How can JiTT Improve Teaching and Learning in Economics?
By Helping Students Develop "Economic Thinking" Skills
A key learning goal for many economics instructors is to help students "think like an economist." But "thinking like an economist" often requires students to think in ways that are very different from what they are used to – and often means learning a whole new set of terminology as well. Here are some challenges that students face in learning to "think like an economist" and how JiTT can help overcome those challenges.
- Analyzing Concepts using Multiple Representations - (models, graphs, equations, words, data) - This is one of the biggest learning challenges for students new to economics.
- Learning (and using) a New Vocabulary - Simple misunderstandings of commonly-used words often trip students up in economics.
- Applying Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning - Students are often unfamiliar with the use of abstract and quantitative reasoning/writing skills and need practice applying these skills to economic concepts and problems.
- Uncovering Pre/Misconceptions - What students already "know" can affect their understanding of economics as much as what they don't know. Unfortunately, these pre/misconceptions are stubbornly persistent, so it's important to uncover them as early as possible.
By Overcoming General Student Learning ChallengesIn addition to economics-specific challenges, students in economics courses are often dealing with more general student learning challenges that can hinder their learning and overall academic success. Below is a list of some common student learning challenges and how JiTT can be used to address them.
- Difficulty with Reading and Using Textbooks - Students are often unable to determine which information is most important in a textbook chapter and how information in one section or chapter is related to another. As a result, student learning often remains at the "surface level".
- Fragmented Knowledge-Building - Students often think of concepts learned in a course as disconnected from their lives and previous concepts presented in the course.
- Transferring Knowledge to New Situations- This is one of the most difficult challenges in learning. As instructors, we see it when we change examples slightly on exams and students cannot answer the question because they don't fully understand the underlying concepts.
- Dealing with Unstructured Information/Problems- Many real-world problems are not structured as neatly as those at the end of a textbook chapter or in publisher-provided online resources. Students have difficulty making the transition from classroom/textbook examples to real-world applications, which are unavoidably messy.
- Ability to Self-Monitor the Learning Process - Helping students develop metacognitive, or reflective-learning, skills promotes deep, life-long learning, but is too often absent from our teaching activities.