The “what” and the “how”: CORE presentations at INET’s annual conference

 
Sat 17th May 2014 | Blog

We can sort the questions we receive into two broad categories: what are we doing, and how will we do it? If you are wondering, two talks from the INET annual conference in Toronto might help you find a more detailed answer than we have given so far.

Both came in the same panel session, and both feature members of our steering group.

Oscar Landerretche, who as Director of the School of Business and Economics of the University of Chile has already been at the sharp end of delivering curriculum reform in his school, describes the unusual nature of reform in his country, which was prompted in part by a wave of student demonstrations on campus in 2011: “We would have been meeting and we’d be talking about Mincer equations and the returns to education, and we’d look down from the 16th floor and see these battles going on,” he says.

“We don’t talk about failures any more: they are market normalities.”

The students of both economics and business had complaints familiar to many students who have contacted us: they protested about the lack of ethics teaching, inadequate teaching of human behaviour, environmental sustainability, inequality and non-market collectives. They were suspicious of the teaching of politics and power, and they detected an ideological bias towards neoclassical market clearing assumptions.

This is familiar. What is unusual in this case is that reforms have been made in Chile’s most influential school. Experimental economics has been introduced. There is less calculus, more statistics. “We don’t talk about failures any more: they are market normalities,” Oscar explains, “Market perfection, the Walrasian paradigm, is now the exception.”

The problem for creating a new curriculum is that, he admits, professors at teaching universities have no time to do innovation, while at research-oriented universities they have no incentives.

Which leads us to the talk by Wendy Carlin, who followed Oscar. You can jump straight to it here:

Teaching about real-world behaviour and outcomes, its empirical, statistical and historical roots, and a focus on problems such as inequality, instability and innovation: these are all, as you can see from the individual units, a focus of the CORE curriculum. Insights from different schools of thought are blended with the systematic teaching of core concepts to produce a question- rather than a tool-driven Introduction to Economics course.

Wendy’s talk shows early work on how the material can be taught. As she says, “to close the gap between the conventional way of teaching and new methods.” Most economics teaching has progressed from the blackboard to the whiteboard to the PowerPoint slide – but with the unfortunate effect that “students sit in the audience doing nothing.”

Watch the video and you will see how the cross-platform CORE eBook sets out to be a new way of learning economics:

      • Interactive: students do, they don’t just read
      • Step-by-step model building, so students can understand what is happening, rather than simply copy or look at the diagram
      • Simulations and games: learning by doing – what happens if you change the number of sellers in a market simulation? How do you explain how people behave in a public goods game?
      • Definitions, clickable, of technical terms to help learning
      • Test your understanding: quizzes while they study, to reinforce learning
      • Add their own highlights and notes

With the support of Sciences Po, we are making a series of videos of Economists in Action, to convey to students the excitement of economics and how it can be applied to the world they live in.

If you contact us we will try to answer your questions. These two short presentations should help bring to life the “what” and the “how”. CORE is a work in progress and we will soon have short videos illustrating sections of the eBook, before we release the first version of the eBook itself in September. You can also follow our progress by looking for the word clouds to appear on the course outline pages as we complete drafts.