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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Starting Point for Economics

Just got back from a super-productive workshop for folks working on modules for the Starting Point project. If you are not yet familiar with the Starting Point site, you definitely need to go check it out! The site "introduces economists to innovative teaching strategies developed both within and beyond the discipline of economics. It provide instructors with the tools to begin integrating and assessing these teaching strategies in their own classrooms and promotes the sharing of teaching innovations among instructors." Right now, there are three modules available (context-rich problems, teaching with cases and cooperative learning) but six more will be available in a few weeks (on classroom response systems, experiments, demonstrations, quantitative writing, computer simulations and undergraduate student research) and the rest (including the one I'm working on, on Interactive Lectures) should be live by the fall.

The big idea behind Starting Point is that there are many pedagogies commonly used in other disciplines that can be adapted and used by economists (not all the pedagogies on the site are from other disciplines but that was how the project got started). The PI's for the project (Mark Maier, KimMarie McGoldrick and Scott Simkins) have a paper that explains more about the project, and there will be at least one session about it at the Western regional meetings. From my perspective, what really makes the site awesome is that not only does it provide the 'what' and 'why use' for a bunch of different tools (which will be useful for encouraging economists to move beyond chalk and talk) but it drills down into the 'how', including providing lots of econ-specific examples I can use in my own classes. In addition, anyone can submit their own examples which means that over time, there should be a pretty amazing database there. While there are lots of teaching resources for economists all over the web and in various print publications, Starting Point is a single, comprehensive place that you can go to find information on pretty much anything you might want to know about innovations to improve your teaching.

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