The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Abstracts and materials from DEE2007

Day 1: 6th September 2007

Keynote Presentation 1

Educating Economists for Government

Presenter: Andy Ross (Government Economic Service and HM Treasury)

An overview of the Government Economic Service (GES) and the rise of economics and economists in government is given. Emphasising the astonishing range of applications of economics, it is argued that the recent modest changes in A-level syllabuses do too little to sell the subject. There needs to be less on 'the economy', more on the power of economics and still more on 'thinking like an economist'.

Turning to HE, the QAA Economics Benchmark Statement is appropriate for applicants to the GES, but in practice there are gaps in the competencies of the majority of applicants, even many seemingly highly qualified. Celebrating the excellent quality of economists who do pass the GES recruitment process, the nature of this gap is explored. It is argued that narrower syllabuses focusing on deeper understanding would improve matters at both FE and HE level and perhaps the threshold concepts approach may be key to this.
NB the opinions presented here are the personal views of Andy Ross and not necessarily official positions of the GES.

Link: Video of part of this talk
Link: A post on our blog transcribes Andy's list of what government economists actually do.
Link: Powerpoint Presentation

Session 1: 11.15 - 12.45

Workshop: The METAL project: a chance to trial the resources for supporting mathematics teaching of first-year economics undergraduates

Facilitator: Rebecca Taylor (Nottingham Trent University)

Since 1990 the teaching of mathematics to undergraduate students has become increasingly challenging for universities across the sector, regardless of entry qualifications. Many undergraduate programmes now have a mixed intake of students, many of whom lack practice in the use of mathematical concepts. In addition, the widening participation initiative has led to even greater diversity of student backgrounds, particularly in relation to mathematical skills. Consequently students often do not have the mathematical ability required to successfully complete their first year of study.

The issue of heterogeneous mathematical skills, coupled with an increasing focus on interactive, student-focussed and inclusive learning is being addressed by the a HEFCE funded project entitled Mathematics for Economics: enhancing Teaching And Learning (METAL), an initiative that seeks to enhance the teaching and learning experience of students studying mathematics as part of an economics degree programme.

The project comprises an online question bank of mathematics teaching and assessment materials, 50 interactive video units that relate mathematical concepts to the field of economics and 10 teaching and learning guides that present innovative and interactive approaches to teaching mathematical concepts to undergraduate students. A project website has been developed to present the teaching and learning resources, to facilitate distance learning and to foster students' autonomy and ownership of the learning process.

This interactive session will include an overview of the project and provide participants with an opportunity to trial the resources.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(a) Diagrams, economic modelling and learning

Presenter: Jean Mangan (Staffordshire University)

The use of diagrams is widespread in economics. Previous studies, for instance Cohn et al (2001) have reported students having difficulty in using graphs and have suggested that these may not aid student understanding. Since the use of diagrams is widespread and their use in textbooks has increased in recent years this becomes a matter of some importance in teaching and learning in the discipline.

This paper reports on student interviews carried out as part of the 'embedding threshold concepts' project and suggests that although students do have initial difficulties with the use of diagrams many overcome this and go onto consider diagrammatic representation as important in their understanding and remembering of theory. However, some students remain purely trying to reproduce the diagram without understanding. We suggest that part of the difficulty is linked to students' failing to grasp the approach of economic modeling that is portrayed in these diagrams. We suggested that more scaffolding is required in the use of graphs at level 1 to assist students in using these as part of their deep learning.

Coln, E., Cohn, S., Balch, D., and Bradley, J. (2001) Do Graphs Promote Learning in Principles of Economics?, Journal of Economic Education, 32, 4, 299-310.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) An evaluation of the challenges MBA students encounter in acquiring and applying threshold concepts in economics.

Presenters: Keith Gray, Peri Yavash and Mark Bailey (University of Coventry)

The context for this research is the growing interest in threshold concepts in Economics education and the relative paucity of evidence regarding how non-specialist MBA students acquire such concepts.

This research identifies which specific threshold concepts are most problematic for MBA students and aims to identify the primary reasons for this.

The analysis is based on data from two consecutive cohorts of MBA students at Coventry University. In each case survey questionnaires were developed to evaluate students' economic awareness and understanding at the beginning and end of their respective semesters, having taken a mandatory course in Business Economics.

The findings of the analysis of the first cohort of students were subsequently used to develop a series of pedagogical tools to enhance understanding of threshold concepts in Economics. These pedagogical tools were integrated into the teaching programme to enhance the learning environment for the second cohort.

Statistical analysis was used to identify key differences between the relative performances of students in each cohort using a number of objective measures and to identify where possible the underlying reasons for such differences.

The main contribution of the research from a pedagogical perspective is the identification of those threshold concepts which enable students to progress towards a deepening engagement with an economics framework. Whilst the findings are institution specific, they may have implications for MBA programmes at other universities with similar cohort characteristics.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) An Investigation into the Application of Economics Threshold Concepts using WinEcon via a VLE for Business Students

Presenters: Mike Walsh and Keith Gray (University of Coventry)

WinEcon is extensively used at Coventry University when teaching business students introductory economics, and the experience of Coventry lecturers suggests that they find a number of threshold concepts in economics troublesome, such as opportunity cost and the multiplier. A mini project investigated the feasibility of embedding specific threshold concepts using WinEcon via WebCT and assessed students' understanding of these concepts. The core elements of the project included designing a number of pedagogical tools relating to these threshold concepts, and developing related links in order to facilitate the use of WinEcon.

