CTaLE’s First Month

The past month has been a busy one at CTaLE – we started in mid-September with the official launch of the Centre at the Development in Economics Education conference in Birmingham. Cloda, Christian and I ran a workshop there where we discussed some of our research-based education initiatives, including the First Year Challenge (FYC), Skills Lab and ExploreEcon. We also learned a lot from what others were doing, including an alarming account of contract cheating and the market for essays, and a discussion about publishing in economics education by the editors of the International Review of Economics Education.

Back at UCL, the start of term was imminent. In our induction week – the week before classes start – we heard from our first year undergraduates about what economists should be talking about. As the word cloud shows, inequality was a recurring theme, and perhaps a harbinger of this year’s Nobel Prize. Our first years also started on this year’s FYC, an independent research project done in groups and culminating in a 3 minute video or podcast. The submissions are due this week and we are looking forward to watching or listening to somewhere close to 50 (!) of these outputs. This year, we will have the usual panel of economists judging the FYC but in addition, we will also have a filmmaker who will comment on the exposition of the material. Among other prizes that the winning group will receive, will be the chance to make a film about ExploreEcon 2016 under the guidance of our expert filmmaker. In the meantime, Christian and I have written up our FYC experiences as working paper (LINK) and how-to guide (submitted to the Journal of Economics Teaching).

Word cloud around "Analysis"

Our first years are not the only ones doing research – final year thesis students as well as others in the second and third years have also started thinking about ExploreEcon2016. Last year was the inaugural undergraduate research conference, and we’re hoping to go from strength to strength. ExploreEcon 2016 will take place at UCL on March 16, 2016, and we’re thrilled that OfCom Chief Executive and UCL alumna, Sharon White has agreed to be our keynote speaker. In the runup to the proposal submission deadline in January, we will be hosting several events to support students. These include online chats with leading economist from Yale and UCL (more on this below), a “how to write a proposal” workshop and a set of Skills Lab workshops on reading, writing and data work. This year, in addition to ExploreEcon, we will also be looking to submit student work for the BUCR 2016 conference and Posters in Parliament.

The FYC is a collaborative research project, and most people would probably agree that collaboration adds a lot to the research process. In order to extend the peer learning and support to our other students, we’re trying something very new this year. This is an online research forum for undergraduate students and is being run jointly with Yale University’s Economics department. The platform we’re using is Piazza, which our Yale colleague, Doug McKee has used to good effect in his own classes. While the focus of this forum is on student peer-to-peer interaction, we will be starting with chats with well-known economists from our departments on everything related to doing research in economics. Students from the two departments will be able to ask questions on the forum, which may be addressed by their peers or by faculty. We’re hoping that this will be a good model for collaboration in student research on the one hand, and a workaround for the age-old problem of insufficient resources for student supervision.

All in all, another busy month to look forward to! As always, please do get in touch if you have any questions, comments or suggestions about anything discussed here, and thanks for reading.

(Parama, October 2015)

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