Is Your Goal for This Class to Learn the Most Economics You Can?

So you want to learn the most economics you can this course. Excellent! You have chosen the road less travelled. Many students won’t take this road.

The courses you take in college are not just random credits. You are building a coherent body of knowledge and skills (and habits of the mind). Every course you take relates to that overall project, and you should think about how each course does. There is no question that this is hard work, but you are capable of this otherwise you wouldn’t have been admitted to college here.

Perhaps you made this choice because you just find economics interesting. Perhaps it’s because you plan to major in economics. You know that ECON 201 & ECON 202 are the entry-level courses to the major. If you don’t learn the fundamentals, it’s going to be much harder when you get into the upper level courses.   It’s like trying to build a house without a foundation. Can you learn SPAN 102 without taking SPAN 101? You can, but it’s harder to do. So the work you put into this course is an investment in your future.

Perhaps you made this choice because the major you plan to pursue has ECON 201/ECON 202 as a prerequisite. What that means is that your major department (or College) believes that knowing economics will help you succeed in your major. It means that not learning economics well will make your major harder.   If you’re a gamer, what would happen if the first time you try a new game, you battle a level-25 monster? Right. You’ll get slaughtered because you don’t have the experience and knowledge necessary to beat a level-25 monster your first time out the box. So the work you put into this course is an investment in your major.

This course is based on mastery learning. Mastery learning involves exploring and interacting with content and then having frequent quizzes to assess how well you’re learning. The quizzes aren’t primarily about grades. In fact, the majority of quizzes in this course (called Self-Checks) aren’t even graded. Instead their purpose is formative; that is, to give you feedback about how you’re learning, to let you know if you’ve got it, or if you need to work some more.

None of us gets it all the first time. Learning requires work, and work sometimes fails. So pick yourself up and try again until you get it right.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
– Albert Einstein

Mastery learning also means that if you haven’t learned something at a pretty high level, it makes no sense to go on until you do learn it. The mastery level in this course is 80%. But if you fail to achieve the mastery level, you get a “do over.” You have the opportunity to re-study the content and retake the quiz so you can learn it. (In real life, if your boss gives you a task to do and you fail to do it to his or her satisfaction, you’re unlikely to get a grade (e.g. Okay, you earned a D. Let’s move on to the next task). Rather, you’ll be told to do it again right!)

Mastery learning involves metacognition. It’s not just going through the motions of reading a chapter. It’s about thinking about what you’re reading, or watching or playing (in the case of simulations), and assessing for yourself how well you’re learning it. The quizzes then provide an expert opinion that you can compare your assessment with. Mastery learning doesn’t stop with the Waymaker software. Anything you don’t understand and can’t figure out with the software’s help, you should write down and bring to the teacher. I respond to emails within 24 hours and usually less.

“Reading” a chapter in a textbook can be about the least effect way of learning material. Waymaker takes study a step further by regularly asking you quiz questions about what your reading. Even that won’t guarantee your learning if you don’t think about what you’re reading, watching, playing. As you read, you need to think about what you’re reading. Do you understand it? Can you explain it in your own words? Can you apply it to something in your own life? Can you think of examples? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you need to think more deeply. Shoot me an email and I can help within 24 hours and likely sooner. (But I’ll only answer those questions the week we are covering the material.

Mastery learning isn’t my idea. Rather, researchers have found that it’s a more effective way to learn than traditional learning practices. It isn’t easy, because it’s probably different from what you’re used to. But if you keep at it, you’ll find that it works. It will pay you back for years in the future.

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3 Responses to Is Your Goal for This Class to Learn the Most Economics You Can?

  1. Patrick Heckel says:

    This post is very insightful to my overall goal in this class. Getting the best grade possible is always a top goal, but for me I want to get these basic ideas and principles of ecnomics down, and build upon them as I advance along in the MBA program, and my continued career.

  2. Pingback: Is Your Goal for this Class Just to Pass? | Principles of Macroeconomics: The Online Version

  3. Pingback: Is Your Goal for this Class to Get an A? | Principles of Macroeconomics: The Online Version

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