Educating Economists
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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 9: Providing Incentives for Change: Evaluating Teaching

Ann L. Owen


Ann L. Owen If the goal of integrating the economics major into a liberal education is to be achieved on a widespread basis, many individual instructors will need to make significant changes. Instructors need to have incentives to make the investment in changing the way they teach their classes and any kind of incentive scheme will necessarily require college administrators to be able to identify those deserving of the rewards. Current methods for evaluating teaching effectiveness typically do not provide information about this aspect of teaching, and this change in emphasis will require a change in the way in which teaching is evaluated at most colleges and universities. Because implementing such a change will likely also involve costs for the institutions, institutions will need to have incentives to incur these costs. CHANGES TO THE WAYS TEACHING IS EVALUATED While different institutions may place differing levels of significance on the quality of teaching during tenure, promotion, and salary reviews, common practice weighs student input given through anonymous teaching evaluations heavily in the evaluation of teaching. This is inherently problematic as these kinds of evaluations are, at best, very noisy measures of teaching effectiveness. It is even more troublesome if a substantive evaluation of how the courses an instructor teaches contribute to a liberal education is desirable. Most undergraduate students in the process of this education are not sophisticated enough to make this assessment. Furthermore, they typically take only one course taught by the instructor and are not in a position to...

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