Track 3: Engaging Students through Compelling Curriculum

Premiere: Thursday 22 June, starting at 3pm BST//10am EDT


Teaching a First-Year Seminar in Economics Using Popular Culture

Marilyn Markel, Illinois College


At a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, First-Year Seminars (FYS) provide new undergraduates with shared experiences, help students distinguish the standards of college-level work, and offer an introduction to college-level expectations in critical thinking, communication, and liberal arts. These courses, by design, are not “standard” introduction courses such as Principles of Economics, and any given FYS course is unlikely to have declared economics majors. Given the need to avoid repeating a typical “ECON 101” course, I created an FYS entitled Superheroes, Showtunes, and Why Sex Sells: The Economics of Popular Culture. Using media such as Deepwater Horizon, Monsters Inc., Brooklyn 99, and Futurama, this FYS course helps students learn core ideas in economics without being bogged down with math or excessive graphing (students can go on to experience these in an introductory economics course). Students learned about opportunity cost through class discussions and media reflections about Captain America and marginal analysis through engaging with the show The Witcher. Utilizing media and popular culture in the classroom is not new or novel, but the creativity required to use these resources for first-year students, some of whom will not go on to be economics majors or even enroll in the introductory economics course, presented a unique challenge. The success found in this course has led me to incorporate much of the same popular culture material and discussions in my introductory economics course. Students are generally intimidated by economics. The more fun I can add to the classroom, the more students learn the material and connect to “the outside world” beyond the classroom successfully. I propose a 10-minute presentation on a series of popular culture media pieces that educators can easily incorporate into their introductory economics classes, including guided discussions and activities.

“Choice: Economics Materials for Success” on Substack: Worksheets based on recent and interesting news articles and real-world applications to improve understanding, interest, retention of information and engagement in Principles of Economics classes

Stefani Milovanska-Farrington, The University of Tampa


Students often take Principles of Economics classes only because they are required, have little interest in the subject, and memorize information that they quickly forget, sometimes even before the end of the course. It is a responsibility of the professors to accept the challenge to help students understand at least the fundamental economic concepts and ideas in an accessible and engaging way, and to increase students’ interest in the subject. To achieve these goals, it is important to make the material relevant to the students and to engage them in the learning process (Akey 2006).

Research shows that teaching economics using recent real-world examples from the news, movies and personal life that are relevant to the students, using worksheets with questions related to these examples, and encouraging related discussion not only make the material applicable to the students, but also increase engagement (Heller et al. 2003). Professors’ experience also shows that making Economics relevant to the students by providing real-world examples and applications helps the students understand the material better, increases engagement, and creates interest in Economics.

This presentation will make the audience aware of a relatively new resource called “Choice: Economics Materials for Success” on Substack ( The author and presenter is a professor of Economics who creates engaging resources for her own students in her Principles of Economics classes and shares them with colleagues through Substack. Currently, she creates worksheets with practice questions based on recent news articles, appropriate for both high school and college students and their instructors. The questions follow tips and practices from the science of learning which will also be shared in the presentation.

Substack | Choice: Economics Materials for Success

Stefani’s LinkedIn page

Curriculum design for the Oxford PPE Foundation Year

Natalie Quinn, University of Oxford


In September 2023 the first cohort of students will commence their studies on the Astrophoria Foundation Year at the University of Oxford. This is a one-year programme for UK state school students with significant academic potential, who have experienced severe personal disadvantage and/or disrupted education and are not able to make a competitive application for direct entry to an Oxford undergraduate degree programme.

Focussing on the Economics element of the PPE Foundation Year, this presentation will explore the challenges of designing a curriculum that meets several key objectives. The Foundation Year is accredited at Level 4, equivalent to the first year of undergraduate study. It needs to develop students’ academic skills such that they are ready to thrive on a highly demanding undergraduate programme after one year; in particular, in independent learning, economic reasoning, problem solving and data visualisation and analysis. It needs to cover relevant and engaging subject content, while minimising the overlap with both A-level and Oxford undergraduate curricula. Assessment criteria must be developed that distinguish between Level 4 achievement sufficient for the award of a Certificate of Higher Education and achievement that demonstrates sufficient mastery of the academic skills for progression to the undergraduate programme

The Xs, the Ys, the Zs: Challenges in internalising generational gaps in teaching

Katerina Raoukka, University of Cyprus co-presenting with Andri Kyrizi, University of Cyprus


At a University which lacks the multicultural component but exhibits a strong generational component, we were faced with a challenge: students with narrow learning experiences and educators who have not updated their material in thirty years.

Winning a teaching grant, we were able to alter the compulsory Principles of Macroeconomics to internalise the gen Z characteristics. A typical course using textbook slides and MCQ exams was turned into challenging course enabling students to use their generational characteristics. Mainly we used three of these and created three changes. Firstly, they are described as digital pioneers. Using this in the educational spectrum, the course provided them the opportunity to create a video with economics-related content. Secondly, they are characterised as politically progressive and hence the problem sets were set to reflect their economic views on current issues. Thirdly, they are entrepreneurial, independent and they prefer flexibility in their work. The course provides a mid-hybrid nature where students watch videos and work on check-yourself exercise sets before certain lectures providing them the opportunity to nurture the aforementioned characteristics.

Focus groups, qualitative research, treatment and control groups are all part of the work-in- progress to show whether these teaching methods have any effect in improving students’ economics understanding and if they improved communication between the educator and the student. Preliminary results show that students are ‘afraid’ of challenging questions confusing research with ‘looking for a quick answer to a question’ but the independent nature of the course excites them.

Watch via our YouTube channel on Thursday 22 June, starting at 3pm BST//10am EDT.