Course Overview

Organizations and their programs often seem, at first glance, chaotic and without order. Students embarking on evaluations and similar research, therefore, feel perplexed when faced with a live organization. This is because we have been taught to expect a certain kind of rationality in the way organizations behave that is often different than that which actually drives them. As a result of this seeming mismatch between what we expect and the actual reality, students of planning and planners, and researchers and professional evaluators, often recoil from the chaos of reality, wondering why the organization is not doing what it is "supposed" to be doing; correspondingly, they often make recommendations for change that are unrealistic, or draw conclusions from evaluations of success or failure that are not always on the mark. This course teaches students how to understand the rationality behind how organizations and their programs behave, and to be comfortable and analytical with a live organization.


An average of two article- or chapter-length readings will be assigned each session, to be read before the session for which they are assigned. All readings are required except for those indicated as "recommended". The class is run as a seminar and students should be prepared to contribute to class discussions on the readings. Each student will prepare two papers on the readings during the semester, of up to eight double-spaced pages, based on questions related to the readings; the first is due for session 8; and the second for session 16. No late papers will be accepted. Each student will make a final verbal presentation on the readings during session 26. More detailed instructions will be provided in class. Regular attendance of class is required.


Grades will be based on participation in class; knowledge of the readings as reflected in class discussions and written assignments; the extent to which improvement over the course of the semester is apparent; and attendance.