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Educating Economists

The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major

Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick

The economics major is a central part of a college education. But is that economics major doing what it is meant to do? And if not, how should it be changed? This book raises a set of provocative questions that encourage readers to look at the economics major in a different light than it is typically considered and provides a series of recommendations for change.
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Chapter 8: Using Pedagogical Change to Improve Student Learning in the Economics Major

Scott Simkins and Mark Maier


Scott Simkins and Mark Maier We argue here – in support of the recommendations put forth in the Teagle Report in Chapter 1 – that well-designed pedagogical innovations can have a significant impact on the type of student learning that occurs in the economics major. Further, we believe that these changes in student learning are likely to narrow the gap between twenty-first-century liberal education goals and those undergirding the curricula of most undergraduate economics majors. In this response we summarize ways in which pedagogical changes in economics education can achieve both the learning goals of the economics major and those of a liberal education. In addition, we offer suggestions about how those pedagogical changes might be implemented, including discussion of a web-based teaching and learning portal for economists currently being developed as part of a new National Science Foundation-funded project. USING PEDAGOGICAL CHANGE TO BRIDGE THE GAP IN LEARNING OUTCOMES The goals of liberal education are by definition broad and diffuse and have been traditionally aimed at developing students’ critical thinking, analytical reasoning, quantitative analysis, oral and written communication, and moral reasoning skills. Over the last decade national initiatives such as the AAC&U’s Greater Expectations and the National Leadership Council’s LEAP projects have extended these goals to: “work within complex systems and with diverse groups . . . demonstrate the ability to manage change . . . transform information into knowledge and knowledge into judgment and action,” among others (p. xi, Greater Expectations report1). Clearly, the direction of change in modern liberal education goals is in the...

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