A Couple Steps Backward?

Class didn’t work out like I planned today. It wasn’t a disaster; it just could have been better on a couple of fronts. I was introducing the students to comparative economic systems, in other words, alternative ways for a society to deal with the economic problem. The material, unfortunately, isn’t in the text so the students weren’t prepared to discuss it. Fair enough, I planned on briefly lecturing on the material, supporting the lecture with a slide presentation illustrating elements of traditional, command, and market economies.

1. First, the more worrisome problem. Because the students lacked background as part of the introduction I drew connections with material we had studied earlier this semester. The economic problem involves decisions about resource allocation and distribution of goods and services. Resource allocation is a buzz word (or phrase) that students hear a lot, but don’t really understand–I’m not sure the phrase is defined per se in the texts. So, as part of my definition, I drew on a concept from Topic 1, something which I did not cover in class since it’s explained very clearly in the text. Fortunately, the class correctly identified it in the first metacognitive activity as a major concept. The concept was the production possibilities frontier. I was dismayed to find that students couldn’t really explain the concept. They understood it only in a very low level sense, recognition rather than explanation. This is a concept that classes in earlier years would have known cold–at least in part because I lectured on it. What am I to make of this?

2. The second concern–this one I know how to fix, at least. As I mentioned above, I put together a slide show using images I obtained from colleagues in Anthropology and History, as well as ones I found myself. I didn’t have enough time to put into the preparation of this class; the result was that I’m not happy with the delivery that occurred. I had images and I had lecture comments. What I didn’t do very well was integrate the two. What I should have done was figure out how to use particular images to illustrate particular points I was making. Oh well, I’ll try to do better next time.

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3 Responses to A Couple Steps Backward?

  1. Jeff says:

    As one of the image providers, I feel an odd sense of guilt that your session didn’t work. Maybe I could have given you better images? Feel free to blame it on me. 🙂

    More seriously, in terms of your concern about your students’ lack of knowledge about a concept already learned, is there some way to test the depth of their understanding of (at least what they identify as) these key concepts (and before the first test which is coming soon, I think)? [Apologies for the convoluted sentence. It’s been a long day of grading papers.]

  2. Steve says:


    You bear no responsibility. It’s really a question of how to use the images I had–since I’ve not really done this before, I don’t yet have a really strong feel for how to integrate my comments with the images. I do know more now, than I did before Friday’s presentation–in fact, I had that realization moments after class was done. I expect to do a better job when I continue the presentation on Monday.

    – Steve

  3. Jerry says:

    Are the online quizzes not testing student understanding of key concepts? If they are not, maybe a short one in Blackboard can reinforce the things they need to know on a deeper level.

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