This session will consider the feasibility of embedding threshold concepts using WinEcon and the impact of such embedding on students' understanding.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(a) What makes a good government economist?

Presenters: Philip Hedges, Peter Urwin and Franz Buscha (University of Westminster)

In partnership with the Government Economic Service (GES), staff at the Centre for Employment Research (CER) are working with Andrew Ross on an analysis of applicants to the GES in 2006 and 2007. As part of the DEE conference Andy will be presenting findings from his qualitative evaluation and we would like to deliver an accompanying session that will consider outcomes from the quantitative evaluation we are carrying out.

Those who attend the Economic Assessment Centre (EAC) are subject to exercise-based assessments, focusing on three core competencies (or skill areas): (i) knowledge of economics, (ii) application of economics, and (iii) communication. Those demonstrating competency in these areas are then able to attend the next, more generic, stage of the fast stream process.

The anonymised dataset allows for analysis of undergraduate degree classification, subject specialism, postgraduate degree classification and nationality; together with candidate's online test results, their A-level points and scores for the extent of their extracurricular activities, level of relevant competencies and work experience. For those successful candidates who are then invited to the EAC, there are results from the three competency areas assessed and the overall pass or fail status.

The aim is to produce a range of outputs, including both cross-tabular and multivariate analyses, that consider issues, such as, what determines a candidates' likelihood of first being invited to the EAC and the likelihood of subsequently being offered a GES position.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) Why Should They Employ an Expertise in Economics: how can LT skills help to make a more convincing case?

Presenter: Stephen Heasell (Nottingham Trent University)

Purpose: To test out among peers early ideas from a research project which will identify how LT skills can best be deployed by HE economists to explain, to those beyond HE who could make practical use of it, why a research expertise in economics could be used to their advantage.

Rationale: We observe an increased commitment in recent years to LT quality and training across UK HE. We also observe increased expectations that applicable expertise in HE economics will be offered to those beyond its own disciplinary comfort zones. Often, however, a failure to communicate and comprehend smartly enough what the discipline and its exponents have to offer prevents full use being made of it and causes frustration all round. Why not deploy the new appreciation of LT ability among HE economists more consistently to serve this agenda to better effect?

Priority Questions Include:

  • To what extent does existing LT training and CPD for HE economists equip them to engage beyond the classroom and common room on the applicability of their discipline?
  • What are the main reasons why communication and comprehension sometimes fail the potential for worthwhile application of HE economics?
  • What would make the contribution of a considered LT input by HE economists in this context different from that which a generic marketing expertise could offer?

(c) Embedding a generic e-portfolio/PDP tool in a basic skills module for economics and business students - When Say's law doesn't (necessarily) hold.

[or: you can lead a horse to water, but if you want it to drink you'll have to show it how, explain why, and in the end still might have to force it to do so? And doesn't that rather defeat the purpose of the exercise?]

Presenter: Paul Latreille (Swansea University)

This paper reports initial findings from an Economics Network Miniproject on implementing a generic e-Portfolio/PDP tool in a first year ICT, study skills and PDP/employability module for students in Economics and Business at Swansea University. Evaluation was primarily undertaken by means of a questionnaire administered towards the end of the module and returned by 114 students.

The responses reveal mixed views. While seen as having potential, students identified a number of issues in relation to the platform itself (Elgg); still in development, this imposed certain limitations on how it could be employed.

The survey also revealed that students largely used the system in an instrumentalist way, highlighting the tension between their perspectives/needs and those of academics. However, the project yields insights into how such technology might be more effectively integrated and deployed in supporting student learning and development in future, resulting both from recent improvements to the system itself and its functionality, and an awareness of the need to motivate student engagement more carefully and offer greater guidance and structure while recognising that flexibility and student 'ownership' are crucial.

Links: Case Study and Powerpoint Presentation
Link: Paul Latreille's blog post about the conference

Workshop (a) Publishing pedagogical research in economics

Presenter: Peter Davies (Staffordshire University)

This workshop will focus on the task of writing papers in economics education. The emphasis is very much on the writing rather than research design, though there will be some reference to the selection of research questions. The workshop is intended for colleagues who are keen to share their ideas and innovations in teaching economics but feel less confident in writing in this arena than they do when addressing an audience about economics per se. The workshop will draw upon experience in editing the International Review of Economics Education and the Economics Lecturer's Handbook.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

Workshop (b) Funding opportunities for pedagogical research in Economics

Presenter: Ros O'Leary (Economics Network) and David Sadler (Higher Education Academy)

This workshop will explore the various sources of funding for pedagogical research and issues concerning the application for such funding.

Link: Ros' Powerpoint slides and David's Powerpoint slides

Keynote Presentation 2

Teaching Undergraduate Econometrics

Presenter: David F. Hendry (University of Oxford)

It is the perfect time to review the scope and practice of teaching undergraduate econometrics. Just published are two books: the first is the textbook, Hendry, D. F. and Nielsen, B. Econometric Modeling: A Likelihood Approach (Princeton University Press); the second is a major new upgrade for computer teaching of econometrics, Doornik, J. A. and Hendry, D. F. Empirical Econometric Modelling using PcGive, (Timberlake).

