A week ago, I began to have serious misgivings about this experiment. I realized I actually had to decide what I was going to do in class next week. It stopped being a theoretical exercise and became real to me. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to go ahead with this–it would be so easy to just teach the way I’ve always taught, and done a decent job of it I might add.
But the problem was the blog. At least a couple people read this and so I couldn’t just back out. So, I sat down and prepared. It’s hard to think about what meta activities to do in class–to spend the time talking about what I want the students to do, rather than doing it for them. Or discussing what they got out of their own work, and what they need help with.
I am now ready for the first week. (I’ll think I’ll need to prep a week at a time to be ready to either fill time or the opposite, at least until I get the rhythm of the course down.) Tomorrow is the first day of class. I will do the usual getting to know each other stuff, and I will show students where the syllabus is on Blackboard, but I won’t go over the syllabus as I usually do. Instead, I will assign that to them with a quiz on Wednesday. The quiz will count very little but I want to show students I’m serious about them doing the work. I will talk about the experimental nature of the course and I will give them my Practical Economics Quiz to see what they know already. I used my learning schema to construct the quiz and ran it by a number of colleagues to attempt to validate it. I will give it again the last day of class to show students what they have learned. Wednesday I will introduce the two sets of metacognitive activities I hope they will do regularly this semester. I will also explain to them that “Economics is Not Arithmetic,” that there are different degrees of knowing something (with apologies to Benjamin Bloom) and that I hope to lead them to the higher orders of cognition, but that to get there they will need to complete the meta activities. (It doesn’t sound much like economics does it? More on that point below.) Friday, I will lead a discussion on “What is economics?” drawing on what they bring to college, rather than what they’ve read in the text. (The first reading assignment will be for the following week.) I will conclude with a slide show of images illustrating the economic problem: famine in Niger, homelessness in India, and then some scenes closer to home, including the list of fees for a semester at UMW.
I found some words of wisdom on a podcast from the NLII Spring Focus Sessions. Paraphrasing from Bob Beichner’s presentation, my goal this semester is to teach my intro students to think. If I can do that, they can learn the economics themselves.
Into the breach.