The Heart of Teaching Economics

The Heart of Teaching Economics

Lessons from Leading Minds

Simon W. Bowmaker

This unique monograph comprises a collection of interviews conducted face-to-face with leading economists at universities throughout the United States. Presented with the singular opportunity to reflect on and share their wisdom and experience, the 21 interviewees discuss how they interpret, understand and practice their role as teachers. In addition to providing lessons that will inform the way others teach, the interviews shatter the illusion that teaching and research are strictly independent and competing activities.


Robert M. Solow

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, teaching economics, education, economics of education, teaching and learning


Robert M. Solow My first thought on reading these interviews was that people who like teaching turn out to be good teachers. Then, like any well-trained economist, I worried about reverse causation: maybe naturally good teachers end up enjoying teaching. In the absence of a structural model, I’ll settle for the correlation. Pleasure in teaching and competence in teaching are associated. Any young or old teacher of economics can learn something from these interviews. (Fully one-third of the subjects did their graduate work at MIT, said he with a smile.) I am not thinking of little hints or recipes about classroom technique, but rather about mind-sets and attitudes. For instance, good teaching is clearly hard work. Every one of these good teachers thinks seriously about the function and structure of the course, and then prepares each lecture or class with forethought and care. A good teacher can’t just follow a text, useful as a text may be for some purposes, because a good teacher has his or her own coherent view of what this stuff is all about and where it is going. That is why teaching a course a couple of times is so educational for the teacher. I always felt that approximately the third time I taught a course was the best, because I really understood the material and its lessons. After that, a little bit of boredom might creep in, and it was time to look for some new problems and some new angles for next time....