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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Course Design Institute

In addition to the Economics for Teachers class, my fall schedule includes a Micro Principles course for 500 students. I taught that course for the first time last fall and knew I wanted to make changes but rather than the usual between-semester tweaks, I have essentially ended up redesigning the entire course, inspired by (and contributing to) my adventure in Web 2.0. So it was serendipitous that I was able to attend SDSU’s Course Design Institute today. A few highlights:
  • Andrew Milne defining teaching as “The purposeful structuring of experiences from which students cannot escape without learning.” I just love that.
  • Finding out about SWoRD, a new tool for peer review of writing. I definitely want to find out more about that, especially since I’ll be teaching a writing class next spring in which I was planning to have the students do lots of peer review anyway.
  • Tom Carey talking about ‘threshold concepts’: ideas that, once students really get them, open the way to an entirely different way of thinking. He actually used the example of opportunity cost in economics, which I would agree with 100%. The trick with threshold concepts is that it isn’t enough for students to superficially understand the definition (lots of students can identify or regurgitate what opportunity cost means) but they have to really get it. I need to think a lot more about what other threshold concepts in economics might be – I’m thinking marginal analysis, separating positive from normative, and the role of government when there are externalities might all qualify.

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