This walking tour will take you onto an intellectual journey from 1828, when UCL was established, until today. Walking in the streets of Bloomsbury, we visit places associated with Jeremy Bentham, David Ricardo, Vladimir Lenin, John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and other profound thinkers. We will explore how these thinkers shaped the history of the 19th and the 20th century and will discuss the relevance of their ideas to today’s world. No knowledge of economics is needed for the tour; you just have to be interested in politics, economics or intellectual history. The tour is free and will take about 90 minutes. Also, a virtual version of this tour is offered via Zoom (watch the virtual tour’s teaser).
So far, this tour has been offered to more than 200 attendees, including students and academics from UCL and other universities, secondary school students and members of the public. You can read the reviews of Phin Godfrey (UCL student) and Professor Gregory Burge (University of Oklahoma) of this tour. This video, presented as a part of TeachECONference2021‘s asynchronous sessions, gives an overview of the tour and its pedagogical innovations:
Dr Ramin Nassehi, Lecturer (Teaching) at the Department of Economics at University College London. Ramin’s interest is on economics pedagogy, particularly in the ways in which economists can better communicate their ideas to the public. He has been involved in various education projects such as Royal Economic Society’s “Discover Economics”, Explore Econ (UCL student conference), and EconFrame (economics photo competition). He is also a contributor to CORE Econ project. Ramin has won numerous education awards including the Best Lecturer Award at the UCL Department of Economics (2017/2018) and SOAS Director’s Prize in Inspirational and Innovative Teaching 2016/2017.
Aims of this Project
As a public engagement project, this tour seeks to demystify and democratise economics. The second aim of the tour is community building both within the UCL students and also the wider Bloomsbury and Camden area. By walking around the Bloomsbury streets and holding a discussion about the economic stories behind those streets, this tour creates socialisation experience for UCL students and staff, students from other London universities or schools; and the residence of the Bloomsbury and Camden. Relatedly, the other aim of the tour is to decolonise the classroom. By going outside the conventional classroom into the streets, the tour automatically creates a more equal footing between the guide (lecturer) and the participants, opening the room for a more inclusive conversation and debate. The main inspiration of this tour has come from London’s Economics Walks paths created by Professor Ian Preston.
Firstly, this tour offers a location-based method of teaching economics. Each visiting location is used as a case study or an “associating object” for an economic idea. For instance, when visiting the house of Vladimir Lenin in Bloomsbury the tour discusses the contemporary problem of growing income inequality, specifically the declining share of labour income and the rise of top 1%. In this way, each location is associated with a particular economic problem and a set of relevant economic theories. This weaving of ideas to places, makes economic theories more intuitive and easier to remember for the audience. Secondly, the tour adopts a dialogic approach in economics teaching. This means that, instead of transferring knowledge and facts to the audience, lecturer (tour guide) initiates a discussion about a real-world economic problem with the aim of enabling participants to “discover” economic knowledge or arrive at economic theories. Finally, the tour innovatively integrates various digital technologies in economic storytelling. For instance, the face-to-face version of the tour uses QRL codes (in the printed handout) for some visiting locations to direct the audience to relevant online resources like short videos, articles or documentaries on the topic under the discussion (link to the handout). To find out more about the aims and innovations of this project read Ramin’s working paper: “UCL Economics Walk: A place-based method of teaching economics”. This has been presented in various conferences including UCL Education Conference on April 2021; APT Conference on July 2021, Southern Economics Association Conference on Nov 2021.
This project closely relates to the First Year Challenge, another exciting CTaLE project. In terms of pedagogy, both projects follow a placed-based method of teaching economics. But as a public engagement project, the walking tour follows a different aim, which is to communicate economics to a general audience through an interactive collective journey across several Bloomsbury locations. At the end of the tour, participants are asked to fill out an evaluation form and provide suggestions for further improvements. Here are some quotes on what participants liked the most about the tour:
Actually feeling the physical connection to the great economic/political thinkers that are familiar from classes. Thrilling experience. Explanations intuitive, well-structured. Brilliant.
The tour guide gives a very clear outline of the intellectual history development, which is related to the UCL. This is very interesting because I seldom get the chance to learn it inside classes. The point of view of economics as a science of philosophy rather than a branch of applied mathematics is very inviting.
Absolutely, [the walk] should be required for UCL faculty.
Explanations and connections with economic history from multidisciplinary view.
The way it was interactive. The interlinking of the different economic and social and political thoughts through the years.
Email Ramin at email@example.com