My initial interest in economics started when I realized how I could use economic ideas to explain daily events. As my understanding on the “power of economic thinking” grew I became inspired, not only to continue with economics as the foundation of my career, but to share and mentor a new generation on how vital economics is to understand the daily events we all experience throughout our lives. I view my job and my goal, as a college educator, is to: increase my students’ appreciation and engagement with economics, generate and encourage critical thinkers (through classroom assignments and real-world examples), and provide the appropriate mentorship. During my tenure at the University of New Hampshire, I enrolled in the Cognate of College Teaching, which helped me acquire the necessary skills to be an efficient economics educator.
One of the key strengths of economics, as a field of study, is how the main concepts are integral and can be applied to our daily lives. However, often students fail to see the usefulness and significance beyond the class content. The concepts become merely a laundry list of items that students simply memorize to pass the course without seeing the underlying real-world importance. As a college educator, my task is to not only to teach the respective material but (more importantly) to revitalize the students’ curiosity. Most students that went through the earlier stages of education have already lost their thirst for knowledge. They have become convergent thinkers that are good at choosing the right answer in a multiple-choice exam, but struggle when they encounter any problem that requires critical thinking.
My plan is to revitalize the student’s curiosity with interactive teaching instruments and current events. Through my use of pre- and in-class assignments, I find a successful method in creating an engaging experience that I believe will foster intellectual curiosity. The pre-class assignments consist of videos, podcasts, and news articles in conjunction with a writing task that is intentionally designed to represent a well-known real-world problem that will require the students to examine the situation from an economist’s perspective. This helps the students connect the main concepts to their everyday life, which will help them appreciate and understand the value of studying economics. For example, I used a pre-class assignment before covering opportunity cost. I asked them to listen to a thirty-minute podcast regarding free parking (courtesy of Freakonomics). Afterwards, I ask them open ended questions about what they heard and how it related to opportunity costs. I conclude the discussion by asking them if there were other examples, they could think of, which applied. In my experience, this is very beneficial for the students in connecting the material and developing a curiosity for economics. Students who complete the pre-class assignments are more motivated to learn and participate. Lectures become more interesting and more lecture-time can be dedicated to active forms of learning. We have more time for classroom discussion, application of the material to understanding current events, and occasional “flipped classroom” group in-class activities. This process fosters students who are intellectually curious, and willing to utilize the tools they have acquired on daily experiences. This carefully designed path of learning experiences ensures that students transform the new information they receive into their own knowledge and skills.
Finally, as a first-generation college graduate, I appreciated the mentorship and guidance that I received from my professors. In my opinion, being a college student can be overwhelming for many, leaving some incapable of fully benefitting from the college experience . Using my experience, I could offer those students mentorship and guidance. To let them share their worries or problems, not only allows me to connect with them, but also allows them a connection to the course. I find this aspect of college teaching very rewarding and beneficial for a student’s long-term success.
I believe the goal of college teaching is to intellectually stimulate the students’ curiosity and help them develop and maintain their critical thinking skills so that they, as it pertains to economics, can absorb and contextualize the daily picture. This should be accomplished by providing the students with the appropriate exercises (both in- and outside of class), to encourage them to lead discussions and focus on real-world examples they have possibly encountered. All of this, while providing my support as an educator and as a mentor (to guide when needed). I encourage my students to become life-long problem solvers, challenging themselves and the world around them, and to continue develop intellectually long after they leave my classroom.