Making the CORE beta for September 2015

Mon 11th May 2015 | Blog

As the teaching term winds down at UCL, Sciences Po, and the other economics departments that have piloted the first draft of the CORE introductory course, our efforts have turned to creating a new beta version in time for the next round of testing in September 2015.

We’d like to say thank you for all the responses from teachers, students, and field experts. We have received written comments, conducted focus groups and organised brainstorming meetings. We discovered that teachers and students liked CORE’s pedagogy, with its problem-centred, history- and fact-based approach, its use of an interactive ebook, and its consistent use of a few simple modelling tools (such as feasible sets and indifference curves).

DisagreeOn the other hand, there are always suggestions for improvements. A year ago student and teacher reactions to our initial draft prompted us to include optional calculus sections (which became our Leibniz popups), a new series called When economists disagree (right),  and other major changes. And this year we have even more feedback, much of it gathered and analysed by the UK-based Economics Network.

We discussed this feedback at a recent CORE workshop at Sciences Po in Paris. When we release our September beta, there will be more big changes:

  1. How economic knowledge is created We will give more space to engaging students in the process of generating economic knowledge, helping them to understand that economic “facts” are sometimes best viewed as plausible interpretations of the data, and so are still subject to debate. A new feature with the working title How economists learn from facts will introduce the students to natural experiments and other methods.
  2. Unit 1 coverPrivate property, markets and the capitalist revolution Our introductory unit (The capitalist revolution, right) took a a long historical view of capitalism as a dynamic system. It had critics from two different perspectives: “You write about capitalism as a success, what about the failures?” and: “There’s not enough about the role of private property and markets”. We accept both criticisms are valid, and so we have revised Unit 1 from scratch.
  3. Teach students to love models and to understand their limits Part of our goal with the latest revision will be to convince the students of the value of precise definitions and abstract models that draw attention to fundamental ideas. We want to help them to understand that the discrepancy between the real world and the model is an intended feature – not an unfortunate bug.
  4. Integrate the conventional supply and demand tools into the modern treatment of distinctive markets in labour, credit and financial assets A distinctive aspect of the CORE course, which many reviewers applauded, is its recognition that not all markets are the same; and that price setting (and wage setting) as well as destabilising price dynamics are a part of normal functioning of the economy, not aberrations. In the revised version we now show that, where markets do not clear in equilibrium (as in the labour market), the forces of supply and demand working no less strongly than in conventional price-taking markets.
  5. More interactivity The interactive figures, multiple choice tests and popups in the e-book have helped to engage students actively in what they are learning, and so in the revised version there will be more: we especially want to provide more opportunities for students to check their own understanding through multiple choice tests, and to look at the data for themselves.
  6. A complete set of teaching materials to complement the ebook A new grant from the Friends Provident Foundation will allow us to make CORE attractive for teachers by developing teaching guides, classroom games tied closely to the ebook material, lecture slides, data sets, and a variety of question types for formative and summative assessment.

Literally hundreds of you have pushed us to make these and many other changes, and we are very grateful to all of you who have suggested improvements. CORE is a living, evolving curriculum and your feedback is its lifeblood. There will be further things to learn when the course rolls out in other parts of the world later this year, and we look forward to integrating the experiences and suggestions of teachers and students in the next phase.

Those who are planning to use CORE’s The Economy for teaching from September 2015 should contact CORE’s project manager Camila Cea to get early access to the September 2015 beta version, and there will be another rewrite of all the units prior to our public launch of The Economy 1.0 in September 2017.