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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do you give final exams during final exam week?

Although I did not give final exams this fall semester, I also didn't have time to comment on a couple articles about profs who don't give finals because I was busy grading final papers. So you can imagine my reaction to Dan Hamermesh complaining about "lazy academics", saying that his colleagues were imposing a negative externality on him by not having finals (since it led many of his students to request taking his exam early because they wanted to leave town). While I can sympathize with his complaints about the emails, his assumption that his colleagues were lazy struck me as bizarre. Many of the comments on that post rightfully pointed out that in many courses, final exams are a pretty poor way to assess whether students actually learned anything and papers or projects are much better (and the fact that Hamermesh has 520 students is probably a way bigger problem than his colleagues not giving final exams).

Dean Dad had a slightly different complaint, noting that many faculty do give final exams but move them up to the last week of classes (which may also be related to Hamermesh's issue, since Hamermesh has no idea why his students do not have other exams during finals week). This means that some instructors are basically cutting a week out of the semester but it isn't really feasible to figure out who is shirking and who has legitimate reasons for not having a final exam.

My first reaction to Dean Dad's post was to wonder if it is more common to see early finals in the semester system versus the quarter system. With a ten-week quarter, I imagine I would feel like I couldn't afford to give up any of the regular class time, that there would be too much I would want to cover. But with a fifteen-week semester, I have often felt that students (and I!) are simply burnt out by week eleven or twelve so a lot of the last week is spent reviewing anyway, and an early final seems like a more efficient use of time. I also wonder if the practice of giving final exams early has become more common at state schools impacted by budget cuts - the economist in me cannot help but think that if you pay people the same amount (or less) but make their jobs harder (by giving them more students and less support), it's only rational that they will look for other ways to compensate themselves.

I admit that it felt a bit weird to not be giving a final exam in the data analysis course but I believe the final projects my students did were a better way for them to tie together everything we did this semester. I suppose I could have given them a final exam as well, or broken up the project so that part of it was completed in class, as a final exam, but honestly, one of the reasons I did not want to give a final exam in that course is that I was pretty sure that grading such an exam would be way too painful. Of course, it turns out that grading the final projects was probably just as painful but at least a) when I had to give students C's and D's, I knew that they could not use a time limit as an excuse for their sloppy work, and b) the sloppiness I had to read was all in their thinking, not their handwriting. I may re-think the final exam thing for next semester but giving a final just to give a final, or just because the University sets a certain time for a final exam, seems like a strange reason to do it...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Economics Education sessions at ASSA

If I missed any, please let me know...

Jan 07, 2011 8:00 am, Sheraton, Director's Row H
American Economic Association
K-12 Economic and Financial Literacy Education (A2)
Presiding: Richard MacDonald (St. Cloud State University)

Teacher and Student Characteristics as Determinants of Success in High School Economics Classes

Jody Hoff  (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)
Jane Lopus (California State University-East Bay)
Rob Valletta (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)
[Download Preview]
It Takes a Village: Determinants of the Efficacy of Financial Literacy Education for Elementary and Middle School Students
Weiwei Chen (University of Memphis)
Julie Heath (University of Memphis)
Economics Understanding of Albanian High School Students: Student and Teacher Effects and Specific Concept Knowledge
Dolore Bushati (University of Kansas)
Barbara Phipps (University of Kansas)
Lecture and Tutorial Attendance and Student Performance in the First Year Economics Course: A Quantile Regression Approach
Girijasankar Mallik (University of Western Sydney, Australia)
[Download Preview]

George Vredeveld (University of Cincinnati)
John Swinton (Georgia College & State University)
James O'Neill (University of Delaware)
King Banaian (St. Cloud State University)

Jan 07, 2011 2:30 pm, Sheraton, Vail American Economic Association
Teaching Undergraduate Economics (A1)
Presiding: Kenneth Elzinga (University of Virginia)

Factors Influencing Student Performance in Economics: Class and Instructor Characteristics

Wayne A. Grove (Le Moyne College)
Stephen Wu (Hamilton College)
[Download Preview]
Web 2.0 and Economic Education
Tim Haab (Ohio State University)
Aaron Schiff (Covec)
John C. Whitehead (Appalachian State University)
The Principles of Economics Textbook
Jane S. Lopus (California State University East Bay)
Lynn Paringer (California State University East Bay)
[Download Preview]
Assessing Student Learning with Rubrics
KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond)
Brian Peterson (Central College)