Although the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree at Oxford does not attract most maths-oriented students, David has raised option enrolment from 6 to 48 over 8 years - and yet the course goes in a year from no elementary statistical theory knowledge to (automatic) model selection in non-stationary data. The course has five central themes: likelihood; relevant empirical applications; mastery of software to implement; emphasis on graphics; rigorous evaluation of 'findings'. Theory and empirical work are taught simultaneously, with derivations introduced only from the need to understand properties. This common approach allows rapid progress - from binary IID, reinterpreted as regression on an intercept, leading to regression in general; applied to fish market data as if cross-section, reinterpreted as time series, then as a system, leading to identification, simultaneity, and cointegration; this then allows model selection to be tackled. Monte Carlo illustrates and evaluates methods and models.

Link: Video of this talk (including slides)
Slides in PDF format

Poster Session: 14.30 - 15.30

Margaret Bray (London School of Economics and Political Science):
Writing for Economics

Andreas Liening (University of Dortmund):
The Junior Business School: collaborative learning environments (Slides in PDF format)

Sashi Panikar:
The Economics Festival of Mumbai: enhancing the learning process through economics songs, skits, debates and many other competitions
Link: Article: Arth-Manthan, the Economic Festival of Mumbai

Costas Siriopoulos and Gerasimos Pomonis (University of Patras):
Strategies to foster economists' critical thinking skills (evidence)

Vindelyn Smith-Hillman (University of Northampton):
Use of case studies in teaching economics
Link: Competition policy case studies from the project

Stands for the four HEFCE-funded FDTL5 economics projects:

Cillian Ryan (University of Birmingham):
Beyond dissemination strategies: Embedding computer-based learning & effective uses of WinEcon & VLEs

Dieter Balkenborg (University of Exeter):
FEELE: Bringing economic experiments into the classroom

Rebecca Taylor (Nottingham Trent University):
Mathematics for Economics: Enhancing Teaching and Learning (METAL)

Peter Davies and Jean Mangan (Staffordshire University):
Developing first year undergraduates' acquisition of threshold concepts in economics

Note refreshments will be served at 15.00

Session 2: 15.30 - 17.00

Workshop: Computerised classroom experiments. An opportunity to sample some of the open-access experiments available online from the FEELE lab at the University of Exeter.

Facilitator: Dieter Balkenborg (University of Exeter)

Classroom experiments have become a fundamental part of the economic programme's curriculum at the University of Exeter. The experience of putting into practice economic theory inspires and motivates students of various quantitative backgrounds and overall leads them to a deeper understanding.

Each student participates in 20-30 experiments during the course of their studies and every economics module is being evaluated in order to find which experiments are most suitable to achieve the aims, objectives, and learning outcomes of the module. These computer programs, as well as articles describing how to duplicate our achievements are being made available for use at other universities through the FEELE website at the University of Exeter and through Wiki University

Participants at the workshop will have the opportunity to sample some of the experiments.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(a) The realities of economics - Engaging undergraduate students in the 'Intelligent Conversation" of the nation

Presenters: Alan Hutton and David Donald (Glasgow Caledonian University)

This paper draws on the experience of the Talking Economics mini-project which has helped integrate web-based audio materials (mainly from BBC sources) into the teaching learning approach to a range of undergraduate economics modules. It argues for a more 'realistic' economics education.

If economics is seen as an essentially 'applied' social science-justified by its impact on human welfare-then it must address the 'nature' as well as the 'causes' of the wealth of nations. It is value-laden and prone to 'ideological' deployment.

We suggest that using broadcast documentary and news-related materials to help engage students in the wider political economy of the debates which surround public and business policy can help move economics learning away from the world of a closed community applying abstract axiomatic 'principles' towards a consciousness of both the empirical and value contexts in which economic ideas are used. Introducing students to the realm of serious broadcasting which carries the 'intelligent conversation' within which the conventional wisdom is made, propagated and, hopefully, contested will in itself help to develop a 'political economy of citizenship'.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation
Link: the Spoken Word audio collection for Economics

(b) Using the arts in teaching economics

Presenter: Gherardo Girardi (London Metropolitan University)

Gherardo is a recipient of a micro-project award from the Economics Network to pilot a new course called "Economics teaching and learning through the arts: the contribution of cinema and literature". This paper will:

  1. Present the results of the experiments conducted with students thus far. I have piloted the course in four classes, with both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and with students reading economics as well as with those reading non-economics degrees. The results from the questionnaires are very encouraging, with the average level of student satisfaction ranging between "good" and "very good". Asked how much the introduction of such a course would benefit students, the average response was "a lot". The questionnaire permits regression analysis to be carried out as to the reasons why students responded so favourably (e.g. quality of artistic material chosen, quality of discussion, depth of economics content, etc). The course is, to the best of my knowledge, the first of its kind to let the medium of communication determine what economics topics are covered, rather than the other way round. For example, in Death of a Salesman, we discussed to what extent parents determine students' choice of jobs. As the example suggests, the course is by nature inter-disciplinary.
  2. Conduct a demonstration with colleagues at the conference, to show them the new teaching opportunities that such a course makes available.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) Developing student presentations skills in economics

Presenter: Judith Piggott (Oxford Brookes University)

One of the key skills employers ask for is the ability to to make a good verbal presentation of an argument (and it is also something most lecturers would like to hear too). However with the constant pressures of putting the curriculum content across in less time, these skills can get overlooked. This demonstration will show the website we have built up (with Network mini project funding - and to be available via a link on their site) showing the do's and don'ts with DVD extracts, slides, handouts etc which can be used in class and/or outside class to help build this skill by lecturers and students.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

Link: "A Double Take on Presentation Skills" (18 min video) (supporting materials to come)
Link: "Presentation Skills for Economics" videos on YouTube

Workshop: Integrating understanding in economics: implications for the design of learning activities and assessment.

