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The Rule is a Tool

March 31, 2016 Leave a comment

David Colander is critical of what he considers the insufficiently nuanced way Mankiw presents economics to freshmen students. Mankiw’s response is here. (H/T Marginal Revolution)

Not surprisingly, I tend to side with Mankiw on this, but for a different reason.

It’s not that students know nothing about economics and therefore must be taught the basics before learning nuance.

The problem is that they have to unlearn a hyper-relative approach to the world in which everything is questioned and doubted to the point of not being able to make any useful claims about reality. The answer to everything is some version of “it depends on your point of view” or “I feel” or “perception is reality” or “maybe that’s true for you, but for me…”

The idea that no one can make useful claims to knowledge is not a nuanced view of reality. It’s a view that inhibits learning.

Of course, all knowledge claims should be subject to scrutiny. Everything we know is qualified in one way or another. But what Mankiw does well, in my opinion, is give students a window into a world where you can actually gain knowledge about how the world works. Not perfect knowledge or simple answers, but something to work with, something to predict with, something to put confidence in as a useful tool.

If Colander thinks modern students just swallow rules whole in economics class, I rather doubt he’s working with actual freshman much. My freshmen students have trouble believing that there are any rules. They have a extreme skepticism that one can make any claims that would stand up to someone who merely says, “But I don’t feel that way.”

For many of them, Mankiw’s approach is a breath of fresh air, after being constantly told that there’s nothing really to be learned, only positions to be taken based on one’s feelings about some matter or another.

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Categories: Education

Congratulations, Jones Graduate School of Business!

March 17, 2016 Leave a comment

With apologies for my somewhat self-interested promotion of this good news:

The Rice MBA is the only full-time MBA program in the last decade to go from below the top 40 to the top 25 in the U.S. in all three top rankings of business schools: from 2006 to the present, Bloomberg Businessweek, from unranked to No. 19; U.S. News, from No. 44 to No. 25; and Financial Times, from No. 41 to No. 24 (in the U.S.).

The Jones School’s graduate entrepreneurship program was ranked No. 14 in U.S. News’ MBA specialty rankings.

I’ll always be very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from some really excellent teachers (and fellow students) in this program. Glad to see it continuing to do so well in a very competitive environment.

Categories: Education

Another Good Thing About On-Line Education

January 16, 2016 Leave a comment

As much as I like teaching students in person, I am also a big fan of online education, for many reasons.

Here’s another one: it reduces grade discrimination based on attractiveness.

Professors differ on how much their grading should be based on tests, written assignments, labs, class participation and other factors.

But students’ looks? Most faculty members would deny that physical appearance is a legitimate criterion in grading. But a study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association finds that — among similarly qualified female students — those who are physically attractive earn better grades than others. For male students, there is no significant relationship between attractiveness and grades. And the results hold true whether the faculty member is a man or a woman.

But not for online education:

The researchers then took advantage of Metro State’s significant online offerings, which appeal to many students who also take courses in person. Comparing similar groups of students, the study found that the grade punishment for unattractive women disappears in online education….The online success of the less attractive students suggests, the paper says, that their lower grades in in-person classes can’t be attributed to some factor that might make them legitimately earn lower grades.

 

Categories: Education, Microeconomics

More Evidence of Cheating

November 16, 2015 Leave a comment

This time it was on JaLaine’s midterm exam.

She gave two different versions of the same test, with just the order of the questions rearranged.

Several students obviously cheated. Here’s an example, where all of the answers on the blue test are exactly the same as all the answers on the green test–and all are wrong! These two students were seated next to each other. The cheating student even copied the wrong answers of the student with the green test paper.

26 and 27

Here’s another example:

46 and 47

The answers on the blue test are all incorrect–and all match exactly the answers on the green test of the student in the next seat.

To the students who care about academic integrity: you must help us drive this out of your class. It will destroy your class morale. It will destroy your teachers’ motivation to create high quality classes.

Marginalize them. Encourage them to transfer to another program or university. Make it clear that you do not respect their lack of integrity.

There has to be a cost for this–an academic cost, and a social cost.

Categories: Education, Grades

Math TV

October 30, 2015 Leave a comment

This guy has lots of great videos made for helping students with math…and life:

Categories: Education

Evidence of Cheating

October 14, 2015 Leave a comment

I had a photocopy made of today’s quiz while I was lecturing. At the end of class, I had the students grade their own quizzes, after reminding them repeatedly to grade with integrity.

Unfortunately, 17 students changed something on their papers–some changed many answers–and marked the changed answer or answers “correct,” increasing their scores.

For example, here’s the original paper with C and D blank, and a wrong answer for E:

And here’s the same paper after the student graded it, with answers added to C and D, and E changed:

Here is a second example, of a paper that was turned in with only one correct answer, everything else blank:

01 Before

And here’s the same paper after the student “graded” it:

01 After

In the third example, the student would have scored 4 out of 6…

03 Before

…but couldn’t resist changing the first answer, and adding the second answer during grading:

03 After

Not a good move.

Categories: Education, Grades

Welcome, 2015 Fall Microeconomics Students!

September 7, 2015 Leave a comment

I always love the start of a new semester. Our first class begins on September 23. New students can get off to a good start in the first class by:

  1. Getting a paper notebook (preferred) or good electronic means of taking notes (not photos!).
  2. Bringing your textbook, Greg Mankiw’s Principles of Microeconomics, to class.
  3. Read the first chapter. There will be a quiz at the conclusion of the first day of class, and it will count toward your final course grade. 

This is a special time of your life, with a unique opportunity to focus of learning. If you were a poor student in the past, now is your chance to change. I expect all my students to be serious, professional in their approach to their university career, and hard-working.

Of course, I can’t make any student be serious, professional or hard-working–but I can promise you that you will enjoy my class much more if you take that approach. Try it!

American orator, editor, author, abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) edits a journal at his desk, late 1870s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American orator, editor, author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) edits a journal at his desk, late 1870s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Categories: Education, Microeconomics