August 2, 2019

JEP in the classroom

The AEA interviews managing editor Tim Taylor about helping college professors find articles for their syllabuses.

The AEA has launched a new feature for JEP articles in the classroom.

Chris Fleisher

A lot of economics research can only be read by someone with a PhD.

But the papers in the Journal of Economic Perspectives are written for a different audience. Some readers haven’t graduated college yet, and managing editor Tim Taylor wants to attract more of them.

In the Summer issue of JEP, Taylor lays out an initiative to make it easier for college professors to use JEP articles in the classroom. The key feature is a page on the AEA website where professors can find articles, organized by subject, that might make a useful addition to their syllabuses. It’s based on the results of a wide-ranging survey of professors conducted over the past year. In addition to highlighting popular papers, Taylor said the survey yielded some surprising feedback. And he hopes the effort will convince more teachers to bring JEP into their lessons.

Taylor spoke with Chris Fleisher and Tyler Smith of the AEA about the initiative and his hopes for it going forward. An edited transcript of that conversation is below and a longer audio version can be heard by clicking on the media player below.

Chris Fleisher: Last year you solicited feedback on how JEP articles were being used in the classroom. Why did you want to do this?

Timothy Taylor: We had gotten a paper from someone who said they had a class where they used the Journal of Economic Perspectives as all of the readings for the class. . . . We wondered how many other people were using articles. So we sent out a couple of email blasts through the AEA, requesting people who are using JEP in the classroom to send us an article. That was the beginning of it all. 

Tyler Smith: How were these papers being worked into teachers' syllabuses?

Taylor: It was a mixture really. Some people just sent in a health economics paper they used. . . . Other people said they taught a junior seminar where they were trying to get students up to speed on doing research and there were twenty-five papers on their syllabus and fifteen were from JEP. It was really wide array of uses and possibilities. 

Smith: So this covers everything from game theory to what's happening in China, right?

Taylor: We categorized it into about thirty-three categories. Which sounds like a lot, but once you start listing all the possible uses of different courses that people teach, it turns out that there are a lot of them out there. And as you said, from game theory to China to Japan to pure macro or financial markets or money and banking. . . . Our notion was that we could make this available to AEA members and AEA members who are teaching a course could just jump to the course they were looking at and they'd get some suggestions. It's not going to be a syllabus. It's not going to be a reading list. 

Fleisher: When do you expect this to appear on the AEA website and when would you like people to start using it?

Taylor: People who see the Summer 2019 issue of the journal will find in the back a little six-page article where I describe what we did. And then there's a link . . . that takes you to a page on the AEA website where the front page has these thirty-three different categories where we divided up the articles. 

Fleisher: Is this something that you envision being updated? How do you see this being used going forward?

Taylor: Our sense is that we'll see what happens. If people send us a bunch of things and say you should add this, that, and the other, well, we may just go ahead and add it. . . . On the other side, it might be that we don't hear much right now, but in about five years, maybe we could do the whole exercise again. 

Fleisher: For teachers who are not using JEP in the classroom, what would you say to them to convince them to start?

Taylor: I guess what I would say is that literally hundreds of your fellow faculty members think it's a good idea and so that might be worth your consideration. . . . And many of those people who wrote in said the articles were pitched at just about the right level for their undergraduates. . . . Given that it's a good match for the students of hundreds of faculty members across an extremely broad range of institutions, it's worth a look. We've simplified the looking process. You don't have to go through the back issues. You just have to go to this website and check it out.

The "JEP in the Classroom" page can be found on the AEA website here: https://www.aeaweb.org/journals/jep/classroom. Music in the audio is by Podington Bear. Also, we're interested in how you use AEA Research Highlights. Please share feedback and tell us what you'd like to see by taking this quick survey. It should only take a minute or two.