Presenters: Peter Davies, Jean Mangan (Staffordshire University), David Allen (University of the West of England). Peri Yavash (University of Coventry)

The FDTL5 project 'Embedding Threshold Concepts' is concerned with translating the theory of Meyer and Land (2003) into principles that inform the design of teaching, the curriculum and assessment. Although threshold concepts may involve a number of characteristics, our work in economics has stressed their role in integrating understanding within the discipline, given the web of concepts that is involved in the analysis of most economics problems. Teaching and assessment should support conceptual change in which students re-work their previous thinking about the subject and their prior understanding of their personal experience. Students' understanding of a threshold concept is evident when they can use it to bring a range of subject concepts and methods to bear in trying to propose solutions to problems.

This workshop considers two aspects of our implementation; firstly the teaching and learning materials developed within the project and secondly the approach to assessment. We give tutors' accounts of using our teaching and learning materials and the workshop will enable participants to examine both some of the materials and student responses in using it (from transcripts of class recordings). We will give a short account of our approach to and implementation of examination assessment. This will be followed by small group discussion of the pros and cons of particular examination questions given our aims.

Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2003) Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (1): Improving Student Learning - Ten Years On, OCSLD, Oxford

Link: Jean Mangan's Powerpoint Presentation
Link: Peri Yavash's Powerpoint Presentation

(a) Is PBL more effective than a traditional teaching method? Assessing PBL using a control group

Presenters: John Sedgwick and Guglielmo Volpe (London Metropolitan University)

The evidence of PBL's effectiveness in fostering the development of critical skills is mixed. While there is some general evidence from various subject areas (in particular medicine) in support of PBL, the results of a recent study by Newman (2004) do not provide support for the many claims made for the advantages of PBL and suggest that in some contexts it may lead to worse outcomes for some students.

The present paper contributes to the existing debate by investigating PBL's effectiveness with the use of a control group. The module Industrial Economics at London Metropolitan University is taught to two distinct groups of students in two different campuses. This gives us the opportunity to evaluate PBL with a control group. While the syllabus, the assessment method and the teaching team will be the same for all students, one cohort of students will be taught according to the PBL approach while the other cohort will experience a traditional lecture/seminar approach. The research evaluates the impact of PBL on students' participation, satisfaction, performance and knowledge retention. The methodology is structured around a set of questionnaires at the beginning and end of semester, an end of semester focus group with students and a statistical analysis of students' performance adjusted for differences in students' characteristics.

The effectiveness of PBL in favouring knowledge retention, developing deeper learning and fostering critical skills is also investigated by testing students' level of knowledge some weeks after completion of their studies.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) Introducing PBL in a first-year curriculum: results and experiences

Presenter: Frank Forsythe (University of Ulster)

This paper will summarise the results and experiences of the Economics Network funded mini-project, 'Introducing Problem-Based Learning to a First Year Curriculum'.

One of the objectives of the project was to determine whether an active learning environment can encourage better discipline in those students inclined to 'switch-off' in teacher-led regimes. The project also used final year economics students to facilitate the first year PBL group sessions. The facilitators, and each first year student, were required to keep a weekly record of their PBL experiences. These confidential documents provide a valuable information source that will also inform the presentation. Different forms of assessment were used - written reports, presentations and a 'university challenge' type quiz, in addition to a formal end-of-year examination. It is hoped that 2-3 final year facilitators will jointly present this paper at the conference.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) Students and the world of labour - employment orientation in developing student skills in HE

Presenter: Johanna von Luckwald (University of Cologne)

Since 1989, the career service S&A has been offering the opportunity to supplement their studies with career orientation and practical training, to students of the University of Cologne, enrolled in humanities and economic education. That programme significantly increases their chances in the job market. In 2007 the Bachelor/Master programmes, now introduced at German Universities, make such career service more important than ever.

The education S&A includes a two-semester programme, which is aimed to expand students' skills acquired during their courses at the University. This allows for new career paths that remain connected with students' respective areas of education. Furthermore it transfers their skills to economic fields. During the past 18 years, several partnerships had been developed, which help students to establish connections to later employers.

The two-semester programme includes: two semesters of problem-based learning in group projects linked to companies; in addition, job-market seminars, speaker series, electives in economics and edv, skill trainings, internships and a final conference. In Germany S&A has developed to an ideal in the field of career services that increases the effectiveness of job qualification with practical training during the study.

  • What can students of economic education and the humanities do to plan their career?
  • Professional standards developing student skills and employability
  • The model of S&A as a professional qualification in higher education
  • Research 2006/2007. Access of graduates to the labour market: an evaluation of the success of S&A graduates.

Link: Slides in PDF format

Day 2: 7th September 2007

Keynote Presentation 3

How can economists grab the attention of students, and keep it?

Presenter: Tim Harford, FT's 'Undercover Economist' and presenter of the BBC's 'Trust Me, I'm an Economist'

We know three things about economics. First, it can solve the problems we all face every day, from getting a better deal at the supermarket to making more sensible use of our time. Second, it can also address some very big problems, such as climate change and poverty in Africa. Third, it is a fallible science, and we can all learn from those mistakes.

