Premiere: Wednesday 16 June 2021 starting at 3pmBST/10amEDT
Curated by UCL ChangeMakers Student Partners, June Hong (Y1) and Xuyi Wang (Y3)
The world is changing constantly, and so must education in one of the most applicative fields, economics. Today’s theme presents ways of teaching that increases engagement and retention. Presenters showcase innovative methods that help students gain a genuine interest and comprehensive understanding of material, not just prepare for exams.
See like an economist: photo assignments in a microeconomics course
Lavinia Moldovan, Mount Royal University
I will discuss an assignment in which students take photographs of their familiar surroundings and explain them through concepts learned in a principles of microeconomics course, which allows them to make vital connections between their own world or lived experience and microeconomic theory. The students choose the subject of their photographs and process information from their familiar world through microeconomic theory, communicating their ideas both through images and in writing. The goal of the assignment is to develop long-lasting competencies and to contribute to a positive attitude towards economics, which brings students closer to an ideal mental mindset for future learning and application of acquired knowledge. While often not present or less obvious in our mathematical tasks, creativity is given central stage in this assignment, encouraging students from a diversity of backgrounds to express themselves and to make explicit connections between their world and abstract economic theory. The assignment asks students to engage in the far transfer of knowledge from the learning environment of a specific course to a scenario that holds deeper meaning for them, which leads to a better understanding of economic concepts and increases the likelihood of long-term knowledge retention. The assignment focuses on key competencies that are vital for lifelong learning, encouraging creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Photographing and explaining the economics behind students’ every-day scenarios works well both for in-class courses, as well as for emergency or non-emergency online courses, irrespective of the students’ location. In my presentation I will share examples of student work to demonstrate how this assignment contributes to the learning objectives of the course, while also opening new avenues of communication between students and economic educators.
Authentic Writing Assignments in Economics Courses: Student Buy-In and Learning Outcome Assessment
Chelsea Dowell, Kentucky Wesleyan College
In all class structures – online, face-to-face, and hybrid – student buy-in for assignments can be challenging. When the average Economics major does not have Economics graduate school aspirations (Black, Sanders, and Taylor 2003), then why do our authentic writing assignments still center around academic research papers? Students struggle to see the relevance in these assignments when they have no plans to do economics peer-reviewed journal writing in the future. To address this issue, I have created authentic writing assignments in each of my upper-level Economics field courses that are not in the research journal format. Instead, I draw from the various business and political writing styles to structure my course assignments that align with the Economics course learning outcomes. For example, students write a Business Proposal in Managerial Economics, a Federal Budget in Public Finance, and Health Care Policy Congressional Briefing in Economics of Health and Health Care. The students see the relevance in the writing assignments because they believe they may have to write or interact with these types of writings in their future career. I observed increases in engagement and effort level for these assignments and students report appreciation for the authenticity in course evaluations. In the presentation, I would present examples of such assignments, processes for creating such assignments, as well as tips on developing grading and assessment rubrics for the assignments that align with course learning outcomes while maintaining the authenticity of the writing style.
Reference Black, Dan, Sanders, Seth, Taylor, Lowell, 2003. The economic reward for studying economics, Econ. Inq. 41(3), 365-377.
Teaching without a Textbook
Whitney Buser, Georgia Tech
This presentation focuses on teaching and developing courses for which there is no structure provided by the availability of publisher materials nor a textbook. Instructors who are looking to develop a new field course, revamp a current theory course, or new instructors may find this presentation useful. Potential benefits of teaching absent publisher materials are increased flexibility in content and subject, the ability to teach fewer concepts at a deeper level rather than many concepts broadly, and the ability to better engage students. Potential concerns include needing to create a structure for both instructors and students upon which the course is built. Methods for creating structure and finding relevant material are discussed.
Using assessments to foster a learning community
Stefania Paredes Fuentes, University of Warwick
The COVID19 pandemic made us rethink almost every aspect of teaching and consider the many challenges that students may face during the academic year. With this in mind, I aimed to embed three key principles of inclusive learning environments in my teaching practice: Engagement, flexibility and collaboration.
In this session, I provide some examples of “assessment activities” that embed these principles. These activities were purposely designed to (i) stimulate in-term engagement; (ii) help students to feel part of a learning community; both important aspects for attainment and performance. Students were offered a portfolio of six activities linked to the content of the module, with various deadlines during the term. This encouraged them to maintain weekly engagement with the content. These were group work and consisted in creating of videos, podcasts, short articles, but also students could design their own assessment activity. Feedback on the activities was given by students, based on pre-established feedback criteria.
Students could decide how many activities to engage with. I recommended to engage with two activities, plus provide feedback to at least one activity created by another group. Marking was based on engagement, rather than on whether the answers were right or wrong, which allowed students to make mistakes without the pressure of getting a bad mark. This also minimised competitive behaviour within the group and supported the creation of meaningful relationships within group members. This was useful for the summative work in which students worked on at the end of the module.
Students’ feedback was excellent. They appreciated the sense of community and the flexibility provided by the assessments. It helped students to keep in touch with course mates and feel motivated to engage with the subject. A positive externality of these assessments is the observed reduction in awarding gaps.
UCL Economics Walk: A place-based method of teaching economics
Ramin Nassehi, UCL
UCL Economics Walk is a walking tour of Bloomsbury, where the tour leader (i.e. lecturer) takes the audience through different locations in this area that have an economic story to tell. The project’s aim is to explain complex economic ideas in an accessible way to students and/or members of the public and encourage critical discussion on those ideas. I have offered this tour in person for thirteen times and twice virtually. In terms of pedagogy, this tour follows a dialogical approach in a sense that the tour leader starts a conversation about each location with, and among, the audience. In this presentation, I will talk about the challenges I faced to create a virtual version of this tour on Zoom, particularly the different mediums (Google Map, interactive online polls, music, short snippets from movies, Green Screen presentation) I used to encourage peer dialogue and create a sense of collective intellectual journey. This tour takes a place-based approach to teaching economics that can be easily adapted to different campuses, towns or cities in face-to-face or virtual settings. You can watch the teaser of the virtual tour here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46yS6UUuRN8).
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