Today, I had a very successful class in both sections of my intro course. The material I presented was my take on the “economic way of thinking” (the methodological approach used by economists), which I boiled down to six principles of microeconomics. I put the six principles on powerpoint slides, which were linked to the course syllabus. I encouraged students to listen rather than write down the principles since they were available on-line. When I use powerpoint in class, I tend to be a minimalist, using the slides only as an outline of my remarks. I think that provides structure for the students, while at the same time they still have to pay attention to what I have to say.
I fleshed out the principles in detail, going well beyond what was on the slides, providing examples that I worked thru on the board. I made two digressions from the powerpoint to webpages off-campus to collect some real world data to illustrate points I was making. Then at the end, I played a podcast from Slate.com which illustrated rational decision making. For homework, I asked students to review the podcast, which was also linked to the syllabus and to try to explain the story in the context of economic rationality.
My point in blogging about this is not that bells & whistles make a better class experience. Rather, the guiding principle was something that I learned at a teaching workshop in 1994–that students learn more effectively from mini-lectures interspersed with other activities. Additionally, since students have different learning styles, I hoped to reach more students than I would have with a traditional 50 minute lecture.