In addition to my research interests, I am strongly committed to teaching students to think for themselves.
- Intermediate Microeconomics
- Public Finance and Policy
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Principles of Macroeconomics
My teaching philosophy centers on what I see as the goal of higher education and on how I can effectively contribute to this goal. The goal of higher education is to hone the analytical abilities and expand the opportunities available to students. Through coursework, students should gain the capacity to become more competitive, productive workers and more knowledgeable members of society.
My primary objective as a teacher is, therefore, for students to gain a firm understanding of the economic mechanisms and be able to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. I want my students at the end of the course to feel comfortable applying both the theoretical and empirical tools they learn in my courses. To foster this depth of understanding, I begin by teaching simple models that illustrate core concepts. For instance, in my Public Finance and Policy course, I spend time making sure the students understand the predictions of constrained utility optimization models. I begin with a standard analysis. We discuss the changes in allocation decisions that will occur as a result of changes in income and price. I ask students to be critical and think about whether these concepts are illustrative of their own decision-making processes. To be comfortable applying these frameworks, I believe it is necessary to check theoretical mechanisms against our own common sense. Then I take the application a step further by showing them how this tool can be applied to policy analysis. In this particular example, I often examine the differential impacts of two welfare policies. I show them that impacts are sensitive to an individual’s level of income and disutility of labor. I follow a similar development with each topic I teach. I always begin with the simple, essential model and build upon this to show how robust economic logic can be.
To further promote students’ confidence in their ability to apply the tools learned in class, I incorporate class discussions on current events and written assignments in the form of term or brief reflection papers. For the class discussions, I often ask students to read a set of articles or to find their own example for application. I find that students particularly enjoy this type of learning and in the process of preparing for these discussions must review the concepts taught in class. This helps motivate the students to learn concepts as we go. I believe the best way to learn anything is to study consistently and master small chunks of information at a time.
The term paper and reflection papers provide yet another avenue to build confidence. By constructing an analysis on their own and being required to convey their thinking in writing, students clarify their understanding of concepts and they therefore, become more comfortable setting forth a skilled and methodical argument. It is my belief that this skill has an application in any selected career path.
These teaching methods also allow me to draw out the diversity of perspectives in my classroom. Diversity of perspectives is an essential component of a productive learning environment. Diversity benefits both the immediate classroom experience and the movement of the best researchers into a field. The field benefits from the best and brightest entering into graduate programs and finding the space to apply their insights. I have mentored several undergraduate students to apply to graduate work in public policy and economics programs. The types of research questions that are proposed and answered is impacted by the composition of the practitioners in the field.
The first way to promote a respect and awareness of diversity is by creating a classroom environment that respects the free communication of ideas. This begins with my actions and a clear communication of classroom expectations. Part of my teaching style is that I reinforce concepts with in-class applications. These applications create the opportunity for classroom discussion. I encourage all students to participate and try to make sure that no one party dominates the conversation. I often facilitate this participation by dividing the students into smaller groups to work on the application. I also look to my students for application suggestions to find out what specific topics within the purview of our course are appealing to them. I have implemented this tactic in two ways in my classes. First, I have asked students to select a topic of their choosing for a term paper. I ask them to submit the topic early on, so that I can help them engage with the literature. At the end of the term, we then conduct a mock conference so that students can learn about what their peers researched. The second way I invite students to suggest topics is by asking them to send me emails about current topics of interest that relate to our course. In the past, students have taken advantage of this and it has helped me to broaden the applications I can provide in the classroom.
Finally, I make sure I am accessible to my students. As a teacher, I want to show my respect and responsibility toward my students. I am available to them during office hours and after each lecture. I strongly encourage them to ask questions in class and critique concepts taught in class. Whether face-to-face or online, the exchange between teacher and student, as well as among students, is critical to the learning process. I promote an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility. This sets up a productive environment for their mastery of the material, and as importantly for building their confidence in applying it in the classroom and in the future.