Teach Better

Looking Back on a Semester-long Creative Project

- - posted in economics, groupwork, lecture, teaching

Intermediate Microeconomic Theory is the backbone of the undergraduate economics curriculum. This is where students learn the core mathematical models of the discipline, how to analyze them, and how to choose an appropriate model for a given scenario. These are essential skills for a working economist, and provide a window into how economists think. That said, economics is equal parts analysis and creativity. Students should also learn and practice constructing new models and extending models they’ve seen before. This spring I tried to incorporate these skills into the course through a semester-long creative project. Here’s what happened.

Pushing the Envelope on the Last Day of Class

- - posted in economics, review, teaching

By the last class of the semester, everyone involved is usually pretty tired, and it can be a challenge to keep students engaged when you are reviewing material they’ve already seen. Instead of giving a greatest hits of the semester, I like to have students work through problems that combine multiple topics. This time around, I decided to up the ante and make the problems a little provocative.

Podcast Episode 54: Social Media and Teaching with Drew Margolin

- - posted in episode, podcast

In this episode we are joined by Professor Drew Margolin from the Cornell Communications Department. Drew is an expert on the role of technology in communication and in particular social media. During our wide-ranging conversation he shares his thoughts on the growing importance of social media in our lives and our students’ lives, as well as how he uses Twitter to engage students in the classroom.

Music in the Classroom

- - posted in music, teaching

I love music and I’ve always been a little jealous when I hear about other faculty who play songs before class that relate to the topics of the day. George Chauncey famously played gay anthems before his U.S. Lesbian and Gay History lectures at Yale. I’ve heard Anna Haskins sets the tone for Intro Sociology lectures with music here at Cornell. And both Dirk Mateer and Rebecca Stein connect songs to the topic of the day in introductory economics classes.

Podcast Episode 53: What’s a Course? With Edward and Doug

- - posted in episode, podcast

In this episode we go conceptual and talk about a new way Edward has devised to categorize courses into three distinct types. The first, Interpret-and-Explain is common in the humanities, business schools, and some advanced courses in the social sciences. The second, Explain-and-Predict is the predominant type in the sciences where theories, models, and methods are central. The third type, Plan-and-Create is the primary mode of many arts and engineering courses. We look back at our past episodes for good examples of each, and discuss when and why you might want to teach using a method that’s atypical for your discipline. At the end we go meta and try to fit our podcast into this ontology and ruminate on our goals for the podcast.

Podcast Episode 52: Teams and Game Design with Walker White

- - posted in episode, podcast

Walker White has one of the coolest jobs in higher ed. He directs Cornell’s Game Design Initiative, and teaches beginning and advanced game design classes in the computer science department. In this episode we go deep inside Walker’s introductory games course for programmers, writers, and artists. He tells us how he organizes his students in heterogeneous teams, gives them copious feedback, and helps each team build a brand new playable game by the end of the semester.

Podcast Episode 51: Writing in the Community with Stephanie Bower and John Murray

- - posted in episode, podcast

Stephanie Bower and John Murray teach writing at the University of Southern California, and have been co-teaching “Writing in the Community” for almost 10 years. Their students are matched with community groups where they write essays and research papers, and create short video documentaries about and with community members. The experience is powerful for all involved, and in our conversation John and Stephanie give us the behind the scenes perspective. This is a great episode for anyone who teaches writing or is interested in giving students extra motivation to work on their assignments.

Podcast Episode 50: Active Learning with Peter LePage

- - posted in episode, podcast

Peter LePage from the Cornell Physics Department joins us on our extra special 50th episode to talk about active learning pedagogy. He shares his first teaching experiences, his introduction to physics education research, and why he believes students benefit from problem solving and discussion in class. We also talk about the Active Learning Inititive, a program Peter started at Cornell that was inspired by Carl Wieman’s Science Education Initiative. Both programs aim to change the culture of teaching in higher education by giving departments large grants to radically overhaul how they teach their undergraduate courses.