Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics > Teaching Methods > Interactive Lectures > Pro-Con-Caveat Grid

Pro-Con-Caveat Grid

Barbara J. Millis, University of Texas, San Antonio
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project

Summary

Students receive via email, the course management system, or a web page, a blank electronic version of a pro-con-caveat grid. Their instructions are to list the arguments in favor of a certain decision and against the decision with caveats placed in a third column. Economics teachers, for instance, could (1) ask students to explore the pros, cons, and caveats of building a hospital in a certain neighborhood in their city or (2) after reading a case study of a two-career couple, have students list the pros (benefits) of their filing a joint income tax return and the cons (costs), plus any caveats they should take into consideration. Such assignments are often motivating for most students because they involve a real-life problem relevant to themselves. In the example given below, students, as homework, complete their grids, listing the arguments, pro and con, for changing the current flat rate campus parking system to one that is pro-rated based on the salary level of the person purchasing the permit. In a third column, the students list any caveats (other considerations) that might impact the decision. It is helpful for teachers to give students guidelines about how many entries they expect and how the entries should be expressed (e.g, complete sentences, bullets, etc.).

Learning Goals

  • To encourage students to reflect on an economic issue prior to coming to class
  • To ensure preparation prior to class
  • To promote higher order thinking when the students in small groups make judgments about the most cogent pro and con arguments and the caveats that should be considered ("Evaluation" on Bloom's well-known taxonomy) and prepare a composite grid with the best ideas from all the students ("Synthesis" on Bloom's taxonomy).

Context for Use

This extremely versatile activity can be used for any level of course and in large and small classes. It could also be adapted for online use. Faculty can change the prompts/assignments based on their own course content. Used as described, the Pro-Con-Caveat grid is nested in the context of the deep learning model discussed elsewhere. Students complete readings relevant to the decision and then apply the economic theory to a concrete problem or issue (Thus, they get into the knowledge base through a specific motivating challenge). In class, the students who create a composite Pro-Con-Caveat grid are engaged in the active learning, student-student interactions that allow for in-depth processing of individual work. The students come to class prepared.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students receive via email, the course management system, or a webpage a blank electronic version of a pro-con-caveat grid. Their instructions are to list the arguments in favor of a certain decision and against the decision with caveats placed in a third column. Economics teachers, for instance, could (1) ask students to explore the pros, cons, and caveats of building a hospital in a certain neighborhood in their city or (2) after reading a case study of a two-career couple, have students list the pros (benefits) of their filing a joint income tax return and the cons (costs), plus any caveats they should take into consideration. Such assignments are often motivating for most students because they involve a real-life problem relevant to themselves.
In the example given below, students, as homework, complete their grids, listing the arguments, pro and con, for changing the current flat rate campus parking system to one that is pro-rated based on the salary level of the person purchasing the permit. In a third column, the students list any caveats (other considerations) that might impact the decision. It is helpful for teachers to give students guidelines about how many entries they expect and how the entries should be expressed (e.g, complete sentences, bullets, etc.). Here is an example of a completed Pro-Con-Caveat grid:

Pro-Con-Caveat Grid (Acrobat (PDF) 39kB Jun19 10)

Should Parking on Campus be Pro-Rated Based on Salary Levels?

The instructor will want to make a three column grid with column headings of pro, con, and caveats. While not displayed in a table you see sample answers below.

Pros:
  • This system would be much fairer because an administrative assistant and a faculty member parking in the same designated area, such as the parking garages, would not pay the same amount.
  • Often the people who are carrying the heaviest burdens end up parking the furthest away. This would give people in lower pay grades a better opportunity to afford closer parking.
  • Some faculty and administrators would resist any changes that might increase their parking fees.
Cons:
  • It would be very complex to administer because each designated parking area would have to have various levels of fees.
  • Parking fees constitute a major source of revenue for the university, so efforts to reduce overall costs could negatively impact the budget.
Caveats:
  • A feasibility study would be needed
  • The university would need to be able to prevent people from giving their parking passes to others.
Students bring to class two copies of their complete pro-con-caveat grid. They turn in one copy of their Pro-Con-Caveat grids for pass-fail credit (three points for notations in all three columns), thus making them easy for the teacher to mark and assign credit. Students then work in small groups (three to five students: four students in my cooperative classes) to create an in-depth grid with the best ideas of each student. Groups can be called on randomly to share their joint creation on a document camera.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Assessment

References and Resources

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Cognitive Domain). New York: Longman.