I argue that these three facts about the subject provide economic educators with a way to engage students and to communicate important economic principles in a way that they will remember.

Link: Video extracts from this talk

Session 3: 10.00 - 11.30

Workshop (a) The effective use of blogs and podcasting in economics education

Facilitators: Paul Ayres (Intute Social Sciences), Bhagesh Sachania (Economics Network)

Blogs are online diaries that have enabled the rise of a new commentator class of economists whose websites are visited by thousands of readers each day. This session will examine the phenomenon that is blogging and will look at practical ways that they can be used by economics lecturers and researchers.

Participants will collaborate with each other and the facilitators to answer questions, such as:

  • What are the possibilities for using blogs in economics teaching?
  • How can they be harnessed to disseminate research?
  • What are the opportunities and risks of blogging?

The session will examine case studies of existing uses of blogs in economics, as well as help participants come up with prospective uses of blogs for their own teaching and research activity. The session will also touch on advanced topics such as using blogs to distribute audio and video via podcasting, how to read 1000 blogs a day and how to search the blogosphere.

An active learning approach will be used with small group work, discussions and brainstorms, and practical exercises. All three facilitators have extensive experience of using blogs, helping others to use blogs and wider knowledge of online economics resources.

Links: Powerpoint Presentation and links from the presentation. Also available as a Slidecast (slides plus audio) on SlideShare:

Workshop (b) Using of social software to empower teaching and learning in economics

Facilitator: Steven Greenlaw (University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg VA)

Social software offers a variety of tools to engage students and promote higher order learning, whether in blended or online courses. What are these tools and how can they be used productively for teaching and learning? This paper will explore such issues, providing practical examples from three years of experimentation in courses ranging from first year to senior-level seminars.

Tom Coates defines social software as "software which supports, extends, or derives added value from, human social behaviour." The specific tools we will explore include blogs, wikis, rss syndication, and social bookmarking (or tagging).

The characteristics of social software in an educational context include:

  • Small Pieces, Loosely Joined: A variety of diverse and powerful tools which can be easily mixed and matched to support the needs of the course.
  • Anywhere, Anytime Learning
  • Nearly Unlimited Resources: Anything on the internet, as well as the ability to interact with many content experts.
  • Many-to-Many Teaching/Learning: Social software involves all participants in a course actively creating, evaluating and distributing content, not just consuming the content provided by the instructor. This enables an explicit focus on critical thinking and reflection, offering the potential for greater engagement by students.
  • Positive Network Effects: Social software encourages the creation of communities of learners. It promotes harnessing the collective intelligence of the group, where the contributions of each individual build on each other and the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts.

Link: Steve's blog, "Augmenting Teaching & Learning with Social Software"

Workshop: Money in Intermediate Macroeconomics: challenging the traditional textbook approach

Facilitator: Peter Howells (University of the West of England)

At long last, intermediate macro is beginning to recognise that money is endogenously determined and the rate of interest is the policy instrument. This requires the rejection of the LM curve. This workshop looks at a number of alternative proposals and at ways in which these can be further developed and at the implications for the curriculum of intermediate macroeconomics.

Workshop: Using short classroom experiments in seminars as a means of improving student motivation and learning: a chance to participate in four experiments

Facilitators: Jon Guest (University of Coventry) and John Sloman (Economics Network)

This involves delegates taking part in four paper-based experiments/games. Each one lasts about 15 minutes. This then will allow time to discuss how they and other experiments can be used in the classroom to motivate students and encourage them to learn by doing.

All of the experiments are for 10 to 30 students and are ideally suited for use in seminars.

Delegates will be given templates and all the necessary materials to run the experiments, all of which are simple and easy to duplicate. Each one takes no more than 2 or 3 minutes to set up and get going.

Delegates will also be given information on where to find additional paper-based experiments.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation
Case Study: Introducing Classroom Experiments into an Introductory Microeconomics Module by Jon Guest

(a) Learning styles and introductory economics: a matter of translation

Presenter: Mary Hedges (University of Auckland)

Many students struggle with first year economics. Students with no previous experience in economics often find it overwhelming. Even those with previous experience often find the university focus on the mathematical expression difficult. They then interpret these difficulties as an inability to do economics and leave their first year programme with a negative perception of economics as 'hard' subject.

This paper argues that often it is not that students find the economics difficult but have difficulty translating ideas when they are expressed in different languages - in economics these languages are English (words), pictures (graphs) and numbers (algebraic expression). Therefore their difficulty is one of translation, not of understanding. This paper explores this idea and uses case studies to illustrate the positive changes that can be brought about through considering these problems as a language problem instead of an economics problem. Some strategies to enable students who are unilingual in this context to improve are then suggested. Finally it concludes by identifying further avenues for work in this area.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) The learning compact

Presenter: Martin Diedrich (Keele)

Presenting a conceptual framework in which one can evaluate various teaching methods (old and new) against the background of the underlying working relationship between teacher and student. The concept of a "learning compact" is used to analyse a variety of practical teaching situations, both in traditional face-to-face teaching and in VLE-based e-learning.

Link: PDF slides

(c) Improving feedback on assessment

Presenters: Carol Johnston and Ciannon Cazaly (Melbourne)

Students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in Departments of Economics in Australia report a low level of satisfaction with the quality of feedback that they receive on their assessed work. It is one of the lowest scoring statements on the national Course Experience Questionnaire and at the University of Melbourne this replicated in the internal quality of teaching survey scores.

