Session: Teaching Economists to Write

Day 2, Tuesday 29 June 2021
4-5pm BST // 11am-12pm EDT

This session looks at the importance of writing within the Economics curriculum, chaired by Carlos Cortinhas (University of Exeter).

Incorporating Writing to Learn in an Economics Curriculum

Janice Kinghorn, Miami University, and Ling Shao, Miami University


Download Janice and Ling’s slides here


Learning to write in economics (as in any discipline) is to learn the ways of being and knowing in that field. McCloskey in her book Economical Writing famously argued “writing is thinking”. Hansen (2001) identified writing as an important skill for an economics graduate. In this sense, writing becomes a crucial portal to doing the work as an economist. One impediment to this learning, however, is that both students and faculty in economics tend not to recognize their disciplinary norms and practices as ‘writing.’ As a result, there is often little direct instruction in writing within economics classes or of how this writing embodies the values and goals of economists. Working with our campus writing center we came to recognize our discursive practices as writing broadly conceived, and to see the many ways that writing is already embedded across our undergraduate curriculum. This realization helped us make our assignments and instructions more explicit across all of our courses–for example, by clearly identifying the audience, incorporating explicit instruction, teaching the construction of figures, graphs, tables, and equations as writing, incorporating writing into large classes, and feedback opportunities into the classroom. The process led to robust formative assessment which contributed to the continuing integration of writing throughout the major. This experience may help illuminate a model of incorporating writing instruction across time and how the interactions of instruction among different faculty and courses may contribute to stronger learning outcomes for students.

Connecting (Economic) Content with Current Concepts

Paul Winghart, University of Northwestern – St Paul


A response to the pandemic teaching constraints, we came up with a simple writing exercise wherein we had students write a response to a current news article /editorial by connecting a learned concept from that week’s content. It was a nuanced idea despite the fact that these were introductory classes and the student population was relatively large and unexperienced with economics. However, it was very successful overall with many students engaged in the weekly process while giving mostly positive feedback at year end. The presentation will give a few examples of the articles and some of the responses, what we learned, and how we can make it even better going forward.

Writing in the Discipline and Reproducible Methods: a process-oriented approach to teaching empirical undergraduate economics research

Anthony Underwood, Dickinson College
Co-author: Emily Marshall, Dickinson College


Download Anthony’s slides here


In this session we will discuss an empirical research project in an upper-level undergraduate econometrics course that serves the dual purpose of teaching economics writing conventions and reproducible empirical research methods. The project is a major component of a Writing in the Discipline (WiD) course at Dickinson College. The purpose of the empirical research project design is to exploit complementarities in satisfying the WiD learning goals and the guidelines of reproducible empirical research. These goals are mutually beneficial: the meticulous documentation and planning required for reproducible data analysis yield more well-developed empirical research papers. We will discuss our recent experience teaching this course, describe the particulars of the project timeline and replication protocol, and briefly discuss our pedagogical rationale. The teaching materials (prompts, rubrics, and workshops) will be made available to conference participants. Through sharing this adaptable project template complete with pedagogical rationale we hope to significantly reduce the fixed costs of project implementation and facilitate the addition of empirical research projects and reproducible methods to economics courses at other institutions.

Q&A document

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

Economists write differently. The uniqueness of economic writing and how to teach it

reflection of the session by TeachECONference2021 Student Partner, June Hong

Full Session recording

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