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If You Only Had Two Hours–Best Advice for New Instructors of Economics
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
American Economic Association & Committee on Economic Education
University of Kentucky
Advice to New Economic Educators from the Profession: If You Only Had Five Minutes
New instructors in economics face a steep learning curve and guidance from experienced instructors can be enormously helpful in tackling that curve. If the goal is to avoid bombarding new instructors with volumes of advice and instead focus on a core set of principles and recommendations, what should we include in that set? To answer that question, we surveyed hundreds of current instructors across a range of educational institutions, asking them one simple question: “If you only had five minutes, what advice would you give to a new instructor in economics?” The question was deliberately open-ended to avoid channeling responses in any particular direction, but at the same time limiting in terms of scope (only five minutes) to encourage a focus on the highest priority elements. We compile and categorize the survey responses with a view to identifying a core set of principles and recommendations. This timing of such a survey seems particularly apt: The massive COVID-related shock many of us encountered recently to our teaching necessitated wide-spread reflection on our priorities and practices.
New Instructor Identity: Knowing Yourself and Knowing Your Audience
One of the central tenets of effective communication is to know your audience. But while effective communication is ultimately at the heart of good teaching, it is equally important that good teachers know themselves and then consider the ways in which they are the same, or different from, the students they are trying to teach. In order to build supportive relationships with students, instructors must be aware of the beliefs and assumptions they carry into the classroom because those beliefs inevitably influence virtually every pedagogical choice that instructors make. This self-awareness is particularly important for effective implementation of teaching strategies intended to build more inclusive classrooms. This presentation will provide advice and resources that new instructors can use to interrogate the beliefs they hold about their students, about teaching, and about their own identity as an economics instructor, and discuss how these beliefs may manifest in pedagogical choices.
How to belong? Inclusive Pedagogy Practices for Beginning Instructors in the Economics Classroom
Creating an inclusive classroom is often mistakenly understood as adopting practices and initiatives to help marginalized students “fit in.” This often results in using pedagogical tools to help students adapt to a standard economics curriculum. But true inclusivity involves developing course content, assignments, and pedagogical practices that allow students from diverse backgrounds to uncover, demonstrate, and understand the importance of what they bring to the classroom and to the discipline. To accomplish this, students first need to see themselves and their interests reflected in course examples, discussions, and readings. Opportunities to identify with economics allow students to understand and be empowered by the value they add to the classroom. Strong identity with economics coupled with greater opportunities for engagement creates an inclusive experience. In this panel, we will demonstrate best practices for engaging diverse students in economics by providing them with ample opportunities to apply their economics knowledge to real-world problems and to their own personal experiences, and by giving them the support that sustains interest in and identity with economics. We will begin with a discussion of ‘low-cost’ practices that are most useful for new instructors of economics and then expand the discussion to the various ways that new instructors can build out these practices in future iterations of their courses.
Student Engagement and Interaction in the Economics Classroom: Essentials for Economic Educators
It is not unusual for college students to mention the lack of student engagement present in their economics courses. This deficiency makes is difficult for instructors to excite students about our field, a situation that could have ripple effects in terms of the number of students who ultimately graduate as economics majors. For students, the lack of classroom engagement makes it unappealing to attend lectures and ultimately learn economics. This presentation will provide participants with essential ideas, tools, and activities that can be leveraged to increase student engagement and interactions in the economics classroom.
Actively Selecting Assessment Techniques: Asking the Why
Used correctly, assessments provide feedback to students to inform them of their knowledge gaps, encourage deeper understanding of the material, guide students in best practices, and (we must acknowledge this) provide a signal to future employers, course instructors, or graduate programs about the quality of a student's understanding of the material. Used incorrectly, assessments do none of those things. The goal of this paper is to allow new instructors to make a conscious decision in their assessment technique to complement the learning goals of their classroom, instead of relying on only their own experiences as a student. I identify properties of various assessment techniques, highlighting their purpose and appropriateness to achieve learning and assessment goals, and discuss the potential grading workload arising from each technique.
Educational Technology for Teaching Economics–Where to Start and How to Grow?
This paper describes technology instructors might use in their classrooms, whether online, in-person, or a mixture of the two. Classroom technology choices continue to grow with continuing declines in the cost of computer hardware and increasingly capable software. These advances drive what seems to be an ever-increasing number of ed-tech firms who contact instructors with glowing descriptions of their wares. As the many choices can verge on the bewildering, this paper presents a framework for instructors facing classroom technology choices. The core of this framework consists of carefully considering how classroom technology might (i) augment instructors, (ii) replace instructors in some instances, and (iii) might offer possibilities that no instructor could easily offer. Ultimately, what drives technology decisions should be good pedagogy and not the technology. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many instructors likely became much more aware of classroom technology when they were forced to quickly pivot to remote teaching. It is likely that many did not carefully consider their choices, but instead rapidly moved to what they, their colleagues, or their institutions knew of or already used. The framework presented in this paper will give them a way to thoughtfully reconsider their choices.
A2 - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics