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Rethinking Economics Teaching in Higher Education

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1 Rethinking Economics Teaching in Higher Education
Fang Woan-Pin

2 Background Broad-based curriculum
3,000 engineering students per academic year Personal interest versus fulfilling university’s requirement Challenge for the teaching staff Lecture – tutorial delivery mode Background

3 Profile of Engineering Students
Good academic results Foreign scholars from India and Republic of China Examination-smart with a sound technique for studying Successful in a competitive learning environment Personal strategies in overcoming learning obstacles Profile of Engineering Students

4 Current Practices (Literature)
Content determination Long & Short list debate Teaching Practice Talk and Chalk Presentation: Complex graphs and mathematical equations Quality of staff: PhDs holders = good teachers Staff’s reward system Current Practices (Literature)

5 Issues Students’ perspective: Lecturers’ perspective High failure rate
Difficult subject Lecturers’ perspective Unmotivated students Lacks reading Low status subject Lack of ‘flow’ makes learning difficult Accelerated program (124 credit units in 3.5 yrs) Issues

6 Pilot Study Research Questions
Whether there is a mismatch of expectations between the instructor and the students Whether the curriculum design helps the understanding of the students Whether the skills required in learning economics are too demanding Whether the teaching staff play a role in motivating their learning Students’ experience in learning left unanswered Pilot Study

7 Research Method Grounded Theory
“a qualitative research method that uses a system set of procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory about a phenomenon” – Strauss and Corbin, 1990 Research Method

8 Research Method – Grounded Theory
Scientific Paradigm Naturalistic Paradigm Preferred Research Methods Quantitative Qualitative Source of Theory A Priori Grounded Research Method – Grounded Theory

9 Different Terminology
Aspect Scientific Term Naturalistic Term Truth value Internal Validity Credibility Applicability External Validity/ Generalisability Fittingness Consistency Reliability Auditability/Dependability Neutrality Objectivity Conformability Different Terminology

10 Procedure Interview Coding Storyline To gather information
To explain a phenomenon Storyline Procedure

11 Students’ Theory - Difficult

12 I have found macro difficult because I am not used to these things, not really aware of those stuff. So I find it very difficult to grasp the basic concepts, they are just too abstract MB=Demand and MC=Supply; it is difficult to appreciate it because it is really too abstract. Of course I can understand once I am told about it, but it doesn’t come naturally. It is not like the Law of Physics – gravity. It is true and we know it. Abstract concepts

13 Different from normal sciences
All these concepts are all so new to me and I have not found my own method to study this....I need to grasp the basic concepts and need time to read and think because it is very different from my other subjects There are a lot of readings in this course which is different from others. Not those other subjects do not require reading, it is that the materials are often repeated as we move on, so it sort of reduces the actual time spent. The same theories and laws are used again and again, economics is different. Different from normal sciences

14 Complex Graphs and Grey Areas
The hardest in the macro part is the ADAS curve; there are too many curves in one diagram! Year 1, year 2 then LRAS, it got too confusing to have so many curves in one diagram, too hard. I find that there are so many grey areas in this subject, not like engineering subjects which is clear cut, you have input and output, use variables to substitute and you see a process and one solution Complex Graphs and Grey Areas

15 Students’ theory - Interest
Beliefs: That the world is interconnected. Becoming a responsible citizen. Engineers do not stay as engineers. Perceived expectations: Understanding economics issues Understanding policy options A non-technical alternative training – complementary Concept of ‘interest’ Theory of ‘interesting’ is developed because it helps to: Explain the world’s issues Explain policy options offer a complementary subject Students’ theory - Interest

16 Students theory – ‘unsatisfactory’
Beliefs: Learning has no boundaries. Asian perspective is important Inspiring teachers Perceived Expectations: Learning to understand the world from the viewpoint of Asia Real life examples used as illustration Not too examination- oriented in teaching Experience Content overload Too many western examples Unstimulating teaching Concept of ‘unsatisfactory’ Students theory – ‘unsatisfactory’

17 Difficulty Interest Dissatisfaction Interrelationship

18 Difficult Abstract concepts Complex graphical presentation
Dislike the discursive approach in learning economics Students’ approach to learning Practical – examination-oriented Obtain ‘model’ answers and memorize them Devise templates in learning economics Difficult

19 From ‘Difficult’ to ‘Interesting’ to ‘Unsatisfactory’
Understand the issues in the world Intellectually stimulating Complemented their professional training However, the experience is soon transformed into a feeling of dissatisfaction Gap between their expectations and the reality of how the course was delivered From ‘Difficult’ to ‘Interesting’ to ‘Unsatisfactory’

20 Difficult to unsatisfactory
Need more time to read and reflect Unfavourable external environment to develop the ‘interest’ factor Felt the content lacks application to the world Teaching staff is too concerned about examination Difficult to unsatisfactory

21 Implications Real-life Application Versus Theoretical exploration
The problem with Abstract Concepts Teaching methods Avoidance of an overload of facts Clarity in explanation Illustration with real examples Graphs and mathematical equations are tools for explanation Inspiring students to explore beyond the text Implications

22 Rethinking Economics Teaching
Problem-first approach – Reimann Threshold concepts ‘ ....the conventional practical wisdom of simplifying concepts in order to render them more accessible seemed to prove dysfunctional....’ - Meyer & Land, 2006 Rethinking Economics Teaching


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