In order to significantly and rapidly improve these scores in the Department of Economics at Melbourne, and through this the learning experiences of students, a project was undertaken in semester 1 2007 to focus on feedback provision: one aim is to provide tutors and students with materials/training that will assist in more closely aligning expectations and experiences. The perceptions of feedback are explored from the tutor's perspective and from the student's. Tutors and students in Intermediate Microeconomics were surveyed to identify areas on commonality. Seven tutors and over 250 students responded.

This paper reports preliminary results of this survey. We also report on an analysis of the nature of feedback actually provided using a tool developed by Glover and Brown 2006. Over 80 assignments are analysed in terms of the nature of the comments provided. The anticipated efficacy of different approaches to the provision of feedback in improving student learning in economics is discussed.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

Session 4: 11.45 - 13.15

Workshop: Using Excel in the teaching of economics

Facilitator: David Allen (University of the West of England)

This session aims to demonstrate the various ways Excel has been used in the teaching & assessment on a level 1 principles course. The first half of the workshop will look at how students were given tuition in plotting time series data using Excel (specifically the unemployment & inflation data for two anonymous countries). These plots and their interpretation were then to be used in the student's spring term assignment. Copies (electronic & paper) of the student hand outs for the one hour teaching sessions and the assignment brief will be available to those attending this workshop.

The second half of the session will look at the various ways Excel has been used in tracking and monitoring student attendance & achievement over the course or the academic year. It will also include a demonstration on the use of Excel in providing students with detailed feedback on their assignments (notably the spring essay).

The running of the session will be 'hands-on' and there those attending do not need to be particularly skilled in the use of Excel.

Link: Student handouts on "Using Excel in your economics assignments"

(a) Effectiveness of heterodox economic concepts in developing understanding of real-world issues

Presenter: Andrew Mearman (University of the West of England) and Tim Wakeley (Griffith University, Australia)

This paper reports preliminary findings from research funded by the Economics Network into the effectiveness of heterodox economic concepts in developing understanding of real world issues. The research has generated two related strands of research: an online international survey of students; and a series of focus groups in the UK and Australia.

The survey results focus on ascertaining perceptions of economics and attempts to explain them partly in terms of background factors. The survey also identifies concepts students find useful in economics.

The focus groups focus on getting deeper level insight into students' perceptions of economics and invites them to explore real world issues and consider how economics informs their ability to understand and analyse those issues. The focus group results suggest that students use combinations of mainstream and heterodox concepts, often unconsciously.

At this stage, the data collection process is still ongoing and any results are tentative.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) Rethinking economics teaching in higher education

Presenter: Woan-Ping Fang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Most economists will agree that economics education is important in our everyday life, yet many students found economics difficult to learn. The majority of the literature by economists presents objective testing results but do not reflect the learning experiences of the students. The aim of this paper is to report on a project conducted in a university in Singapore of engineering students studying economics.

Instead of using quantitative research and following the tradition of focusing on teaching, course design and the prediction of students' outcome performances, this study focuses on understanding the learning experiences of the students by integrating the knowledge from the economist's perspective with that of the learning theories of the educationists.

Data were collected from 12 students through semi-structured interviews and these data were analysed using a grounded theory approach to conceptualise and represent a phenomenon or an experience of the students. Five different categories were eventually discovered which represented the students' common experiences and conceptualisation of their experiences: 'difficult', 'interesting', 'unsatisfactory', 'pragmatism', and 'enriching'. Strauss and Corbin's paradigm model of grounded theory was adopted to relate the data systematically and purposefully in order to capture the complexity in understanding the learning experiences of the students. This study provides an insight to economics educators on the impact of good teaching in inspiring learning in higher education.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) The Junior Business School: collaborative learning environments

Presenter: Andreas Liening (University of Dortmund)

Our modern society is more and more influenced by economic thinking in all aspects of life, such that a basic understanding of economics became a central prerequisite for nearly all professional groups.

Nevertheless, we can observe that, in reality, there exist substantial deficits regarding economic thinking and acting as well as economic cultural techniques and skills. Pupils of grammar & comprehensive schools are a special target group, independent of their decision to start professional training in a kind of apprenticeship or to begin university. But school curricula are overfilled and only a few teachers are trained to implement business education.

One solution is to use an additional further education concept which is based on distance learning courses. With these kinds of courses, you can give the pupils the opportunity to learn new skills individually at times when work at school is flow or at home.

If we look at the scientific discussion we can find an interesting and very promising alternative to traditional concepts. This will lead us to the concept of Complex Systems, especially: self-organisation, which in turn leads us to the theory of constructivism.

The practical result of these suggestions is the 'Junior Business School';. It deals with business gaming, online-tutoring and practical workshops. That makes it easy for young people to handle business questions and to develop entrepreneurial thinking. Students are involved in the JBS and have the opportunity to learn new kinds of teaching, like coaching and using internet based collaborative learning environments.

Link: Slides in PDF format

(a) Clickers! Using personal response pads

Presenter: Robert Rycroft (University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg VA)

An interesting educational technology that has been around for a long time but has yet to have much of an impact on the teaching of economics is clickers (aka personal response pads). Clickers are hand-held electronic devices with keypads. The "killer app" of clickers is to use them to ask questions during lecture. At intervals during a class lecture, the instructor can display a question and students can respond to it using their clicker. The questions can come in any of several forms, including multiple choice, true-false, yes-no, and numerical answers. The system will collect the student responses, display the distribution of responses on the screen, and record the student responses in its database.

