Michela completed her PhD in 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania and finished her post-doc at UCL before staying on as an Economics lecturer. She currently teaches the 1st Year undergraduate statistics course and an MRes elective (essentially the two ends of a student’s learning) alongside doing research and policy advising.
Statistical Methods in Economics
The 1st Year statistics course is big. Like, really big. Having a large class can make it difficult for a teacher to interact with everyone especially if some students already view statistics as difficult, technical and abstract. With this in mind, Michela aimed to make the course palatable and to transfer passion alongside statistical knowledge. To do so, she focused on the larger statistical concepts through activities. Over the years there’s been blind Coke/Pepsi tasting, number guessing games and playing with an inflatable globe incorporated into the class. This is so that students can obtain the technical knowledge but also understand the concepts in a way that will stay with them in the long run.
To prepare for the course, Michela worked with professors who teach the statistics courses after hers to grasp what concepts to focus on. She realised that students weren’t strong with the concept of p-values so came up with an analogy. By bringing in a magician to this year’s class, p-values were illustrated via how extraordinary it would be for the magician to guess his outcomes correctly. It would be too lucky if the guesses were random therefore that notion could be rejected. In the end, it’s all about how complimentary activities, like the magic show, along with formulas can help further student understanding. In Michela’s exams, there are also certain questions not revolved around formulas to make sure her students fully understand the larger concepts.
Next year’s activity is currently in the works and will be kept a secret for now!
The UCL Provost Education Award “recognise[s] staff making outstanding contributions to the learning experience and success of our students” and it couldn’t be more fitting for Michela. To wrap up our interview, Michela would like to thank her colleagues at UCL, CTaLE and CORE. She already has ideas for next year but they need the department’s support (with special mention to Professor Antonio Cabrales and Dr. Cloda Jenkins) so without them it wouldn’t be possible. This award is a reflection of all the hard work that goes on at UCL Economics and although Michela has been teaching the class for 4 years she constantly learns from students and experienced colleagues to deliver her course effectively.