As economic educators we often share with students that “economic concepts occur in our everyday life”, and “that we already use economics”. We explain economics as we see it and relate to it; however, my approach is to the use students’ experiences to teach economics. I find that students are more interested and are able to better grasp and relate to the material if they can view it from their own perspective. Therefore, I make an effort to know my students, if not on a personal level, certainly as a group. My students tend to be engaged, ask questions and are willing discuss their own point of view.
On the first day of class, I assign my first quiz. Students are required to complete an information survey about their education, social activities and interest. I use this information to know my students, what interests them, what concerns them about economics, and what they expect from a teacher. The information allows me to adjust my teaching methods and examples for the semester. Although this approach requires flexibility, it makes class more interesting for all. Students are able to relate and understand the material better, and I do not feel like I am teaching the same class every semester.
I believe that students want their voices to be heard, and want to share their thoughts. At the beginning of lectures, or the beginning of a new chapter, I start by having a conversation with the students. Usually, I am sharing a story, an experience, or an article I have read. I use these discussions as a teaching tool; a foundation to build on. Debates and arguments are welcome in my class, a lively discussion peaks students’ interest when they are trying to prove a point or counter a colleague’s argument. They are emotionally and intellectually invested at this point of the lecture. It is my responsibility to keep control of class and lead them towards the economic explanation. Their thoughts and opinions provide me with reference points to revisit throughout the lecture.
The most difficult part of being an educator is evaluating your effectiveness. Therefore, at mid-semester, I ask my students to submit an anonymous evaluation. I review their responses carefully, and during the next class I discuss any adjustments I have considered. In the cases where their requests cannot be met, I acknowledge the request and provide an explanation of why it is not possible. Students appreciate having their voices heard and are receptive to the standards when they are aware of the reasoning. I believe, it is important to set high standards for the class and push students to reach a higher level of academic prowess. Most students are eager to accept the challenge if they know that their efforts are being recognized.
In introductory, classes my objective is to develop a general interest in economics and also develop a strong foundation for students going into business and economic majors. I want students to be inquisitive. My objective is to ensure that students learn the material and are well prepared for future classes and a career in economics. My efforts are focused on developing the students’ intuition, rather than having them resort to memorization. I find that in the pursuit of educating the student, I have learned a lot myself. With each passing semester, I recognize my growth as an educator. However, an effective educator cannot become complacent, success requires a critical evaluation of accomplishments, weaknesses and continuous improvement.