In theory, there are several benefits to doing things this way. One, it forces students to remain engaged with the material all class long. No more daydreaming because students will be required to come up with answers at regular intervals. Two, using this type of system does not put anyone "on-the-spot." Students can answer anonymously thus increasing the "comfort zone" of quiet students. Three, it allows the instructor to gauge class understanding, and take corrective action immediately.

There are several other applications of clickers including attendance, exam-taking and classroom contests.

This presentation will demonstrate several of the capabilities of clickers. Student reaction to the use of clickers in a variety of economics courses will be discussed. Finally, some tips on how to get the most out of clickers will be shared.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) Involvement of players in game development

Presenter: Michael Vogel (Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences)

Simulation and planning games are widely used in economic education to enable experiential learning. Since most educational games are based on a predefined framework of objectives, rules and roles, the players learn by optimising their routine behaviour within this given framework. In other words, educational games tend to produce single-loop learning.

In order to facilitate double-loop learning, a game must motivate the players to critically examine and adjust the variables governing their routine behaviour. But since these governing variables are largely rooted in the game's framework, the players must be allowed to alter the framework while playing, e.g. by modifying certain rules or adding features. This way, the game can evolve over time, with the players acting as co-developers. To describe the players' learning process, an extended version of Kolb's experiential learning cycle model is proposed.

Using the case study of a Cruise Industry Simulation Game which has been run with up to forty students over periods of several weeks, it is shown how meaningful double-loop learning can be achieved in practice. The involvement of the players in game development has had a highly activating effect on them. It has given the players a more complete picture of the game as a whole as well as of its inner workings, and it has encouraged out-of-the-box thinking.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) Studying philanthropy and doling out real cash

Presenter: Robert Rycroft (University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg VA)

For the past two years, the Economics Department at the University of Mary Washington has offered a fairly unique service-learning opportunity. Students have been given the opportunity to enrol in The Economics of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector. In most respects, the course was a fairly typical upper-level undergraduate economics course. There were lectures on the economics of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy. There were classes devoted to how foundations operate, nonprofit accounting, and the tax treatment of charitable giving. Representatives of local nonprofit organizations guest lectured about problems in their bailiwick. In one major respect, however, the course was very atypical. All students were required to participate in a semester-long project that involved giving away real money.

Due to the generosity of Doris Buffett's Sunshine Lady Foundation, Inc., the class was given a grant of $10,000 each year to use to make grants to nonprofit charitable organizations. To achieve this goal, the students established a foundation, wrote a mission statement, designed a grant application form, publicized the grant opportunity, evaluated applications, selected a recipient, and presented the check at a public ceremony.

Courses similar to this are found at only a half dozen universities in the United States. This presentation will review the experience of teaching this unique course with special emphasis on the project. Both the academic component and project will be evaluated as learning experiences.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(a) Teaching economics via experiments

Presenter: Hans Juergen Schloesser (University of Siegen)

Experiments in economics represent a new method for teaching students economics by playing games. A trial phase with the microeconomics II course is currently running at the University of Siegen with two parallel groups of students. The "experiments" group is learning the various market forms, pure competition, monopoly and oligopoly by playing games. (auctions, simulations and spreadsheet calculations). The games are generated by a special excel spreadsheet which serves to visualize, for example, cost curves, but it also offers the students the opportunity to practice and try out things for themselves. The main underlying focus of the course is to get students themselves to deal with the contents of the subject matter and consequently to be able to make their own decisions accordingly.

The control group is taught traditionally in lectures. There are regular evaluations and tests for both groups in order to compare the motivation and performance of the students as well as to test the effectiveness of the method.

The concept of teaching economics via experiments has been conceived in such a way that it is also suited for use in secondary schools.

Link: Handouts in PDF format

(b) Use of Aplia software to improve the learning experience of first year students: experience from NUI Galway

Presenters: David Duffy and Brendan Kennelly (National University of Ireland, Galway)

The Department of Economics at NUI Galway has recently adopted Aplia to improve the learning experience of first year students. Over 400 students take our first year course every year and the task of giving all of them regular assignments is a logistical nightmare. The key innovation Aplia brings to teaching and assessment is that it conveniently allows lecturers to assign regular coursework to students. A great advantage of using Aplia is that the coursework is graded automatically and instant feedback is provided to students. As well as enabling the regular assessment of students Aplia has also been used to provide students with instant feedback on practice assignments, to offer revision tutorials on fundamental mathematical techniques, to conduct live experiments in tutorials and to conveniently bring topical news items into the learning experience.

Over 50% of our students recently completed a questionnaire on their experience of using Aplia. We found that students enjoyed using the system to a rate of 5/6:1. The vast majority of students rated Aplia higher than pen and paper and concluded they would recommend adopting the assignment and grading system for future classes. Students especially enjoyed the convenience of using Aplia.

Founded in 2000 by economist Paul Romer, Aplia is an educational technology company dedicated to improving learning by increasing student effort and engagement.

