Session: Helping Students Succeed in Economics

Day 3, Wednesday 30 June 2021
3-4pm BST // 10-11am EDT

We want the best for students and this session looks at ways to help them thrive in Economics, chaired by Cloda Jenkins (UCL).

Welcoming New Students into Economics, 2020-style

Andrew Mearman, University of Leeds, and Juliane Scheffel, University of Leeds


Download Andrew and Juliane’s slides here


This presentation will outline and reflect on how new economics students were welcomed to Leeds University in October 2020. Welcome had two connected parts. First, a new institutional asset curated existing university resources and collated good practice from across the institution, informed by ongoing research into welcome, induction and transition, and on sense of belonging. The asset was designed to facilitate self-directed learning orienting students to the university and to core academic skills. Early feedback on the resource was positive, with students regarding it as being of high quality.

Second, subject-specific community-building activities were designed, in a hybrid asynchronous and synchronous model. Among the asynchronous assets produced were videos from key departmental figures, including its Head, Heads of Year, personal tutors, and module leaders. A padlet allowed students to ask questions throughout welcome week.

The synchronous programme included events matching personal tutors up with tutees; meeting students from the Economics society; a lunchtime seminar about three current economic issues; and hearing from peer assisted study session leaders to gain insights on being successful at Leeds. These events were held on a range of platforms (MS Teams, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom) and utilised relevant software such as TopHat polling, helping students to familiarise themselves with their new learning environment.

Finally, students were set a group activity, to design a poster in a group of up to 6 students about the economic impact of working from home. Students had the chance to meet others, work on a topic, be introduced to library resources as well as tools to share documents and cooperate online. Again, feedback on this activity was positive.

Gender, Social Accountability and Student Success: Does Anonymity Matter?

Eric Chiang, Florida Atlantic University
Co-authors: Amanda J. Felkey, Lake Forest College, and Eva Dziadula, University of Notre Dame


Download Eric’s slides here


The goal of this study is to examine the inclusivity of using small commitment devices with social accountability to enhance student academic performance. In a previous study we found that an SMS-based tool providing small commitments with a social/gamified feature helped students procrastinate less and better maintain engagement with course content, which subsequently resulted in improved academic performance.

In this paper, we seek to determine if the benefit of the intervention is the same for different types of students, including by gender. Specifically, we analyze the social accountability component which is provided by a social feed on the platform. To measure how this component affects the magnitude of the intervention effects, we alter what the students see in the platform’s social feed to create variation in anonymity.

In this study, we implement an experiment in which a large sample of students at two large universities engage in small daily commitments with social accountability. Students were placed into three randomly assigned groups. One group of students can see each other’s names in the platform’s social feed. The second group can see only the students’ gender. And the final group is composed of students who have complete anonymity. Preliminary results indicate that social accountability matters and it is correlated with improved academic performance as measured by exam scores.

Impact of Mathematics Teaching and Pre-degree Mathematics Training on Results and Module Choices in Economics Degrees

Martin Jones, Dundee University, and Yin Zhang, Dundee University


Download Martin and Yin’s slides here


Students entering undergraduate economics degrees in first year may have a wide variety of mathematical backgrounds, ranging from those with school post-calculus qualifications in maths to those that have very little. There is considerable evidence that the level of a student’s mathematics training prior to starting an economics degree course has a substantial effect on their performance during the course and on their final achievement.

This research examines the impact of maths teaching and pre-degree maths qualifications on module and programme choices, as well as learning outcomes, of undergraduate economics students in the School of Business, University of Dundee. This suggests a new line of investigation whereby students with weaker maths backgrounds may be dissuaded from taking more technically challenging modules when they are given the choice. Further, because of the flexibility of the Economics degrees at the University of Dundee, we can see whether any difference in module/ programme choice and results between experienced and inexperienced maths students lessens as they learn more economics and maths through the degree.

This is investigated by using econometric analysis of the data records of five cohorts of Economics students at the University of Dundee. The reported results are then discussed and put into the wider context of research into maths for economics teaching at university level.

Q&A document

Download the Q&A document containing answers to session questions.

Helping Students Succeed in Economics

reflection of the session by TeachECONference2021 Student Partner, Xuyi Wang

Use #TeachECONference2021 on social media!