listed in the calendar as 3-0-6, indicating three contact hours in class per week, zero lab hours, and six hours of independent study. Since you have no major research papers in this course, most of the reading and preparation you do will be reading – let’s say roughly 3:1 over the course of the term, to allow for some time on your presentations. Being realistic,  we’ll further assume only 11/13 weeks, so 66 hours at a ratio of 3:1, or about 50 hours of reading over the term – about 4.5 hours per week on average.  That means that each week you should be able to get through 450 words x 60 minutes x 4.5 hours, divided by (an average of) 500 words per page.  This is about 240 pages per week – quite a reasonable average.

Beyond the required readings, recommended reading may be suggested to allow you to explore areas of interest.

Required readings each week will usually be less than 240 pages, or sometimes a bit more. It’s important that you do the reading, because that is the foundation for the discussions we will have to meet the learning objectives. Sometimes you will have to go beyond the assigned and recommended readings to answer specific questions related to the learning objectives.

For example, the learning objective might state: identify the difference between science and technology. You might find definitions implied in Smardon (2014) or in other


Each week there will be required readings.  Students will demonstrate understanding and critical evaluation through sixty-second summaries (60s), sixty-second critiques (60c), and five-minute consensus reports (5R). There will be one or more opportunity per student per class period.  There are 35 class periods scheduled in the fall term.  An opportunity can yield up to 3 points. Thus each student can earn at least 105 points, to be reduced to the 40 percent mark for class participation. You can check your progress with me at any time.

If a student has more than one participation marks for a single class period, the highest mark will count.

How is participation scored:

  • ideas: have you captured the key ideas effectively?
  • expression: have you expressed the key ideas succinctly and clearly?
  • support: have you supported your observations by going beyond the reading to integrate ideas from other sources, or to provide critical evaluation of the ideas?

Students may submit written work at any time to augment their participation marks. All written work may be posted on this web site at my discretion, to advance learning objectives.


Each student will do two presentations, worth 10 percent each.

A presentation is a 10 minute oral briefing to the class supported by a written briefing note (2 pages) and up to five powerpoint slides.  Supporting material must be available 24 hours prior to the briefing. You may not go over two pages, five slides, or 10 minutes. The purpose of the brief is to answer the question that has been posed, as if you were presenting to a senior government official.

Each week (w2-w12) includes at least one question, which might be the subject of presentations (briefings) but students will be assigned to these depending on class size.

How is participation scored:

  • Ideas: have you interpreted the question clearly and effectively? Have you provided a succinct and well-reasoned answer?
  • Expression: Are your slides and briefing note clear and correctly presented?
  • Support: Have you drawn on an appropriate and adequate range of primary and secondary sources to answer the question?

The first presentations will be in weeks 4 and 5.

How to write and present for government

Those who are promoted in government (an even in uniform you are in government) are often those who can summarize and communicate ideas most effectively.

How to write briefs for Government. This site is prepared by experienced public sector employees who are now in the private sector offering training and education for those who still have a public sector salary.  The examples are very well prepared and set the standard I hope you’ll achieve. Note that “Options and recommendations” briefs are different from “Information briefs” and you may choose to do either, but the key to effective presentation is context:  why is this important, now, to this audience? Try to step beyond the academic exercise.

How to present for Government.  Telling bureaucrats how to do this is something of an industry in Ottawa, with Carleton and Ottawa Universities vying with the Canada School of the Public Service to teach bureaucrats the secrets to climbing the ranks.

As we work through your two presentations, we’ll treat them as learning workshops, with a focus on some of the following elements:

Your assessment prior to preparing the brief:

  • Have you assessed the real-world context in which Ministers and senior officials function
  • Do you understand the factors they consider when making decisions (reflected in your oral brief)
  • Have you used the style of policy documents and briefings which best helps them do their jobs (the tone of your brief)
  • Is this “strategic” policy analysis (i.e. achieving objectives)– are you thinking at the federal government policy level? (or the decision-making level of another unit or organization that you are addressing)

Your 10-minute oral briefing:

  • Have you identified the audience’s core concerns on the issue?
  • Have you structured your ideas simply and persuasively?
  • Have you simplified complex information and avoided information overload?
  • Are you prepared to handle objections positively and effectively?
  • Is you body language effective?
  • Do you handle questions and feedback well?

Final exam

The final exam will be an open-book, at home, timed exam using Moodle. You will be able to start any time within a 24 hour period during the scheduled exam routine, and once begun, you will have three hours to complete the exam. The questions will be known in advance, discussed during week 13, and will draw on the Smardon text and materials discussed each week. You will use the concepts developed during the course to prepare policy briefs on three specific problem areas, reflecting on the evolution of Canadian policy and the failures of the past.