Their products have been used at over 650 institutions. NUI Galway was the first university in Ireland or Europe to use Aplia.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(c) Improving learning processes of first-year Economics students by means of an innovative summer school programme - an evaluation

Presenters: P. Horn and A. Jansen (Stellenbosch)

The traditional teaching pedagogy of first-year Economics courses predominantly involves the lecture room where passive learning takes place. Attendance of lectures is not compulsory. This may contribute to high failure rates. This is a concern at most South African universities including the University of Stellenbosch. The high failure rate affects the success rates of the Department of Economics and impacts on students continuing with second-year Economics. Students are affected as their studies are extended by another year.

Various authors indicate the importance of active learning on student performance. Marburger (2005) points out that active learning requires the student to be actively involved in the learning process. This can include in-class experiments and writing assignments. Greenlaw (2003) promotes active learning through writing, which creates knowledge and generates ideas. The University of Stellenbosch launched a pilot summer school with the aim of improving students' learning outcomes and pass rates. Techniques used were geared towards actively involving the student in his/her own learning process.

The case study presented in this paper investigates these techniques. The programme combined traditional lectures with interactive learning approaches, primarily co-operative learning (through small tutorial sessions) and writing tasks ensuring active participation by students. The results achieved in the summer school (pass rate of 89% compared to a pass rate of 63% in the course) indicate that this structured approach contributed to the success of the students.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

Session 5: 14.15 - 15.45

Workshop: A chance to test drive Macrolab: an interactive learning environment (ILE) driven by a system dynamics computer simulation model of a national economy and the rest-of-the-world.

Facilitator: David Wheat (University of Bergen)

Each semester over the past five years, Macrolab has been used to teach a distance-learning course based on the author's "feedback method" of teaching macroeconomics to undergraduates.

What will you do? "Test-drive" the ILE to see the model economy's behaviour and then "look under the bonnet" to see the structure of the model economy responsible for that behaviour. Switch the rest-of-the-world sector on and off, trigger a recession or a money supply shock, modify key parameter assumptions, see how dynamics are affected when a feedback loop is cut, and experiment with fiscal and monetary policies.

What will you take away? A demo CD and user's guide including model documentation, an introduction to a user-friendly, model-building simulation software package called STELLA, and insights gained from hands-on activities and workshop discussion.

Link: MacroLab overview in PDF format

(a) Workshop: Research-teaching linkages being adopted by QAA Scotland in terms of its latest Enhancement theme. A chance to share experiences.

Presenter: Linda Juleff (Napier University)

This session will outline the approach to research-teaching linkages being adopted by QAA in terms of its latest Enhancement theme. The nature of the work being undertaken within Scotland in relation to this theme will be explained and workshop participants will be invited to comment on the approach being adopted. The nature of research-teaching linkage within economics will be explored via an invitation to participants to share their experiences - both positive and negative - in this regard.

Both incentives and barriers to linking research and teaching will be identified, and possible solutions identified.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation

(b) Presentation: Incentives and educational standards

Presenter: Athanassios Pitsoulis (Cottbus)

The paper deals with the economics of educational standards. Standards are interpreted as agreements between upstream and downstream actors in a human-capital allocation process. Due to technological change these agreements must be seen as incomplete contracts. The reason is that acquired skills may become obsolete and new ones have to be included in curricula.

The incompleteness of educational standards leads to a distortion of incentives on the different stages of human capital allocation, e.g. schools, universities and firms. Distorted incentives may result in an underprovision or overprovision of human capital. Both are not efficient.

It will be shown that a second-best solution is a vertically integrated education system. Moreover, different standards between sectors may exacerbate existing distortions by influencing demand for skilled workers on labor markets.

Link: Slides in PDF format

Workshop: Building presentation skills.

Facilitator: Judith Piggott (Oxford Brookes University)

This workshop demonstrates some of the work being doing at Oxford Brookes University on building presentation skills in students to improve skills and employability.

Elements of the workshop will be run showing the sort of techniques students learn. However, those who attend could also find their own presentation skills are also "honed".

There will be further help - for staff - with advice being given about protecting your voice and voice projection.

This session could also be very useful for PGTAs who are just starting out and need to learn some techniques for controlling a class.

Link: "A Double Take on Presentation Skills" (18 min video)

(a) Teaching maths for economists

Presenter: Michael Grove (Maths, Stats and OR Subject Centre)

This session will showcase some of the resources and events of the Maths, Stats and OR Network (of the Higher Education Academy) and how they can be used to support maths teaching and learning of economics students

(b) Using Excel to individualise basic mathematics assignments

Presenter: Mike Rosser (Coventry)

To develop their mathematical skills, economics students need to practise examples. Weaker students are often reluctant to put the effort into doing this unless their work is assessed, but collusion is likely if students are set the same questions. On-line tests with randomised numerical examples partly address these problems, but they do not allow students to get individual feedback on errors made, or allow questions on interpretation of results.

This paper sets out a method for addressing all these issues by using individualised questions for each student based on their ID number, with an easily readable set of answers for marking generated via Excel.

Manual marking is then relatively quick and allows for specific feedback if students make errors. It also enables tutors to ask students to interpret results. For certain questions the marking spreadsheet can be used to produce answers for each stage of the calculations, if needed. Setting these individualised questions which students can work on at home also allows tutors to set more time consuming questions than those used on typical on-line tests, including problems that require students to construct their own spreadsheets.

The paper also gives some feedback on how this method has been used at Coventry for introductory mathematics for economics and accountancy modules.

Link: Powerpoint Presentation