This final post on the DEE09 conference follows on from looking at how Sherlock Holmes can be used in economics education and how to combine technology, research and the financial crisis into economics teaching to consider the conference keynotes.
Robert Chote is Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and despite his self effacing introduction that he is a journalist who has seen the economic light, he delivered an analysis of Fiscal Policy and the Crisis that any economist would have been proud of.
Chote began by suggesting that the crisis we are currently in would have been regarded as a bizarre happening from a parallel universe that might have been a theoretical sidebar in textbook a few years ago.
He went on to outline the role counterfactuals are going to play in the analysis of the crisis – what would have happened without various policy interventions – we won’t know for sure, but he suggested that the temporary VAT cut may produce 20 years of PhDs!
Turning to the specifics of the crisis, he characterised the British stimulus package as short and small by international standards, showed that there will be more borrowing and more structural debt, with long term debt not returning to pre-crisis levels until 2030.
With the economy set to be 5% less productive, falls in share and house prices locked in, plus a less productive financial sector the IFS view seems to be that we are in for two terms of pain, seemingly regardless of who wins the next election.
The return to balance is focussed around spending cuts with 80% of the burden falling there and just 20% coming through tax rises.
The various tinkerings with tax rates makes the schedule for 2011-2012 look like the side of a train or Battersea power station ie not something you would find in any economic model.
He reflected on his experience as an employer of economics graduates and noted a wide variation in their writing skills / ability to explain economics to a wider audience. He exhorted academics to do more to get students engaged with areas of economics where there is no consensus.
The other keynotes featured Rachel Lomax former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England who told delegates that looking at price stability and individual institutions will not be enough to prevent another crisis – but that with no unanimity about new tools to combat future crises, economics needs creative thinkers now more than ever.
Vicky Pryce of the Government Economic Service emphasised the importance of not separating micro and macroeconomics completely – policy interventions may depend on the spending decisions of individual consumers – so the economics graduates of tomorrow need to make swift judgements from incomplete information if they are to make an impact on policy.
All three keynote speakers noted the rise in interest in economics the crisis has sparked. Applications to universities are up 20% and the IFS have gone electronic to cope with the number of applications they receive.
It seems as though academia may see an upside to the crisis after all.
Following on from the last post looking at the potential for Sherlock Holmes to change economics teaching at the DEE09 conference, this post looks at how technology, economic research and the financial crisis be successfully combined into a new way of teaching.
When someone talks positively of their use of technology, I sense a fellow spirit – so when Steve Greenlaw started his session by saying that “I use IT tools, that’s just the way I teach” he got my attention.
The session on Teaching as Modeling Disciplinary Practice told the tale of how Greenlaw used the opportunity of the international financial crisis, as a way of turning a course into a research based collaborative learning experience, using technology.
With the crisis unfolding as the course was being taught, the normal part of the teaching programme was delivered in an accelerated manner with assigned note takers covering each session and circulating their work for group approval, akin to agreed minutes of meetings.
The class quickly moved on to researching the financial crisis as it unfolded. They did so as a group, with content being shared and written up using wikis. Book reviews and notes were shared with the group, so the tutor guides a research process – enabling them to react to events as they emerge.
Sessions became brainstorming exercises that explored what was known and unknown about specific topics, assigned research tasks and fed back in a loop to produce informal, then formal write-ups of topics.
The final project sought to write-up everything that had been researched and disseminate it for the benefit of a wider audience. The resulting website on the 2008 Financial Crisis & Global Recession provides a summary, subject based articles and a timeline of key events relating to the crisis.
The course was assessed on just two criteria – engagement and insights provided to the group – “not what you learn but how you teach us” – with students reflecting on their individual contribution to the group research process and making a pitch for their final grade.
Other papers from the parallel sessions at the DEE09 conference included:
TRUE (Teaching Resources for Undergraduate Economics) an Economics Network project to bring together Open Educational Resources in a number of key areas for level 2 and level 3 teaching.
Connections in Political Economy a collection of key resources for the study political economy including key readings, audiovisual resources, sample chapters and reviews.
Enabling Students to Compare Theories in Media Stories about the Economy by getting students beyond memorising and recalling economic models by looking for the feedback loops and dependencies that are often assumed within media coverage of economic issues.
Coverage of the DEE09 conference will conclude with the keynote speeches, including Robert Chote of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
What has Sherlock Holmes got to do with teaching economics? Possibly, quite a lot. It’s one of the many thought provoking insights that I got from attending the DEE09 conference last week …
Daniel Blackshields of University College Cork presented a paper on how he uses the Sherlock Holmes Investigative Model (SHIM) to teach students to approach economics in an investigative fashion.
Poster from the SHIM session – a full sized image is also available.
This 12 week performance workshop for arts economics students uses a detective motif to get students thinking about economics in a different way, to reflect on how they are thinking / learning and hands over ownership of the process by asking students to apply the model themselves.
Blackshields intrigues them by using examples from the popular TV series CSI, strips out the technology by going back to Sherlock Holmes, relates it to economics by citing the economics detective Henry Spearman and shows how to use it in economics research with examples from popular texts such as Freakonomics.
Students are shown that economics tries to deal with uncertainty, but that the action of looking for clues and deciding which are relevant can lead to pattern recognition. This leads on to them formulating a hypothesis and gives them a working conjecture to test – much like Holmes and his use of deduction – so that students should never guess, but always follow the evidence.
It was a thoroughly charming presentation that turned upside down notions of traditional teaching methods, as well as acting as a reminder that out own Internet Detective may have some wider application.
This part of the programme also featured work on Linking Research and Teaching in Economics by Linda Juleff of Napier University. She introduced us to the case studies from Economics Network in this area that have come out of their regular lecturer surveys.
Michael Watts of Purdue University galloped through an impressive array of survey data from the United States looking at Time Allocations and Reward Structures for U.S. Academic Economists from 1995-2005 – suggesting that males, professors and non-native English speakers get to spend more time on research than others.
This parallel session gave a comprehensive look at the numbers behind, attitudes towards and teaching of economics research, with the skill of the presenters making it seem, quite elementary, my dear Watson!
This is my DEE Conference presentation about podcasting in economics. More to follow on the day!
Below is a presentation that is part of the DEE session on Economics 2.0.
It covers the topic of student use of online information and the slides are available at SlideShare.
It looks at some of the key issues around student use of online resources and introduces delegates to the Internet for Economics – a tutorial on internet research skills for students of Economics.
Delegates who teach in combined Business / Economics departments might like to know that there is a separate tutorial covering the Internet for Business and Management as part of the Intute Virtual Training Suite.
Links mentioned in the presentations are tagged as dee09 on Delicious.