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Teaching at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (HKS) differs from teaching in a traditional disciplinary department (e.g., political science, economics, sociology). HKS is a professional school; we are training students who will for the most part not embark on academic careers. As a result, both our courses and our students are different from the courses one encounters in a typical graduate school department.
At HKS, most courses emphasize prescription, in the sense of finding ways to solve problems rather than simply describing them. We expect students to analyze a problem and then come up with a recommendation, if not for solving it then at least for a process by which to address it constructively. Inevitably prescription involves tradeoffs among conflicting values; HKS courses try to identify and incorporate the relevant values, though consensus is sometimes elusive. With most courses, cases and problem sets are the primary basis for class preparation and classroom discussion.