To describe my teaching methods, the actual material and level are needed to describe how I teach. I have taught introductory level and upper level courses and have found that different strategies are needed to be an effective teacher. Because of the material, as well as the make-up of the students, I have had to adjust my teaching style for each course. Economics is a discipline with differing layers of understanding. Dependent upon the course, one may need to dig deeper in the understanding of the material which requires me to make adjustments to my style of teaching.
This section describes how I teach in class and why I chose the methods I use. For in-class examples, the Courses section has archived websites of courses I have taught which includes some combination of lecture notes, quizzes, exams, writing assignments, and syllabus.
For introductory level courses, the depth of economic inquiry need not exceed a basic understanding of concepts. These courses are typically sampling platters of either Macroeconomics or Microeconomics where a multitude of topics are discussed at a faint understanding so as to introduce the student to what questions economics can address. There are core ideas that students should learn in these courses (supply and demand, GDP, Taylor curve, etc.), but the most important theme for an introductory course is to give students exposure to all of the questions that economics can answer.
My lecture style in an introductory level course is to first assign readings from a textbook and use class time to highlight the important points in a different way than the textbook does. I want to give the students different ways of understanding the material so that I accommodate all of the different learning styles of the students. I try to give as many real world examples of the material that is covered so that students understand that the course is meant to help them with their future courses and professional development. Sometimes students can struggle with material that they cannot see the application for, and so I strive to keep the material grounded and not just abstract concepts.
In evaluating student performance, I have found the most effective strategy is to be transparent with the students on what materials will be covered and tested on in the course. By having a solid outline of the course, I am able to get a solid understanding of the concepts I want to focus on and additionally focus on questions about those concepts. This can help students understand the key concepts to learn as it is necessary for them to understand those concepts in order to have satisfactory performance in the course. An introductory course covers such a large amount of information that exams need to be straightforward to gain insight in to the amount of material a student understands.
At higher level courses, concepts need to be heavily addressed and the level of comprehension for the student should be high in order to satisfactorily pass. These courses will be able to have prerequisites to have a starting point for the class. I have found that even though prerequisites are there, this does not necessarily mean the students have a solid foundation for the courses needed and so a review is undoubtedly needed. It is important to have your class start off on the same page and to take some time for a review of needed material. As John Wooden once said, “if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
Creating a solid start point sets forth the expectations of the class and establishes that you want the students to learn. When students recognize that the teacher really wants them to learn, then the students will reciprocate this. If the students are not engaging in the classroom, then there is no teaching going on. The goal is to engage with the students so that you can stimulate academic discussion and better focus on the material at hand. In order for this to happen, one needs to be cognizant that the amount of material covered in the course may not be as much as planned or that different material may be covered instead.
To evaluate an upper level course, the quality of performance on an exam or paper is the best indicator. However, some students are more suited for exams while others papers and even some students are outstanding with dialogue but not so much with conventional methods of evaluation. Because of this, I find it necessary to evaluate student using all three methods as a way to gauge their level of understanding.
The NC State Graduate School has been instrumental in helping me develop my methods. Specifically, the Fundamentals in Teaching Workshops have been beneficial to my development of courses. I have used these workshops to improve in creating assignments for students, my performance within the classroom, my interaction with students outside of the classroom, and how I evaluate and grade students. Each time I attend a workshop I write a reflection on what I have learned and how I implement the workshop into teaching. The workshops that I have attended so far are:
- Academic Misconduct - define academic integrity and academic dishonesty, identify strategies for promoting academic honesty in the classroom, identify resources for detecting academic dishonesty, and be familiar with procedures for reporting academic dishonesty on campus.
- Active Learning - define active learning, compare and contrast active v.s. passive learning, practice and evaluate a variety of active learning techniques, identify ways to establish a classroom environment that supports active learning, and discuss the benefits and challenges of active learning.
- Evaluation and Grading - define evaluation, discuss the different types of grading rubrics, compare the pros and cons of rubric, practice creating a rubric for an assignment, practice giving constructive feedback, and discuss best practices in grading and evaluation.
- Introduction to Teaching - designed to introduce participants to the fundamentals of effective teaching and learning in the university classroom through exploration, application, and reflection. This workshop is designed to provide basic information about a variety of teaching topics and to offer “best practices” for enhancing teaching and learning in the university classroom.
- Managing Disruptive Classroom Behavior - define disruptive behavior, learn practical skills, theory and examples of how the tools can be applied in their classrooms, effectively work with disruptive students in the classroom setting, explain the basic concepts of motivational enhancement therapy as applied to the classroom, and discuss the do’s and don’ts when working with students who are frustrated and unmotivated.
- Teaching in the Lab -how to budget your time wisely – have a lesson plan, establish ground rules, create a positive classroom climate, and foster group work and discussion.
I have found myself questioning my current methods after each workshop I attended, which helps me get rid of bad habits and continually refine my skills. Each of the links to the workshops I have attended are a description of the workshop as well as a short reflection on how the workshop has helped me as a teacher.