A Proficiencies-Based Economics Major —

Its Architecture and Artistry



W. Lee Hansen

University of Wisconsin-Madison




For Presentation at Midwest Conference on Student Learning


University of Akron

  November 4-5, 2004








“Teaching is telling,

Knowledge is facts,

Learning is recall.”


—David K. Cohen


Figure 1


Expected Proficiencies for Economics Majors


(1) Access existing knowledge

(2) Display command of existing knowledge

(3) Interpret existing knowledge

(4) Interpret and manipulate economic data

(5) Apply existing knowledge

(6) Create new knowledge







Figure 2


Liberal Education



“Breadth”-- General Education


   High School Prerequisites            

   General Education Required Courses

   Distribution of Required Courses         


“Depth”-- Disciplinary Major


   Advanced Course Prerequisites

   Required Courses in Major

   Distribution of Courses in Major


A “Liberally Educated Graduate”


   Completion of Course Requirements

   Completion of Major Requirements

   Satisfactory Grade Point Average

Figure 3


                        Its Architecture


  Knowledge for its

     Own Sake

  Liberal Education                                        

  Career Preparation    

  General Education



General Education




Proficiencies in                                            The Major



Instructor Assessment

  Mastery of Content

  Demonstrate Proficiencies


Student Self-Assessment

  Mastery of Content

  Demonstrate Proficiencies

  Student Satisfaction




Figure 4


Proficiencies-Course Linkages



Focus on Proficiencies

by Course Level


Hierarchy Of                  Proficiencies             

Courses           1     2     3     4     5     6


Introductory x     x     x


Intermediate       x     x     x     x  


Advanced                     x     x     x     x


Capstone                                   x     x



Figure 5




Building the Structure









Student Involvement

  And Responsibility



Nurturing the




Learning &










Table 6

Assessing the Proficiencies


Baseline information (1st weel)


Early assessment (4th week)

Student-led assessment


End of course assessment (final week)

Mastery of Content Knowledge

Mastery of Proficiencies


Student satisfaction with learning [course/professor]



Post-course Followup ??

Figure 7


The Elements of Artistry


Purpose &



Training &



Leadership &


Figure 8

Putting Together the Pieces


Learning & Practice


Statement of Learning Objectives

Texts, Readings, Guides to Learning

Selection of Learning Opportunities

Alignment of Learning Opportunities in Course Syllabus

Focused and coordinated reading assignments

Progress of lecture topics

Formally structured discussion sections

Writing-thinking: summaries, questions

Writing-applying: application to current issues

Student preparation of practice exam questions

Developing proficiencies via learning opportunities