In the previous posting, I asked the question: what is the product of a course, more specifically, what are the course’s objectives? The point I think I reached was that course objectives are often abstract ideas that don’t help students understand what they need to learn. Let’s see if we can do better.
Let’s start by observing that what we’re looking for is general guidelines, not some bulleted list of items that can be checked off. In other words, this is probably not the recipe for an A in the course. It may be necessary, but it’s probably not sufficient.
The objectives in principles of economics include some combination of skills and content. Content probably includes definitions of concepts in economics, institutional facts or findings and major theories or models. The definitions could include, what is opportunity cost? What is a budget deficit? What is monetary policy? The institutional facts could include, U.S. monetary policy is conducted by the Federal Reserve (an institutional fact), or U.S. monetary policy from 2001 until 2004 was generally expansionary (an institutional finding). The major theories could include the theories of supply and demand, and the income-expenditure model of the macro economy. I expect you could come up with examples from your own discipline.
Relevant skills could include the ability to correctly apply the concepts and institutional facts, for example the ability to answer the question, what is the opportunity cost of partying the night before your midterm exam? The highest order skill would be the ability to apply economic theories or models to derive insights about some issue or problem. For example, what do the theories of supply and demand predict would be the impact on the price of oil of growth in the middle classes in India and China? What does the income-expenditure model of the macro economy predict would be the outcome of reducing the size of the U.S. budget deficit?
If a student understood that my course was organized according to this schema:
- Definitions of concepts
- Institutional facts or findings
- Major theories or models
- Ability to apply the concepts and institutional facts and findings
Ability to apply economic theories or models to derive insights about some issue or problem,
I think they would have a better chance of learning what the course offers.