Developing listening skills at an Economics Network event

Sabah Abdullah
University of Bath
Published January 2009

Listening is a vital link between teacher and student in the learning process. The following explains in detail how young tutors enriched their experience of listening in the context of learning and teaching, by drawing a few examples gained from an Economics Network workshop held in Bristol. This network is a resourceful institution where administrators, lecturers, tutors and researchers are dedicated to promoting effective teaching and learning tools to young lecturers. Being a teaching fellow from University of Bath I enrolled in the free two-day course to learn more about being an effective tutor. This training provided a great opportunity for young tutors to hone their skills actively by listening to other experienced teachers or practitioners, and peers. Useful resources and reference materials, such as brochures, PowerPoint presentations and a memory stick, were provided.

The application of classroom experiments, as demonstrated to us, shows how important effective listening is. Classroom experiments allow students to listen, understand and apply economic concepts by analyzing the outcome and assessing the results of such games. The Economic Network training session introduced several games, including the market game, prisoner's dilemma, production function and public goods. Jon Guest from University of Coventry, along with John Sloman of the Economics Network, divided the participants into two groups, namely buyers and sellers. At the end of the game, we were able to understand and relate the price convergence to the equilibrium. This game becomes engaging to students when varied taxes are imposed on suppliers and their effect on the equilibrium price and quantity is sought.

Another item of interest in the training was the discussion of the pros and cons of some Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) such as Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle by Guglielmo Volpe, London Metropolitan University. This presentation was useful when Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasting etc. were introduced. Indeed, I was able to use some of these tools in my seminars, particularly the social networking platforms such as Delicious, Flickr and YouTube which proved fun. Students were actively engaged in sharing, storing and describing their work, interests etc.

Towards the end of the training, a presentation on assessment and feedback was given by Dr. Dean Garratt, who was awarded the outstanding teaching prize by the Economics Network in 2006. Dr. Garratt elaborated on forms of assessment, types of feedback and what constitutes good feedback. This session was important for me because by listening to Dr. Garratt I was able to self-assess my methods and able to discuss my assessment and feedback methods with him and other peers after the presentation. Indeed, I was able to reflect my assessment and feedback objectives by listening, understanding and evaluating Dr. Garratt's and other peers' assessment and feedback experiences.

In conclusion, the seminar provided a common ground for tutors to participate, listen and engage with other peers and practitioners in a reflective, genuine and constructive manner towards the understanding and development of students' needs.

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