In the context of subject-level TEF, we at CTaLE wanted to highlight our focus on student employability through the use of hands-on methods and projects. This post is based on CTaLE’s views reflecting on the Rethinking Economics Employers Report 2018 and should not be attributed to UCL or any other associated organisation. It is more of a reflection of CTaLE’s work in progress and we are keen to hear what other are doing to support student employability. We welcome any and all discussion!
The Rethinking Economics Employers Report 2018 is focused on UK higher education economics curriculum and advises on four key reforms to ensure economics graduates are well prepared for future employment. Here we will address each suggested reform with what CTaLE has been doing/developing in order to fully support our students.
1. Vary subject matter
At CTaLE we have collaborated with other academics to run the CORE project which introduces a mix of real world issues to students from the very beginning. We use this as a platform to then introduce theoretical concepts. By doing so, we are making sure our students are trained in understanding how theories are applicable to case studies and develop a high level of analytical skills.Members of CTaLE also teach a variety of courses ranging from Economic History to Economics of Regulation, exposing students to a spectrum of economic subject matter. The academics also use resources such as policy case studies, economic articles and twitter to enrich their lectures and help engage with students. This is all done from the beginning of a student’s academic career in their First Year and not just in their Third Year (UK’s final year of university schooling).Ultimately our philosophy is to start with the real world and emphasize the context in which theoretical concepts can be applied to. We make sure that our students see various perspectives through their exposure to a wide range of economic topics by different academics via a mix of learning materials. Theory is definitely key to our curriculum but we want to make sure that students can master applying these concepts through the analysis of real world issues.
2. Introduce inductive and problem-based learning methods
CTaLE has for years been the home of active learning techniques. We want to provide our students with a hands on economics education experience, for example through group work and opportunities for creating multi-media presentations. Through the approach of giving students a case study they have not yet encountered, we hope to challenge them in applying what they have learnt to the task at hand and develop their analytical/reasoning skills.Currently, CTaLE academics are teaching courses whereby students prepare posters in groups to look at real world examples of topics such as wage negotiations/bargaining and markets. This helps them understand the type of analysis government and field experts use in situations that the students might face in their future employment. However, we do acknowledge that there is a difficulty in deciding how to prioritise covering the standard content and giving time for the activities.A project that CTaLE introduces at the beginning of each year is the First Year Challenge. First year students are given a place in London to go to and are provided the topic of inequality. They are instructed to come up with a video that connects their designated place to inequality. This allows students to familiarize themselves with London (many times historic/iconic places) and apply their economic knowledge in a way that encourages them to think outside the box.
3. Encourage peer-to-peer learning and group assessments
Carrying on from the previous points, we encourage students to work in groups because that is the best way to problem solve. This can be informally through small group discussions in tutorials and formally through assessed group work. There are of course still issues revolving around levels of individual contribution within group assessment. However, as shown in our ExploreEcon undergraduate research conference there has been an increase over the years of students working in pairs/teams especially in the poster round.
4. Undergraduate Research Projects
We believe that research-based learning is important for student development. Here at UCL we try to have students develop research type skills across modules so by the time they are in their final year, they are prepared to engage in research projects whether it be a dissertation or an individual module project.At CTaLE we provide extra support to students through our Skills Lab. This is an extra non-credit opportunity for students to develop skills they will need to do successful research projects. It creates a strong foundation for academic and future employment work.
These are just a few ways we are preparing our students for future employment and as a Centre, we are constantly adapting and learning.
(Dr Cloda Jenkins, 2018)
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