Teaching and Learning Community of Practice
Department of Economics
Have you recently tried a new teaching strategy that you found effective at facilitating student learning? Chances are that you heard about it from a colleague (Weimer, 2016). We want to build on this informal information exchange to create a community around teaching that actively shares pedagogy-related knowledge and experience. The Department of Economics has a short series of weekly, teaching-focused, discussions. Every meeting, the discussion leader will lead an interactive conversation structured around a particular topic. Join us to learn from and problem-solve with others facing similar teaching challenges. All faculty members, sessional instructors, and experienced course instructors are welcome. We meet once a week (day of week varies) from 12:00 - 1:00 pm in GE 106 during the months of May and June with meeting days often on Friday, quite often on Thursday, once on Monday, and once on Tuesday: see dates below. Lunch will be provided.
Weimer, M. (2016, April 20). What We Learn from Each Other [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/what-we-learn-from-each-other/
Thursday, May 2
Title: Academic and Professional Skills in ECO464
Discussion Leader: Peter Cziraki
Abstract: Since its launch in 2012, Empirical Financial Economics (ECO464H1) covers empirical methods and topics in corporate finance. This session starts with an overview of the curriculum and objectives, including a discussion of some course design choices. Next, we consider the question: how to prepare students heading for graduate level studies and students heading for a career in the public or private sector? For some answers we look at two initiatives: (a) on the academic side, we explore teaching how to read academic papers, and (b) on the professional side, we discuss moderated Q&A sessions with invited industry speakers. As a first step in assessing the impact on learning, we look at sample questions submitted for this year's Q&A session as well as changes in participation.
Friday, May 10
Title: Teaching with the Intermediate Microeconomics Video Handbook
Discussion Leader: Melissa Famulari
Abstract: The Intermediate Microeconomics Video Handbook (IMVH) is a new development in content delivery for intermediate microeconomics courses. In this session, I explain the video handbook concept and demonstrate the IMVH. I discuss how it is being used to support the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at UC San Diego. I also review student use of and feedback. Finally, I discuss how to incorporate the IMVH into a course and UC San Diego's experiences with "flipping" our classes.
Friday, May 17
Title: How to Use Results from the Science of Learning in Your Classroom
Discussion Leader: Bill Goffe
Abstract: In a literature spanning more than a century, cognitive scientists have identified principles governing how humans learn. Cognitive science gives us a rich framework to understand learning in our classrooms. While teaching methods informed by these findings are becoming the norm in STEM classrooms, they are rarer in economics classes. I discuss various methods of teaching economics that are grounded in the findings of cognitive science. This includes results from Boyle and Goffe (2018), which finds atypically large gains on a standard pre-post test of macroeconomic knowledge in a large macro principles course. I also share thoughts about directions for economics education research.
Boyle, Austin, and William L. Goffe. 2018. "Beyond the Flipped Class: The Impact of Research-Based Teaching Methods in a Macroeconomics Principles Class." American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 108: 297-301. (DOI: 10.1257/pandp.20181052) https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pandp.20181052
Abstract 1: This year in Introduction to Economics at UTM (ECO100Y5) I administered short online (Quercus) quizzes during tutorials. I discuss my initial goals and adjustments I made to address implementation issues along the way. I also present TA feedback and results from a voluntary student survey. A topic for discussion is how to improve this assessment format for the next iteration.
Abstract 2: In Markets, Competition, and Strategy downtown (ECO380H1), a third-year elective, students complete weekly in-class problems in lieu of traditional problem sets. These are marked. I discuss the motivation for allocating lecture time to solving problems and the practical challenges of implementation. I finish by reflecting on the observed impact on student participation and performance.
Monday, May 27
Title: Teaching Causality in ECO372
Discussion Leader: Patrick Blanchenay
Abstract: Angrist and Pischke (2017) argue that undergraduate econometrics should reflect how empirical research is practiced, emphasizing causality and identification. This insight is the inspiration for the design of Applied Regression Analysis and Empirical Papers (ECO372H1) downtown. I discuss methods to teach causality to undergraduates, including Direct Acyclical Graphs (DAGs) and Potential Outcomes. I argue that causality is a natural concept to explore in economics courses beyond econometrics.
