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Teaching a course on ‘policy analysis’ remains challenging for several reasons: drawing from multiple theoretical threads (Heck, 2004); relying mainly on ‘desk reviews’ of policies as pedagogical preference (Lipsky, 2008); and the challenge of students to connect theory with practice while developing skills to conduct policy analysis (Dunn, 2015), to highlight just three. These global pedagogical challenges for teaching policy analysis are also present in Pakistani higher education classrooms, although with their own nuances.

Faculty reflections also suggest that engaging students in conceptualising and analysing policies is difficult due to its theoretical nature and complexity (Ali, 2022). The challenge that these courses face is due to the desire to achieve multiple curricular objectives simultaneously: understanding the broad sociopolitical and educational context, grasping the theoretical and pragmatic issues of policy, developing the students’ ability to analyse policy in an evidence-informed way, and communicating policy messages convincingly (Ali & Ansari, 2023a). Meeting these expectations necessitates students to develop a robust knowledge base and practical policy skills, which poses a pedagogical challenge for the faculty.

Considering these challenges and the expected outcomes, we employed a case-based teaching approach for policy analysis, providing an avenue to discover complex yet contextually relevant insights (Shulman, 1992). We tried to expose students to a real-world policy challenge and field experience to explore and analyse the policy as enacted. In this blog, we explain this case-based approach to teaching a policy analysis course and share our critical insights from Pakistan’s higher education context.

This approach was initiated by negotiating with the government agency the Reform Support Unit (RSU) Sindh Government, which is responsible for policymaking and implementing education reforms. We also negotiated with students to reach a consensus on alternate assessment strategy. After the negotiation, the plan was put into action, involving an informational visit to the RSU, where students were exposed to various educational policies to select a policy for analysis; the chosen policy was the School Clustering Policy. This policy was developed to strengthen decentralised governance by empowering a central school to be responsible for neighbouring schools for better resource management and educational quality.

Students were divided into three groups, with each group assigned to analyse a cluster of schools. The case-based approach involved three stages: first, orienting students about the policy and a suitable analytical framework (see Rizvi & Lingard, 2009); second, field visits to clusters to gather data (observation, interviews); and third, a dialogue between students and the RSU team to discuss the difference between policy as conceptualised and enacted. Students then had an internal presentation in front of the class participants and course instructors. Later, the three group presentations were combined to create a main presentation to the leadership of RSU and develop a policy brief, highlighting challenges and providing recommendations (see Ali & Ansari, 2023b).

The case-based approach proved effective in helping policy students to understand and conduct policy analysis. This approach facilitated students in understanding the contextual insights of educational policy and its enactment. It also helped deepen their theoretical knowledge through experiencing challenges in policy implementation while also developing their skills to analyse a policy. Their analytical skills were evident from their analysis of the school clustering policy. They presented their work to policy experts in a convincing way.

‘The case-based approach … facilitated students in understanding the contextual insights of educational policy and its enactment … [and] helped deepen their theoretical knowledge through experiencing challenges in policy implementation while also developing their skills to analyse a policy.’

The reflections provided by the students offer valuable insights into their experiences during the policy analysis. They collectively highlight the course’s engaging and experiential nature. Additionally, the views of the RSU team were also encouraging, including in-depth analysis and creative abilities, demonstrating dedication and real-world application of students’ skills, which are prerequisites for educationalists. Having said that, this case-based approach was effective in achieving the intended objectives of the course instead of confining it to desk-based reviews. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that the case-based approach provided contextual and authentic learning to enrich students’ experiences (Kim & Hannafin, 2008; Walker, 2009).

This case-based approach carries practical implications for teaching policy analysis through experiential learning, which is beneficial in its current state. However, it remains an ongoing journey, particularly in the age of artificial intelligence, to mitigate the risk to academic integrity . Despite this, a practical and hands-on teaching–learning experience resonates more profoundly and endures longer with students and teachers than any other means. Hence, we propose it as a valuable approach for teaching policy analysis.


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Ali, S. (2021). Documentaries and policy dialogues: In search of signature pedagogies for policy studies. In A. Bashiruddin and N. F. Rizvi (Eds.). Signature pedagogies of teacher education in Pakistan. Vanguard Books.

Ali, S., & Ansari, A. N. (2023a). Policy Studies for Education. Institutional course handbook. AKU-IED.

Ali, S., & Ansari, A. N. (2023b). Policy analysis: School clustering policy. Institute for Educational Development.

Dunn, W. N. (2015). Public policy analysis. Routledge.

Heck, R. H. (2004). Studying educational and social policy: Theoretical concepts and research methods. Routledge.

Kim, H., & Hannafin, M. J. (2008). Situated case-based knowledge: An emerging framework for prospective teacher learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(7), 1837–1845. 

Lipsky, M. (2008). Discussion report: Pedagogy for policy analysis and management. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(4), 1045–1049. 

Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2009). Globalizing education policy. Routledge.

Shulman, L. S. (1992). Towards a pedagogy of cases. In J. H. Shulman (Ed.), Case study methods in teacher education (pp. 1–30). Teachers College Press.

Walker, C. (2009). Teaching policy theory and its application to practice using long structured case studies: An approach that deeply engages undergraduate students. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(2), 214–225.