Kenneth G. Elzinga (University of Virginia)

Jan 08, 2011 8:00 am, Sheraton, Savoy National Association of Economic Educators
Big Think: A Model for Critical Inquiry in Economics Courses (A2) (Panel Discussion)
Panel Moderator: KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond)
KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond)
Robert Garnett (Texas Christian University)
Paul Grimes (Mississippi State University)
Geoffrey Schneider (Bucknell University)
John J. Siegfried (Vanderbilt University)
Martha Starr (American University)
Michael Watts (Purdue University)

Jan 08, 2011 10:15 am, Sheraton, Governor's Square 11 American Economic Association
Innovative Teaching Strategies for Teaching Undergraduate Economics (A2)
Presiding: B. Douglas Bernheim (Stanford University)
In-Class vs. Online Experiments: Is There a Difference?
Tisha L.N. Emerson (Baylor Universeity)
Linda K. Carter (Baylor University)
Teaching with Case Studies...Hyperinflation: What Can Zimbabwe Teach Us?
Monica Hartmann (University of St. Thomas)
Robert Werner (University of St. Thomas)
Do Daily Clicker Questions Predict Course Performance?
Lee E. Erickson (Taylor University)
Patricia A. Erickson (Taylor University)


Steven J. Balassi (Saint Mary's College of California)
Jennifer Imazeki (San Diego State University)
Mariah Ehmke (University of Wyoming)
Cynthia Bansak (St. Lawrence University)

Jan 08, 2011 10:15 am, Sheraton, Savoy
National Association of Economic Educators
Producing Education: Advances in the Efficient Creation of Knowledge (A2)
Presiding: John Swinton (Georgia College & State University)

Do Central Administrators Produce Local Public Goods?
Shawna Grosskopf
(Oregon State University)
Kathy J. Hayes (Southern Methodist University)
Lori L. Taylor (Texas A&M University)
AP Economics: Is Access Representative?
Chris Clark (Georgia College & State University)
Ben Scafidi (Georgia College & State University)
Does Competition Improve Public School Efficiency? An Analysis of K-12 Public Education in Mississippi
Kaustav Misra (Mississippi State University)
Application of Grade Inflation: Knowledge Illusion and Economic Inefficiency in the Knowledge Market
Tin-Chun Lin (Indiana University Northwest)


Paul Grimes (Mississippi State University)
Carlos Asarta (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Roger Butters (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
John R. Swinton (Georgia College & State University)

Jan 08, 2011 2:30 pm, Sheraton, Plaza Foyer American Economic Association
Poster Session: Active Learning Strategies for the Undergraduate Economics Curriculum (A2) (Poster Session)
Presiding: Wendy Stock (Montana State University)

Do Voting Schemes Matter?

Barbara Beliveau (St. Mary's College of Maryland)
The Psychology of Price Bubbles
Barbara Beliveau (St. Mary's College of Maryland)
Statistical Inference
Barbara Beliveau (St. Mary's College of Maryland)
Demonstrating a Central Tenet of the New Institutional Economics Using a Classroom Experiment
Christopher Bell (University of North Carolina-Asheville)
Developing Quality Undergraduate Research Experiences in Economics: Tools, Tips, and Ideas from the Starting Point Economics Pedatogic Portal Project
Mary O. Borg (University of North Florida)
Stephen B. DeLoach (Elon University)
Shelia Kennison (Oklahoma State University)
Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore (Randolph College)
[Download Preview]
Connecting to Your Heritage: Making Economics Personal
Charles Britton (University of Arkansas)
Understanding Strategic Behavior in an Oligopoly Model Using Classroom Clickers
Keith Brouhle
(Grinnell College)
Engaging a Diverse Set of Students in Healthcare Economics
Bruce Brown (California State Polytechnic University)
Twitternomics: Using Tweets to Teach
Howard Cochran (Belmont University)
Marieta Velikova (Belmont University)
Perfect in an Imperfect World
Marilyn Cottrell (Brock University)
Teaching Externalities with the Performance-Enhancing Drug Game: An Experimental Approach
Damian Damianov (University of Texas-Pan American)
Shane Sanders (Nicholls State University)
[Download Preview]
Improving Undergraduate Teaching and Community Outreach through a State University Economic Research Center
Maureen Dunne (Framingham State University)
Martha Meaney (Framingham State University)
Fahlino Sjuib (Framingham State University)
Teaching Effectiveness of Macroeconomics Policy using Interactive Spreadsheets
Sarah Ghosh (University of Scranton)
Satyajit Ghosh (University of Scranton)
Teaching Exchange Rates using Currency Offer Curves: The U.S. China Example
Jannett Highfill (Bradley University)
Raymond Wojcikewych (Bradley University)
[Download Preview]
Landmine Clearance as a Case for Principles of Economics
Scott Houser (Colorado School of Mines)
Bite Size Pieces Taste Better
Areerat Kichkha (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale)
Mocknell Baskerball League Player Auction
Gregory Krohn (Bucknell University)
How to Assess Student Success for Students Working with Internet Learning Applications
Carsten Lange (California State Polytechnic University)
Starting Point: Pedagogical Resources for Teaching and Learning Economics
Mark H. Maier (Glendale Community College)
KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond)
Scott P. Simkins (Academy for Teaching and Learning)
Using Live Question for Assist Learning in Economics
G. Dirk Mateer (Pennsylvania State University)
There Is No Such Thing as a Free Textbook
Simon Medcalfe (Augusta State University)
Self-Guided Learning: The Value of Self-Directed Projects in Statistics for Business and Economics
Angela Mitchell (Wilmington College)
Large Classes in a Small College Setting: Achieving Economics of Scale and
Pedagogical Success in Teaching Principles of Microeconomics

