on Student Learning in Economics:
Innovation, Assessment and Classroom Research
|November 7, 2003
Paul Romer “Using Technology so Students Work More (and Professors Work Less)”
Paul Romer –Using web-based experiments and problem sets.
moderated by: Tom Angelo, Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning and founder of the “Symposium of Teaching Assessment and Learning" at The University of Akron
Richard Stratton, Associate Professor, The University of Akron
Joseph Cavanaugh, Wright
State University - Lake
How does this online course work? Logistical Issues Involved Teaching Economics Online
Teaching economics online necessitates dealing with many
challenges not found in a traditional face-to-face course. In particular,
teaching online requires faculty to develop procedures and resources to
deal with special logistical issues. This presentation outlines many of
the logistical problems involved when teaching online and then provides
possible solutions to these problems. Common logistical problems
include; how students will obtain course materials, how testing is administered
to address concerns about cheating, how to include graphing in tests, how
communication occurs between students and instructor, and how student evaluations
Local Residential Sorting and Public Goods Provision: A Classroom Demonstration
Students in undergraduate public finance courses learn
that market provision of public goods is generally inefficient due to the
non-excludable and non-rival characteristics of such goods. Centralized
government provision of locally consumed public goods may also prove inefficient
due to heterogeneous preferences or heterogeneous opportunity costs.
Accordingly, neither centralized nor market institutions are likely to
efficiently provide local public goods. This classroom exercise illustrates
the Tiebout hypothesis that residential sorting across multiple jurisdictions
leads to a more efficient allocation of local public goods (Journal of
Political Economy, 1956). The exercise also demonstrates problems
that arise when certain assumptions of the Tiebout model are not met.
The classroom at first comprises a single community of students with heterogeneous
preferences for a public good (dorm parties); the students determine the
level of taxation to be used for pub lic good provision via a simple voting
mechanism. Next, the classroom divides into two communities, each
of which determines its own level of public good provision. Then
the students have the opportunity to relocate to the community where the
bundle of public goods and taxes better suits their tastes. At first
some students must stay in their original location, but in the final treatment
all students become mobile. After each round of sorting, each community
determines a new level of public good provision. Students see how
welfare rises as sorting becomes more complete. This game highlights
the usefulness of markets in general and the assumptions necessary for
a well-functioning market to reach an efficient outcome. The third
round of the exercise may foster classroom discussion about "white flight"
from inner-city school districts, as it shows how some immobile individuals
become worse off when mobile individuals move.
Using Economic History to Teach Economic Principles
History performs wonderful economic experiments, albeit
not always wonderful for the experiments' involuntary subjects. The Great
Depression of the 1930s is one such "experiment" that illustrates both
macro and micro principles. Many novels, movies, and photographs related
to this period are readily accessible both physically and intellectually
to undergraduate students. In a writing intensive seminar course for first
year students, I use this period as a case study to elucidate the principles
of macroeconomics. Other historical eras and events make attractive case
studies around which to base the principles course.
Gimme Interaction! Utility Maximization in a Nutshell
We have developed three interactive online exercise sets designed to complement the treatment of utility maximization in principles textbooks. Exercise Set 1 deals with indifference curves, Exercise Set 2 deals with the budget constraint, and Exercise Set 3 ties the preceding two together in depicting the solution to the problem of utility maximization for a consumer.
Goals and Methodology:
Each Exercise Set shares the following elements:
The questions posed in Section 3 provide students ample
opportunities to practice solving problems dealing with indifference curves,
budget constraints and the determination of the optimal bundle. In my Principles
courses, I use these Exercise Sets in the class as a means to assess the
students' grasp of basic concepts in utility theory, their ability to perform
arithmetic calculations, and engage in economic reasoning. I make
it quite clear that the Exercise Sets also form the basis for homework
assignments and tests -- thereby encouraging students to attend to the
exercises with greater vigor.
MarketSim: An Internet-Based Simulated Economy for Principles of Microeconomics
Supported through a National Science Foundation grant, five faculty at Youngstown State University have been working on a pair of simulations that student participate in asynchronously over the Internet.
In the first simulation, Jeremy's Market, students take on the role of households in an economy in which each household is a producer and consumer. The households have different utility and production functions, and can trade among themselves. The simulation can be used to illustrate the principles of opportunity cost, utility maximization, and gains from trade.
