We break new ground in this episode as we talk to Dr. Anael Alston, the superintendent of schools in Hamilton, NY. He has a master’s and doctorate in education from Columbia, and has worked his way up to his current position, starting as a substitute teacher in the New York state system. Anael shares his inspirational journey and the many things he’s learned along the way about teaching at all levels.
In this episode we are joined by Steve Pond from the Cornell music department. Steve is an ethnomusicologist and among other things he studies jazz and the musics of the African diaspora. He plays drums with Cornell’s Brazilian music group Deixa Sambar, and he teaches wide range of courses from freshman writing seminars to graduate theory. His teaching style is highly improvisational. He prepares a rich set of topics and supporting materials for each class, but puts them together in a unique blend depending on his audience, mood, the questions that come up that particular day. During our conversation Steve shares many examples of how he mixes technical jargon, vernacular language, and profound ideas in ways that engage today’s students.
The vision: Four 2-year teaching postdocs working with faculty over five years to radically transform an entire undergraduate economics core curriculum with active learning pedagogy.
Our guest in this episode is organizational psychologist David Berg. He has taught in the Yale School of Management and is currently a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the Yale School of Medicine. David teaches students new ways to look at how organizations function through examples from their own lives. His classes look far more like organic conversations than traditional lectures, and students rave about how much they learn. We certainly learned a lot in our conversation.
Intermediate Micro Theory is a required course for all economics majors. Grades are typically based exclusively on problem sets and exams. I just posted this rather unconventional assignment for my Intermediate Micro students. They will work on it throughout the semester. I have no idea how it will go, but it will be fun to find out!
Since the beginning, the Teach Better Podcast has included pretty good show notes along with our episodes. This has mostly been the work of my cohost Edward O’Neill, who also handles all our audio production. In these notes, we provide references and links to resources we mention in our conversations. We also break every episode into 5-10 minute chunks and give you a rough sense of the content of each. As of today that these chunks are individually playable from the website!
Introductory economics courses usually include a lot of handwaving. Students learn the basic concepts (e.g., supply and demand), but the math involved is pretty simplistic. That all changes in Intermediate Micro where students build and analyze serious mathematical models using calculus. I’m teaching this course right now, and I’m using MobLab to mix in some fun experiential learning.