Michael J. Murray (Central College)
Brian Peterson (Central College)
A Web-Based Final Exam in Economics: Can We Help Students Learn to Identify and Explain Economics in Everyday Life?
Bridget O'Shaughnessy (McMaster University, Canada)
Teaching "Externalities" with Dynamic Graphs in Microsoft Excel
B.A. Pitafi (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale)
Thomas Mitchell (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale)
Economics Network: Ten Major Successes from the Past Ten Years
Inna Pomorina (University of Bristol, United Kingdom)
[Download Preview]
Use of Student-Authored Study Guide to Teach Principles of Microeconomics
Rod Raehsler (Clarion University)
Closing the Grade Gap between 9 and 10am Introductory Microeconomic Course by Using Active Learning Examples
Geetha Rajaram (Whittier College)
[Download Preview]
Simulating Oligopoly to Enhance Student Learning
Christopher Ruebeck (Lafayette College)
Joseph E. Harrington (Johns Hopkins University)
Interactive Lecture Demonstrations: Assessing the Effectiveness of Predict, Experience, and Reflect in Economics Instruction
Rochelle Ruffer (Nazareth College)
Mark H. Maier (Glendale Community College)
[Download Preview]
A Classroom Experiment Illustrating the Law of Demand
Nicholas Rupp (East Carolina University)
[Download Preview]
Peer Instruction the Economics Way: A Modification of Peer Instruction
Designed for a Large Enrollment Principles of Economics Classroom

Michael K. Salemi (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Jose Vazquez-Cognet (University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign)
An Instructional Exercise in Price Controls: Product Quality and Public Policy
Shane Sanders (Nicholls State University)
Dennis L. Wiseman (Kansas State University)
[Download Preview]
Generative Learning Strategies for a Principles of Microeconomics Course
Katherine Sauer (Metropolitan State College of Denver)
Understanding Inflation: The Consumer Price Index
Brian Sloboda (University of Phoenix and U.S. Postal Service)
The Economic Naturalist Walk

Scott Steele (Berea College)
Thinking Like an Economist
Kristine West (University of Minnesota)
Katie Genadek (University of Minnesota)

Jan 08, 2011 2:30 pm, Sheraton, Savoy National Association of Economic Educators

Student Characteristics and Performance in the Economics Classroom (A2)
Presiding: Christopher Clark(Georgia College & State University)

Gifted Students and Gifted Teachers: Is it Innate Ability or Teacher Knowledge that Drives Student Learning?
Roger B. Butters (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Tammie J. Fischer (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Economic Education)
Why Some High IQ Students Fail to Make High Effort at School: A Behavioral Theory and Empirical Evidence

Yuemei Ji (K. U. Leuven Center for Economic Studies)
How Do Transfer Students Perform in Economics? Evidence from Intermediate Macroeconomics
Carlos J. Asarta (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Scott M. Fuess Jr. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Bonn, Germany)
Andrew Perumal (University of Nebraska-Licoln)
Effectiveness of a High School Personal Finance Course: Evidence from a Multi-year Control-Group Study

