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As an instructor in economics at both the graduate and undergraduate level I find that it’s very important for my students to leave the course with not only competency in the course material, but the tools to succeed in future courses or endeavors. I also seek for them to be able to effectively communicate economic ideas and to be able to evaluate competing claims using economic principles learned in the course. To this end, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, it is important that students are exposed to current research in the field. Finally I aim to create an environment where students are constantly being challenged yet feel free to collaborate and ask questions in order to rise to that standard.
As a TA for graduate students in Macroeconomic Analysis I and Macroeconomic Analysis II, I’ve found the importance of having a solid foundation in micro-founded macroeconomic principles, rather than traditional ISLM analysis. Many students would struggle as they had never been exposed to more modern micro-founded models, which are now the standard in the field. As an instructor for Intermediate Macroeconomics, I focus on teaching them a micro-founded approach building a model from the most basic level, to a more general equilibrium framework. I make sure that at the undergraduate level they are exposed to and understand at a fundamental level the most basic general equilibrium models. I do this first so that they understand and can evaluate macroeconomic statements made by economists and secondly so if they wish to pursue advanced studies in economics they are prepared to do so. I evaluate their mastery of the material through guided homework questions, in class participation and finally exams. With the final aim being that students gain a good competency of the material and have valuable feedback in order to better understand what they may be missing in their comprehension and application of the materials.
Effective communication of ideas is imperative in today’s society. To this end in my time as a Teachers Assistant for both Advanced Econometrics and PhD Macroeconomic Theory I make sure to constantly ask students to lead me through problems and solutions during my recitation sections. I continued this during my discussion sections for Intermediate Macroeconomics. I would give students new problems to solve during the discussion section and have them answer the problem in class. When they had difficulty, rather than giving them the answer, I would try to lead them to the correct answer through questions hoping to build their confidence and to get them to think more critically about the course material. I did this so that they both gained competency in the course material but also to allowed them to learn to effectively communicate the idea. Finally my exams, are all short answer based exams emphasizing explanations, an example of which can be seen here and here. In the future I hope to expand upon this by having students pursue a paper linking macroeconomic principles with current events, in my undergraduate course.
Staying current with research is imperative for graduate students as they prepare to pursue a career in the field. However, it is just as necessary for undergraduate students so they can at least interact with professionals in the field in a coherent and educated manner. At the graduate level, as a Teaching Assistant, I would interact with students, either in lectures during discussion sections or in officer hours, as they learned about current research methods and tools, helping them understand and master their use. At the undergraduate level, I’d make sure to emphasize in my lectures different current papers that referenced each topic we would be covering and went over their content and findings. One example of this is through the teaching of modern search and matching models. I made sure to not only teach them the basics of a model with structural unemployment but also emphasized recent additions to the literature. These additions were chosen to give context to the model, as I wanted students to see how the field is developing and that all economics is not just simple toy models. I also structured the class around referencing back to macroeconomic variable movements and emphasizing the building of models to help explain those mechanisms. The idea being to emphasize that good theory is both testable and backed by relevant empirical data. Students tended to appreciate this relation back to the real world and felt this made the material more relatable than in the abstract.
Knowing that most learning is not done on our own, I encourage students to collaborate on homework assignments, by promoting and facilitating the creation of study groups, and making the homework assignments challenging extensions of the course material. Also recognizing the problem based structure of economics I’d encourage students to go back and rework their mistakes. One example of this was in my Intermediate Macroeconomics course, when the class did poorly on the exam I had students go back and rework the problems on the exam with each other, in order to qualify for the curve. This served two purposes, one was to help the students learn from their mistakes and the second was to help reinforce the material so that they would better understand this. This in turn showed itself on the final as almost every student had significant improvement in their comprehension of the material. Students tended to respect this approach despite the difficulty of the course, as evidenced by the evaluations I received which can be viewed here.
Finally I recognize that course syllabi should not be static from year to year and I’m constantly looking for feedback in order to improve my pedagogy. I am currently enrolled in the Certificate in College Teaching program at Duke, which among other things involves a peer review teaching triangle program as well as courses in college teaching. I constantly value any feedback I receive from students and attempt to adapt my courses as time goes on to more effectively teach material. I hope to continue to evolve as an instructor and find new methods for both challenging my students and fostering an environment for discovery in my classes.