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Using Experimental Economics in the Classroom: Conference Session, RES 2007

A Special Session at the Royal Economic Society conference 2007

Wednesday April 11th 5:45 pm - 7:15 pm

Economic experiments were first conducted in the 1940s. However, only relatively recently has there been an explosion of experimental research. Along with this, there has been a substantial increase in the interest of using experiments in the undergraduate curriculum. Now, as the discipline becomes more widely understood and respected, the possibilities for the application of experimental economics to policy making are being finally recognised.

In a special session at the Royal Economic Society's Annual Conference, Professor James Cox, Professor Dieter Balkenborg and Professor Alvin E. Roth will be focussing on the use of experiments in economic education and their applications for policy makers. All three have considerable experience of running economics experiments for research purposes and they will talk about how they have been rolling out the use of experimental economics beyond being purely a research tool.

Professor James Cox is the Noah Langdale Jr. Chair in Economics at Georgia State University. His recent and ongoing research includes experiments with group behavior in strategic market games and theory and experiments with individual and group behavior in games involving trust and fear, positive and negative reciprocity, and benevolent and malevolent other-regarding preferences. Professor Cox will talk about EconPort, a project for which he has been involved with since 2002 (and which was funded by the National Science Foundation Digital Library Initiative).

EconPort has been designed as an open access digital library of microeconomics for students, teachers, researchers and the general public, bringing together several decades of computer based economics experiments under one 'roof' and making it accessible via the internet. It houses software for use in economics experiments as well as a handbook covering all aspects of conducting an experiment, teaching materials, a glossary and has also collected together the largest library of experimental economics related resources available to the public.

Professor Dieter Balkenborg from the University of Exeter first came into contact with experimental economics in 1987 when he participated as a student in a seminar organized by Reinhard Selten (Nobel Prize winner 1993) at Bonn. In this seminar a different group of students would organise and conduct a different experiment every week and then compare their findings with the results in the literature. This inspired Dieter to both conduct his own experiments and use it as a teaching tool.

Professor Balkenborg is jointly with Professor Kaplan Co-Director of the Finance and Economics Experimental Laboratory at Exeter (FEELE) which opened in 2004 with funding from the University of Exeter, the ESRC and the British Academy.

Both Professor Balkenborg and Professor Kaplan are holders of a £150,000 teaching grant from the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning financed by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (Hefce). The project financed is called "Bringing economic experiments to the classroom" and has the ambitious aim to make experiments a teaching tool in every economics module taught at the University of Exeter. Professor Balkenborg will report on the progress made and the obstacles encountered with the project and what economics teachers at universities, colleges or schools can learn from it.

Professor Alvin E. Roth is the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, and in the Harvard Business School. His research, teaching, and consulting interests are in game theory, experimental economics, and market design. He has written seminal articles on matching theory, bargaining experiments and learning theory.

The best known of the markets he has designed (or, in this case, redesigned) is the National Resident Matching Program, through which approximately twenty thousand doctors a year find their first employment as residents at American hospitals and he has recently been involved in the reorganization of the market for Gastroenterology fellows. He has also helped design matching systems for schools used in New York and Boston, is one of the founders and designers of the New England Program for Kidney Exchange and is the chair of the American Economic Association's Ad Hoc Committee on the Job Market.

Prof. Al Roth will discuss how he used experiments to teach policy makers about market design issues.

Draft Programme

Session Organizer, Todd R. Kaplan, University of Exeter.

Prof. Jim Cox, Georgia State University, "EconPort: A Digital Library and Virtual Laboratory"
Discussant: Todd R. Kaplan, University of Exeter

Prof. Dieter Balkenborg, University of Exeter, "Bringing Experimental Economics into the Classroom"
Discussant: John Sloman, Economics Network.

Prof. Al Roth, Harvard University, "Using Experiments to Educate Policy Makers About Market Design"
Discussant: Dirk Englemann, Royal Holloway.


Prof. Jim Cox, Georgia State University, "EconPort: A Digital Library and Virtual Laboratory"

EconPort is an economics digital library specializing in content emphasizing the use of experiments in teaching and research. Contents include teaching modules, a handbook, glossary, and an extensive collection of educational material as well as software for running experiments. Teaching modules include economics substantive material, professor instructions for use, suggested parameterizations for experiments, and graphical data presentation facilities. Integrated software includes: NFG (normal form games); EFG (extensive form games); GARP (generalized axiom of revealed preference or consumer demand); MarketLink (double auction, posted offer, and posted bid markets); and OSA (English, Dutch, first-price, and second-price one-sided auctions). With EconPort software, individuals can participate in experiments using any computers with Internet connectivity; hence EconPort is a virtual laboratory with the capacity to support research and teaching experiments with subjects at one or many geographical locations.

Prof. Dieter Balkenborg, University of Exeter, "Bringing Experimental Economics into the Classroom"

The Economics Department at the University of Exeter has taken the ambitious project of introducing classroom experiments throughout the undergraduate curriculum. In this talk, we will discuss how we made use of computerized, hand-run and homework experiments and will mention the advantages and pitfalls of each type. We will give tips on how to conduct experiments, which type is appropriate for which course, and mention the particular experiments that we found useful including ones that we helped develop. While we have found them to be a useful core teaching tool, we will present the challenges that we still face.

Prof. Al Roth, Harvard University, "Using Experiments to Educate Policy Makers About Market Design"

Experiments are sometimes useful in communicating with policy makers, because, although they are simpler and different from the complex natural market of concern, their differences and similarities are easier to understand than those of other naturally occurring markets.

For further details of the conference, see the RES2007 site.