Andrew T. Hill (Feveral Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)
Bonnie T. Meszaros (University of Delaware)


John R. Swinton (Georgia College & State University)
Paul Grimes (Mississippi State University)

Jan 09, 2011 8:00 am, Sheraton, Governor's Square 11
American Economic Association

Research on Teaching Practices of Economics Faculty (A2)
Presiding: Randall S. Kroszner (University of Chicago)

Results from a Faculty Development Program in Teaching Economics
William Walstad
(University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Michael Salemi (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Teaching and Assessment Methods in Undergraduate Economics: A Fourth National Quinquennial Survey

Georg Schaur (University of Tennessee-Knoxville)
Michael Watts (Purdue University)
[Download Preview]
Student Performance in Undergraduate Economics Courses

Kevin J. Mumford (Purdue University)
Matthew W. Ohland (Purdue University)


Kristina M. Lybecker (Colorado College)
Tisha L.N. Emerson (Baylor University)
Sam Allgood (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy holidays!

May your grading be done, may your inbox be devoid of student pleas, may the deadweight loss of your presents be small, and may your holiday season be filled with much laughter and joy...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Do you write the way you talk?

A few different people pointed me to a (not so) recent article in The Chronicle, written by a man who writes for a custom essay company (that is, he writes papers for students). It's a fascinating article - every academic definitely should read it. But while the author's story alone is scary/sad/infuriating, I found many of the comments equally fascinating. As you might expect, there's lots of debate about how to avoid/detect plagiarism and who is to blame for the existence of these essay services. One comment, #253 from thodekke, particularly caught my attention. He writes:
"Speaking as an undergraduate student who has to write in many of his classes, I'm confident in saying that I'm much more knowledgable than my writing sometimes suggests. There are those who simply can't articulate thoughts on paper. When given an oral question, they can  answer it and it sounds like a doctorate level thesis. Ask them to write a paper on it and they start sounding like a complete idiot.

I usually write pretty well. That being said, I've never had a class on writing style. In my entire student life, I've never once had a class teaching me *how* to write. I've gotten lessons on how my grammar should be, how I should spell, how I should research... I would have loved an over-arching style class. Just once."
Now, my first thought was that I completely disagree with the first part - if someone truly can answer a question eloquently orally, they should be able to answer it just as eloquently on paper, if for no other reason than they could just tape themselves and transcribe what they said. But as I thought about his larger point, that students are not really taught how to *write*, it occurred to me that perhaps his point about oral versus written communication makes more sense if no one has ever pointed out to him the connection between good writing and good speaking. In my experience, the clearest writing can be read aloud and it sounds like normal speech, but many people seem to see the two forms of communication as completely separate.

I was thinking about this general idea while grading the first papers from my data class earlier in the semester. Many students clearly know that they are supposed to cite sources in a certain way, and with some, it is obvious that they were taught to put a thesis statement at the end of their first paragraph that sums up the points they will make in the rest of the paper. But many use wordiness and rhetoric as substitutes for actual content and they write sentences that I know would never come out of their mouths if they were talking aloud. It often seems like all they should need to do is read their papers aloud to realize that the sentence they've just written makes no sense but I wonder if anyone has ever suggested that they do just that.

Last year, one of the assignments for my writing class was for students to write an oral report. They specifically had to write out exactly what they would say because they swapped papers with a classmate and the classmate was the one who actually read the report aloud to the rest of the class (after whatever editing they wanted to do). The students had a pretty hard time with it but I think it made them take me more seriously when, for the rest of the semester, I would tell them to read their papers out loud to see if they made sense.

But I'm not really a writing instructor; I'm an economist who just happens to think I write pretty well (which I recognize may be a relative thing - I really don't think it's too hard to write better than most economists!). So I'd be curious what others think - are writing and speaking just two sides of the same coin? Do you write the way you talk?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My favorite joke at this time of year

A student comes to a young professor's office hours. She glances down the hall, closes his door, and kneels pleadingly. "I would do anything to pass this exam."

She leans closer to him, flips back her hair, gazes meaningfully into his eyes. "I mean," she whispers, "I would do anything."

He returns her gaze. "Anything?"


His voice turns to a whisper. "Would you... study?"

[In the FAQ for my classes on Blackboard, I have the following: "If you REALLY want to know what you can do to improve your grade, click here." Cracks me up every time I see it...]