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.
Peter Rich, from Cornell’s Policy Analysis and Management Department, just finished his first year of college teaching. In this episode we focus on his big undergraduate class: Social Problems in America. Peter generously shares how he prepared, how it went, and what he learned from the experience.
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.
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.
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.
In Fall of 2016 I played songs before each and every one of my 27 Applied Econometrics lectures. They weren’t exactly inspired by the subject, but each one has some connection to the topic of the day. You can also find a slightly abridged (i.e., no Tool) version of the playlist on Spotify. If you don’t like Spotify, there are Youtube links below.
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.
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.
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.