In the second simulation, Adam's Market, students are responsible for a household and a firm. As a household, the student decides how much labor to sell and how much output to buy. As a firm, the student determines how many units of labor to hire and the amount of output to produce. Firms, optionally, can also purchase capital, change industries, and issue bonds.
The program is designed to service large classes and includes a number of support features to assist the instructor.
Online teaching and learning at IUPUI
The poster would present how students' learning is enhanced when traditional teaching uses an online environment to extend classroom activities. For instance, how discussion forums, chat rooms, and answer to in clas questions on-line allow students to express their thoughts , apply their knowledge and go beyond the time and space limits imposed by the classroom.
Money Simulation on the Web
In order to assist students in understanding the money creation examples presented in principle textbooks, a simulation program was developed to give them a chance to follow the creation of new money in the banking system. The program offers the student the chance to repeat the exercise until they have mastered the concepts. Once the student is satisfied with their score, they then email the results to the teacher. The students are also given an accomodating worksheet that shows the balance sheets appearing in the program. The worksheet gives the students a working copy of the responses they entered into the program. Since using this interactive web program, students have scored higher on the average on the section of their economics exam covering money creation.
Helping Beginners Teach Economics
Beginning teachers need more lecture examples, applications,
and discussion topics. Beginning students need a structure on which
to hang the wealth of information in an economics course. UIC's
12 economics classic contributions, "What Everyone Should Know About Economic
Theory," is part of a support website for beginning teachers. It
includes favorite examples, interactive classroom exercises, discussion
articles, and suggested questions. Designed for UIC beginning economics
teachers, it is up on a secure website at UIC as part of their mentoring
Service Learning in Economics--One Department's Experience
Our poster outlines the different service learning projects our department has implemented within some of its courses (Principles of Microeconomics, Environmental Issues, Economics of Race and Gender, Labor Economics, and Econometrics). A description under each course will describe the project/assignment, its role in the course, and the community, and some of the critical outcomes.
Interactive exercises in consumer theory using a virtual consumer
In the past decade, there has been considerable interest in using computer-based learning tools to complement economics teaching at various levels. In this poster we present a novel suite of interactive computer-based exercises in consumer theory. In these exercises students interact with a virtual consumer (HAL) to learn about his preferences through structured question-answer sessions. Then the students use their findings to make predictions about the consumption patterns of the virtual consumer.
In the first set of exercises the students are asked to
estimate HAL s indifference curve that passes through a given bundle X
by asking HAL to rank various consumption choices. Optionally the program
can help students to visualize HAL s answers by automatically constructing
a set of bundles preferred to X and a set of bundles that X is preferred
to, under the monotonicity (and optionally convexity) assumption on preferences.
The students are then asked to apply their findings to answer a series
of questions in consumer choice theory such as: given the price vector
below, find the bundles that are cheaper than X but preferred to X by HAL.
In a related exercise the students are told that HAL s preferences are
one of the idealized cases (perfect complement or perfect substitute).
With this prior information they are asked to discover the indifference
map and make consumption predictions using their findings. In the second
set of exercises the students are given a consumption c!
In each case the instructor can easily modify the underlying
utility functions or make it a random choice between previously determined
options so that each student will get a different set of exercises. We
observed that most students are intrigued by the investigative nature of
these exercises. The exercises helped them to improve and test their understanding
of consumer theory. The experiments with the virtual consumer also illustrate
the students how we can learn about the consumers preferences by
observing the choices made by them and the value of this information in
making policy decisions.
An Exercise in Hard Choices
For over 20 years, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (www.crfb.org) has been sponsoring An Exercise in Hard ChoicesSM, a budget debate that asks participants to role-play members of Congress as they deliberate over the current year’s budget. The University of Akron is now piloting electronic versions of the Exercise and the Exercise scorecard in order to increase citizen and student access to the debate.
We invite you to use the Exercise with your classes, either
in a traditional face-to-face version (normally taking three hours to complete)
or in one of three electronic versions:
For more information:
Department of Economics
The University of Akron
Dr. Michael Nelson
Dr. Steven C. Myers
Sponsored By: Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc., Committee On Economic Education, American Economic Association, APLIA, Inc., The University of Akron Institute For Teaching And Learning, and The H. Kenneth Barker Center For Economic Education at The University of Akron.