Something Special

One of the projects we’re most excited about is our collaboration with the Department of Economics at Yale University. The aim of this project is to link up individual students and staff in order to share the teaching and learning experience at these two great institutions and learn from each other. As a part of this project, Doug McKee, the Associate Chair of Yale Economics visited us a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what he had to say about his visit (he is clearly very polite to his hosts!):

Something Special
Before my recent trip to University College London, I knew their economics department was a terrific collection of research scholars and teachers. What I didn’t knew was that three teaching fellows and a departmental tutor have built something truly great that doesn’t exist anywhere else: The Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics (CTaLE).  The four co-founders (Parama Chaudhury, Cloda Jenkins, Christian Spielmann,  and Frank Witte)  care deeply about teaching,  push the state of the art in economic education, and share what they learn with the world through CTaLE.
During my visit Parama told me about many of the center’s activities. My presentation on engaging students in large lecture classes was just one in an ongoing speaker series. They run experiments including one to find an effective way to increase response rates for student course evaluations. They co-teach courses with the research faculty and integrate state-of-the-art active learning methods. They create new courses like Frank’s “Economics of Science” that cross disciplinary boundaries. They make student research a fundamental part of all the courses they teach, even at the introductory level. Perhaps their biggest and most impressive project to date is the ExploreEcon conference where advanced undergraduates share the research projects they work on throughout the year. I was disappointed to miss this year’s event by just a few days.
The discipline of economics does not have a strong tradition of innovation in teaching, but that’s changing. I’ve seen individual economists all over trying new things in the classroom, but not enough of them share what they learn with the rest of their department let alone the world. I’ll be attending my first Conference on Teaching and Research in Economic Education (CTREE) this June, and several folks from CTaLE will be there. Not only are they practicing innovation, they are actively sharing it at conferences, in journals, and on their web site.
Parama, Cloda, Christian and Frank have a long list of things they still want to do–The center officially launched just a few months ago after all. There will be more active learning in more classes, more pedagogical experiments, more integration with the research faculty, and more collaboration with other departments. The next few years at UCL Economics promise to be very exciting!
Doug has also written about his experiences visiting classes at UCL in his own blog.

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