Arnold Kling  

For Introductory Economics

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I recommend Robert Frank's lecture and Paul Romer talking about economic growth, as interviewed by Russ Roberts.

Frank discusses economic education. He says that studies show that six months after an economics course, students are no better at answering basic questions than students who have not had a course. He argues that students need to hear stories about economics and, more importantly, that they need to learn to tell economic stories, in order to truly grasp the subject. Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.

I will ask my students to listen to Frank's talk, because he gets at some basic economic concepts. I will also ask them to listen to the Roberts-Romer podcast, for a couple of reasons. First, I teach economic growth as one of the units of my course, and the discussion is very much on point. Second, my preferred approach to teaching economics is conversational. If you think of an analogy with a foreign language, you want to get students to start speaking economics. Having them listen to Roberts and Romer have a conversation is helpful. I think that the conversation probably gets too fast and covers too much ground for a new student to absorb, but I would hope that something would sink in.


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Neal Piwowarski writes:

Economics, like any other specialized discipline, has its own unique language and terminology that takes many students almost an entire semesterto acclimate themselves to and begin to use on their own when discussing economic issues. Instructors must learn to be patient and realize that effective learning doesn't happen overnight. Concrete examples are a superb way for students to better understand and apply economic principles, not to mention how to see their relationship to the real world. The most important thing students can take with them from an economics class is a basic understanding of the underlying concepts, even if they can't remember all of the accompanying lingo.

Chelsea Meffert writes:

I think that students do understand economics better if they use it in everyday life as well. Real life examples and stories are also easier ways of understanding economics rather than reading the given text. This Blog also explains how my teacher teaches which is a good way for me to learn. The tips given in this Blog may also be helpful in learning more efficiently.

Neal Piwowarski writes:

Economics, like any other specialized discipline, has its own unique language and terminology that takes many students almost an entire semesterto acclimate themselves to and begin to use on their own when discussing economic issues. Instructors must learn to be patient and realize that effective learning doesn't happen overnight. Concrete examples are a superb way for students to better understand and apply economic principles, not to mention how to see their relationship to the real world. The most important thing students can take with them from an economics class is a basic understanding of the underlying concepts, even if they can't remember all of the accompanying lingo.

Matt writes:

I liked the Robert Frank lecture. The whole family listened thanks to my stereo amp.

aaron writes:

I had a Drs. appointment on Thursday. When I showed up, after waiting 20 min., they told me that my appointment was actually 15 minutes ago. (Half an hour before they told me my appointment was.)

As the office manager started to tell me that I would have to reschedule for another day, I told him that "You just cost me about $200."

If they didn't find a reasonable fix, I was ready to explain that I took hours off work, causing an actual financial cost and that, in addition they'd wasted my time which I value at least as much.

I was also prepared to call my primary care doctor and have him refer me to and schedule an appointment with a competitor in front of a waiting room full of people.

They didn't get me in right away, but I was able to run some errands and get some lunch. Beyond that, I had to kill another hour and change. But still better than taking time off work again.

John writes:

That podcast with Romer was great. My mind started getting tired when they were talking about the ramifications of different IP policies. Very complex problem in terms of enabling growth while allowing producers to capture value.

Karl Smith writes:

Bryan:

It seems to me like you are addressing the way your students look at the world and how they think about problems. Perhaps, even building skills that they can use elsewhere.

Isn't this a distraction from the rote memorization of facts and manipulation of mathematics which will signal their greater intelligence to potential employers? ;-P

Matt writes:

Romer gave too much credit to economists for creating incentive based innovation, rather than just preventing its inhibition.

Economists seem to measure the economic effects of motivations that were discovered in other domains. In other words, when have economists made significant contributions to evolution or psychology?

Mr. Econotarian writes:

when have economists made significant contributions to evolution or psychology?

When they kept politicians from doing stupid things to drive the economy into the ground and thus make the study of things like evolution and psychology possible :)

More directly, Vernon Smith from GMU and other economists have contributed directly through experiment to the understanding of the psychology of economics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_economics

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