Gerald Jaynes, Professor of Economics and African American Studies, has been teaching fearlessly at Yale for more than 30 years. He currently teaches popular courses in the Economics of Discrimination, Poverty under Postindustrial Capitalism, and Social Science of the Black Community, and is always experimenting with new ideas in the classroom.
The first thing I do after every one of my lectures is write what I call a post-mortem. it’s just a little text file that captures what worked that day, what didn’t, and any ideas I have for improvement next time. It sits right next to my PowerPoint slides and the notes that guided me through those slides.
Last fall I spent a fair bit of time analyzing the determinants of midterm performance (e.g., attendance and video lecture watching) in my big econometrics class. It was difficult to interpret many of the results because of the classic correlation does not equal causation problem. For example, I really wanted to know how time spent studying affected scores, and found that reported hours spent studying was negatively correlated with scores. I think it is unlikely that the causal effect of an additional hour of studying is negative and it is much more likely that the students having the most trouble with the material were the ones who studied the most. And then there’s the fact that quality of studying matters at least as much as quanitity.
In this episode we’re joined by Boris Kapustin, one of the most highly regarded teachers in Yale’s Ethics, Politics, and Economics Program. We talk about how he leads seminars on political theory, connects philosophy to historical events, and changes how students think about the world they live in.
Two weeks ago I attended and presented at the annual economics symposium organized by the Economics Students Association of the Tecnológico de Monterrey (aka “Tec”). They could not have been more gracious hosts, and I met so many terrific students and scholars. I was also very impressed with the education these students are getting.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to talk to several folks at universities outside the United States about teaching. It’s been eye-opening to see some big differences with how we do things at Yale. Just two weeks ago, a fact-finding contingent visited from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), an institution that has a much more top down approach to education.
Much of the best teaching at Yale is done by our language instructors, and on this episode we are joined by Theresa Schenker, senior lector and director of the German language program. Theresa shares her general approach to teaching as well as many ways she gets students creatively engaged in her classroom including telecollaboration, movie making, and web quests.
Several departments at Yale provide amazing structured support for their students writing senior essays. Environmental Studies provides a detailed Senior Essay Handbook as well as a full year colloquium where students get support for developing research questions, writing, discussing and presenting. In Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, students do a junior seminar on theory and methods followed by a full year senior colloquium that focuses on writing an excellent senior essay.