Thinking, planning, and acting as policy-makers: Learning and teaching of policy-making in a social science class

28th May 2024

Author: Mr. Adrian LAM Man-Ho


This course examines Hong Kong’s interdependence with the global economy.

To further put the series of theories learnt throughout the lectures into practice, in this semester, the teaching team wants to provide a hands-on opportunity for all students to develop their own strategic and practical policies in Hong Kong’s economic development under globalisation from a policy-maker’s perspective. They need to decide on a specific policy issue which affects Hong Kong’s economic development, and subsequently come up with a detailed, specific, and practical policy proposal. The goal is that the proposal would positively change their identified issue if it is enacted in the real world.

Through the weekly workshops, students will understand how to articulate the context and scope of problem, discuss the current policy approach and propose alternative options, justify policy recommendations with concrete steps, and consult relevant and reliable sources as evidence and for references. Their learning experience is also interdisciplinary as they are going to dig into a wide array of knowledge, including aspects of science, law, social sciences, education, and business management, all of which have a prominent role in shaping a vision for the future as part of their future readiness toolkits.

All the workshops cover a wide spectrum in policy-making, which expect students have no prior knowledge and experience. To catalyse students’ learning, the teaching team will provide focused treatments of each important component related to policy-making, with a strong emphasis on the underlying logic and its practical application. By the end of the semester, students are expected to attain the following learning outcomes:

  1. Understand the functions and goals, and structures and processes of policy-making;
  2. Identify and discuss the roles play by different policy actors, and the impact of different relations these actors have on policy-making;
  3. Explore the implications of using different policy theories, frameworks, and models in analysing policy processes; and
  4. Apply the theoretical knowledge and analytical skills gained in policy analysis to analyse particular policy problems.

To these ends, we have covered a wide range of policy-making topics, including stakeholder analysis, policy considerations, policy analysis models, policy participation, policy implementation and evaluation, partnership and collaboration, as well as negotiation and leadership. Students are strongly encouraged to work through this course in the order it is presented, as concepts logically and progressively build from one session to the next.

Class format

All the workshops are conducted in an interactive and a participatory format. The teaching team will first briefly go through the key concepts and fundamental theories for the week, followed by highlighting some illustrative and interesting examples, instances, and cases in Hong Kong and around the world. Students are expected to ask questions, offer comments, and participate in these workshops. Meanwhile, students can continue their sharing and interaction in the online Moodle course forum after the class time.

Class expectation

To get the most of the class, as students work through the materials, they are asked to relate what they are learning to the situation in their own region or country, or those with which they are familiar. A number of class exercises also requires students to reflect on their own views or experiences. They need to relate broader concepts covered in this class to actual decisions being made in everyday reality, or actual experiences can help to contextualise what is being learnt in the class. Students are constantly thinking and rethinking their perspectives and assumptions towards different issues. They are also prepared to answer questions or to challenge and defend a certain view.

Course readings

For each week, both the required and recommended readings come from selected materials from various textbooks, books, and articles. A number of application readings will also be included to illustrate how the theoretical concepts have been applied by scholars and practitioners in real-life settings, which does not limit to the area of economy but also other areas like politics, society, health, environment, and education. A few textbooks are also included to provide students with a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the concepts and processes related to policy-making. Students are reminded to do the relevant readings before class to fully appreciate the materials.

Written proposal

Students will work in a group of 5 to 7 as policy-makers who are considering proposing or modifying a public policy in the area of Hong Kong’s economy. To this end, students will explore a specific issue, analyse its causes, and propose solutions suitable to the situation. The ultimate task is to prepare a written proposal on the specific policy the group has chosen. To facilitate their preparation, there is policy proposal template with relevant sub-headings and guiding questions. To ensure the alignment of their learning with the assessment, each workshop is also covering different parts of the policy proposal.

In-Class presentation

Given the time limit, the presentation should cover what the group considers to be the most unique and essential part of their proposed policy. It should therefore be a vivid summary of their written proposal. The flexibility allows students to be original and creative in terms of the presentation. We hope that students can pitch their proposed policy to their targeted audience, which allows them to plan and think how to strongly convince the audience that their policy is rigorous, detailed, effective, and feasible from planning to evaluation.

End-of-semester reflection

All students are required to write a reflection individually by the end of the semester. The entry should in general reflect on the things learnt throughout the semester and from doing the project, evaluate the contributions of each member of the project team, including themselves, and identify any areas where they experienced success and areas of improvement in the future. A few reflective prompts are offered for students to reflect and synthesise significant areas of personal and collaborative learning in the journey, especially their changes in terms of perceptions, assumptions, knowledge, and understanding.

About the author

Mr. Adrian LAM Man-Ho holds degrees of Bachelor of Arts, English Studies as well as Politics and Public Administration (First-Class Honours); Master of Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy (Distinction); as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Education in Secondary English, all from the University of Hong Kong.

He is currently a PhD Student and a Part-Time Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, a Course Tutor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, and a Research Group Member for the Common Core Curriculum at the University of Hong Kong.

His most recent publications include book chapters and journal articles in the areas of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary learning and teaching, future readiness, higher education, curriculum studies, and educational policies.

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