Improving student comprehension of policy design using social construction of target populations theory

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Journal of Public Affairs Education


Schneider and Ingram’s seminal work on how social constructions of target populations and political power combine to influence policy design helps explain why some groups receive beneficial policies while others are targeted with punitive policies. To assist students in understanding Schneider and Ingram’s theory in policy designs, we developed a two-part assignment comprised of (1) an introductory in-class group exercise where students place specified target groups into Schneider and Ingram’s social construction/political power matrix and (2) a homework assignment requiring students to populate the matrix using data collected through a basic content analysis of mass media.