Angrist, Joshua D., and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. 2017. "Undergraduate Econometrics Instruction: Through Our Classes, Darkly." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2): 125-44. (DOI: 10.1257/jep.31.2.125) https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.31.2.125
Blanchenay, Patrick, May 27, 2019, "Teaching Causality in ECO372": Copy of presentation slides
Tuesday, June 4
Title: In-Class Debate in ECO302/303
Discussion Leader: Nicholas Zammit
Abstract: For over 2400 years educators have used debate as a teaching strategy. Yet debate is rare in the modern university despite research showing its efficacy in improving engagement and learning (Kennedy, 2009). In World Economic History Prior to 1914 (ECO302H5) and World Economic History After 1914 (ECO303H5) at UTM, my course design choices start with the fact that every question in the field of economic history has undergone academic debate. In this session I discuss how I have incorporated debate and assess how it has improved engagement and critical thinking. We also examine the contention that debate helps students think critically across the curriculum and yields lifetime dividends in their approach to learning.
Kennedy, Ruth. 2009. "The power of in-class debates." Active Learning in Higher Education, 10(3): 225-236. (DOI: 10.1177/1469787409343186) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1469787409343186
Friday, June 14
Title: Pre-existing and Remediated Math Skills in ECO101
Discussion Leader: Robert Gazzale
Abstract: Ballard and Johnson (2004) show that entering math skills predict performance in economic principles well. Because performance in first year affects students' choices of major, differences in entering math skills could affect diversity in the economics major (Goldin (2015)). While U of T students likely have more math preparation than cohorts studied previously, both instructors and TAs suspect that weak baseline math skills hamper students' learning in Principles of Microeconomics (ECO101H1). In Fall 2018, for all 1,302 students completing ECO101 in one of my three lecture sections, I required each to either pass a beginning-of-term math quiz or to complete three online math modules. 87 percent took the quiz and 75 percent of quiz takers passed. In this session, I explain the intervention and discuss the observed effects and what I have learned thus far.
Ballard, Charles L. and Marianne F. Johnson. 2004. "Basic Math Skills and Performance in an Introductory Economics Class." Journal of Economic Education, 35(1): 3-23. https://www-jstor-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/stable/30042570
Goldin, Claudia. 2015. "Gender and the Undergraduate Economics Major: Notes on the Undergraduate Economics Major at a Highly Selective Liberal Arts College." Unpublished manuscript. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/claudia_gender_paper.pdf
Pozo, Susan, and Charles A. Stull. 2006. "Requiring a Math Skills Unit: Results of a Randomized Experiment." American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 96(2): 437-441. https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdf/10.1257/000282806777212486
Thursday, June 20
Title: Classroom Experiments using oTree in ECO316
Discussion Leader: Johannes Hoelzemann
Abstract : All students in Applied Game Theory downtown (ECO316H1) participate in classroom experiments. Students experience a variety of strategic situations first hand, which helps develop empathy, strategic thinking, and social interaction skills. After class I post the experimental instructions and anonymized data. I pair this with questions that guide students in their analysis of these data. Using formal and informal tools, students practice logical thinking, sharpen economic intuition, and gain understanding of the social and economic behavior of people, not Homo economicus. In this hands-on session, I demonstrate oTree: the flexible software, based on Python, used to run the experiments. Bring your laptop, tablet, or smartphone: you need a web browser and internet access.
Thursday, June 27
Title: Top Hat for Improving Participation in ECO202 and ECO204
Discussion Leader: Kathleen Yu
Abstract: How can we improve class and tutorial participation in our core intermediate level courses? In addition to the basic precursor of attendance, this requires motivating students to prepare by completing required readings and working on assigned problems. In Macroeconomic Theory and Policy (ECO202Y5) and Microeconomic Theory and Applications (for Commerce) (ECO204Y5) at UTM, I have used Top Hat. I first adopted this technology in 2015/16 and now have three years of experience. In this session, I discuss various ways of using Top Hat to facilitate pedagogical techniques such as think-pair-share and just-in-time teaching. I discuss my own observations as well as feedback from students. The session finishes by looking toward plans for 2019/20.