A Purer Version of Just-in-Time Teaching

Yesterday I set my alarm a little early to have enough time first thing in the morning to collect and sort the questions for Chapter 6. This was the first chapter that was beyond introductory material, so I wanted to do a good job and I expected the students to have different sorts of questions.

While there was the usual variety of questions asked, there were also a few issues flagged by many students. Eleven groups raised questions about the Cobb-Douglas production function which was used by the author to make the issues more concrete in the chapter. Five groups asked for clarification about the difference between returns to a variable factor of production and returns to scale. Five groups asked about scaled output, and four groups asked about factor-augmenting technical progress.

As I drove the hour to school, I found myself thinking about how to organize the material raised by the students’ questions. I ended up drafting a rough lecture on that material. Then in class, unlike in previous sessions where I simply went through and answered the questions they raised from the chapter, this time I gave a more organized presentation, essentially a stand-alone subset of the material covered in the chapter.

At one point, a student spoke out, “Hey, that point wasn’t in the chapter, was it?” I thought amusedly that I’d never had to defend bringing “outside” material into the class before.

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