Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics > Teaching Methods > Interactive Lectures > The Economics of Drug Legalization: A Double Entry Journal

The Economics of Drug Legalization: A Double Entry Journal

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

With a DEJ, students identify on the left side of a grid (a Word table template e-mailed or distributed to students) the key points of an article, chapter, or guest lecture. Just opposite the key point they respond, linking the point to other academic material, current events, or their personal experiences and opinions. What becomes of the out-of-class homework assignment is critically important. Too often, teachers merely collect and grade homework, suggesting to students that their work is merely an artificial exercise intended for evaluation by a bored expert (the teacher). To avoid this perception and to build in the active learning and interactions for deep learning, teachers can have students pair to read and discuss their DEJs on the same article.

Learning Goals

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 use any challenging economics article (or a guest lecture) as the basis for the DEJ. This assignment is time-consuming for students, so it should not be overused, perhaps only three times a semester. Used as described, the Double-Entry Journal is nested in the context of the deep learning model discussed elsewhere. Students complete a reading and then discuss the article with a partner, a practice that can promote critical thinking because they see alternate approaches to the same material. The students come to class prepared.

Description and Teaching Materials

With a DEJ, students identify on the left side of a grid (a Word table template e-mailed or distributed to students) the key points of an article, chapter, or guest lecture. Just opposite the key point they respond, linking the point to other academic material, current events, or their personal experiences and opinions. Here is an example:

Grid with sample double entry journal (Acrobat (PDF) 60kB Jun19 10)
(Abbreviated Sample: First two paragraphs only)
Becker, G. S. (September 17, 2001). It's time to give up the war on drugs. Business Week, issue 3747, p, 32.

(see table with journal entry in attachment)

To avoid overloading students, faculty members can limit either the length of the DEJ or the number of key points.

What becomes of the out-of-class homework assignment is critically important. Too often, teachers merely collect and grade homework, suggesting to students that their work is merely an artificial exercise intended for evaluation by a bored expert (the teacher). To avoid this perception and to build in the active learning and interactions for deep learning, teachers can have students pair to read and discuss their DEJs on the same article.

This linking of out-of-class work with in-class "processing" also results in meaningful on-target repetition with students more likely to complete an assignment they know will be shared with peers. Two biologists help us appreciate the value of repetition for the "basics" of learning and why sequencing is important. Leamnson (1999) states, "Learning is defined as stabilizing, through repeated use, certain appropriate and desirable synapses in the brain" (p.5). Zull (2002) defines the art of teaching as "creating conditions that lead to change in a learner's brain" (p. 5)

Repetition is thus a key to learning. The reading is exposure one. Then, crafting the DEJ draws the student back into the material—with personally relevant responses—for repetition two. The paired discussion in class provides a third repetition. (Students coming unprepared do not pair: they sit in the back of the class and work on their DEJ.) As a fourth repetition, students are likely to review their DEJ when the teacher returns them with marginal comments. (Although marked, DEJs need not receive a labor-intensive letter grade: a pass/fail grade—with a "pass," for example, counting 10 points toward a criterion referenced point-based final grade—motivates students without adding significantly to the grading load.) A fifth repetition occurs when teachers "coach" students on preparing an ideal DEJ by presenting exemplary examples as an in-class follow-up.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Assessment

References and Resources

Becker, G. S. (September 17, 2001). It's time to give up the war on drugs. Business Week, issue 3747, p, 32.

Leamnson, R. (1999). Thinking about teaching and learning: Developing habits of learning with first year college and university students. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Zull, J. E. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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