But this post isn't about econometrics (I promise). It is about the power of active learning in the classroom - a single example of why I continue to incorporate active learning strategies in my classes no matter what type of classroom I am scheduled in.
Here is what I have learned from students over the past few years when it comes to this particular topic:
- Students find an intro to why and when we might encounter this topic/issue to be helpful.
- They appreciate an expanded discussion of this "simple" equation from the textbook. (What, exactly, does each component represent, and how do we determine whether a component should be positive or negative?)
- Practice with applying the equation is helpful.
I planned accordingly for Monday's face-to-face meeting. The students completed a "warm-up" exercise prior to the start of class; the exercise asked them to apply the decision-making process outlined in the textbook. Our class meeting then started with a Q&A session followed by a "Go to Your Post"-inspired activity in which the two sides of the rooms represented the two available conclusions with students out of their seats, casting their "vote" and discussing their reasoning with one another (Silberman, 1996, p.61).
Then it was time to dig into the details of this equation from the textbook.
I offered a mini-lecture, complete with scribbles, in an effort to clarify some of the details that coordinate with this innocent-looking equation. Or so I thought. I paused for questions after about 5-7 minutes of talking about the components of this equation and was, for a moment, happy that the students seemed to be satisfied with my explanations.
|Some of my "clarifying" scribbles from the mini-lecture. Not all that enlightening in hindsight!|
Time for practice. I presented the students with two scenarios to analyze plus a follow-up question and instructed them to work in pairs on the first scenario. Usually, the classroom starts to hum with activity as students start to work, but the room was silent. Finally, a brave student spoke up and asked which two variables they were supposed to be focusing on. I could feel the relief in the room; it was apparent that she wasn't the only one wondering how to get started.
So we switched gears and analyzed the first scenario together as a class which provided an opportunity for the students to see how I applied the process and used the equation within the given scenario. This inspired a handful of questions (good ones!), and then the students got to work on analyzing the second scenario in pairs. We reconvened as a class to brainstorm possible responses to the coordinating follow-up question.
I am grateful for last Monday's experience because it reinforces my reasons for incorporating "work time" into our face-to-face meetings in the classroom. What if I had assigned that set of problems as homework instead of as in-class work? I may have not realized until days later that some of the students were struggling with how to get started. Instead, by working on the problems in the classroom, I was able to respond to what the students needed right when they needed it.
I have revised my list of what is helpful for students for this particular topic. The second bullet point now looks something like this:
- They appreciate an expanded discussion of this "simple" equation from the textbook and a demonstration of how to apply the equation within a given scenario.
Silberman, M. (1996). Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.