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Saturday, June 3, 2017

CTREE 2017

Thank you to everyone who presented, discussed, chaired and attended! This was the first time I have been the chair of a conference organizing committee and while it was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun and I'm pretty proud of the program we put together. A few highlights for me:
  • I was psyched to see multiple papers where the authors were looking at the impact of something happening in one course by focusing on outcomes at a later point in time, like performance in the follow-on intermediate course. One of my biggest problems with a lot of the SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) literature is that in most effectiveness studies, the outcomes are within-course measures, like scores on a final exam or final course grades. While it's certainly reassuring that outcomes like these are not negatively affected by pedagogical changes like active learning, I have always felt that the more important questions involve what happens after students leave our classroom. Do they retain more? Do they understand at a deeper level? Can they transfer what they have learned to new and different situations? In my mind, these are the outcomes that active learning should be helping with. Of course, data on students is harder to get once they have left our class but it's great to see more people working to get at these longer-term effects.
  • Another reason I think it's important to follow students beyond the end of the semester we have them is because regardless of academic 'performance', I believe pedagogical choices that engage students probably also makes them more likely to become majors but there is a really small amount of research on this. Looking for some of that research is on my to-do list, prompted in part by the awesome plenary by David Wilcox at the Fed dinner on Wednesday night. Since I'm not a macro person, the Fed dinner is usually not that interesting to me but Wilcox devoted his time to discussing diversity (and the lack thereof) in the profession. I have a lot of ideas about this and hope to write more about some of them soon...
  • I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the first plenary which focused on personal financial education. I have to admit, I tend to downplay the connection between personal finance and economics, in part because I really don't want people to think economics is "just" about balancing a checkbook, but Annamaria Lusardi made a compelling case for teaching financial literacy that made me realize how closely connected it is to what I think of as economic literacy. If we can do a better job of teaching financial literacy to students, they will be well on their way to understanding economic literacy more generally.  
In addition to re-invigorating my passion for economics education, it was simply great to see old friends and meet new ones, as well as just put faces with all the names I had come to know from doing the program. To those who attended, I hope you found it more valuable than your next best alternative!