Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What I left out today

I rehearsed (in my head) for this class session quite a bit but as you could see when I had the senior moment before I could come up with "case studies," my mind wasn't fully there today.  So here are some things I had intended to say but didn't.

Developing a sense of taste - what is a good answer?

I only came up with using the Gift Exchange approach to organize the first half of today's session after flailing for two days with other approaches - each of which ended in me scolding you for not taking more responsibility for your own learning.  The problem is, scolding doesn't work.  It ends up more as venting than as effective communication.

Needing to have this sense of taste for a good answer is part of the take away I'd like you to have.  If you develop that feel for a good answer, then the next take away is to develop the habit of letting the sense of taste drive you in your learning and not stopping your inquiry prematurely, before you have an answer that pleases you.


Since attendance was not required, those who were regulars gave a gift by being there.  That to me is less interesting than understanding your behavior about attending classes more broadly.  Are there some of you who regularly attend some classes but not others?  Or is your attendance pattern pretty similar across the classes you take?  I have no sense of this now and would welcome feedback on the matter.

Other possible means for gift exchange in class

One thing I think obvious for a course like ours is to tie course matter to things that are happening out in the real world that are related to what we are studying.  This is one reason why I have the Econ in the News and Misc. Tags.  If there were gift exchange on this, some of you might have commented on these posts.  My sense is that there was very little such commenting and I suspect most of these posts were ignored by the majority of the class.

In particular, given my emphasis on Gift Exchange, you might enjoy this piece, which links to a NY Times Magazine piece about Adam Grant, a Professor at Wharton.  The Times magazine article is called: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?  Sounds pretty relevant to me.

Math via discovery rather than lecture

I don't know if this would interest anyone, but I had thought to offer, for anyone who is interested, to release the Excel workbooks without having the sheets locked - after the due date, so for those interested they can see how the graphs are generated, how the questions get evaluated, etc.  In other words, a complete look under the hood.  Those who want to delve deeper into the models might learn more this way than through traditional means.  This is another one where I'd appreciate feedback, if you have any to give.

Total time spent on the class

I don't know whether this is common knowledge with you or not, but the seat-time model (how many hours per week a class meets) has an implicit model on out of class time - two hours out of class for every hour in class, that most faculty subscribe to.  Thus, overall, our class demands 9 hours per week.  That should be interpreted as an average over the semester, not an exact number each week.  Nonetheless, the research I'm aware on this nationally, evidence from the National Survey of Student Engagement, says that at most universities the ratio is more like one hour out of class for every in class hour, or even lower.  In other words, students have different expectations on the effort front than what faculty have.  Consequently, many faculty, and I'm in this category, think that most students don't put in enough time in their studies.   The system may have evolved in an unhealthy way, to accommodate the student expectation.   It makes students happy near term but produces less learning long term.  

Learning outside the course setting with friends or at work.  

We did a tiny bit of benchmarking with other courses today, but we didn't do any whatsoever about learning informally with your friends via experiences (going to hear live music, for example) or discussion that happens with some regularity (say about those experiences or about national politics or on any other topic that interests you).  Likewise we didn't discuss today any learning that may arise at a part time job you have, though that has been the subject of one or two blog posts this semester.

Because I had a lot of this informal learning as an undergrad, particularly in my junior and senior years at Cornell, I'd be quite happy regarding the total time issue in the previous bullet, if class time was less than the faculty norm because learning outside the course setting was happening with substantial frequency.

Having fun can be quite educational.  Alternatively it can be pure time dissipation with little to no learning happening (think of playing hearts or some other card game to the wee hours of the morning).  So what is of interest is the total picture, including all the learning activities and then consider our course within that.  This would speak as to whether requirements should be raised, lowered, or left where they are.

Thank you

It has been an interesting semester for me.   Unlike last year, I have enough energy this time to write a post like this after the class session.  I appreciate your indulgence in letting me discuss these extra matters.


  1. I think releasing the unlocked versions of the Excel would be very helpful for understanding. I know I would benefit from it, even this semester. Is this something you're only considering for when you teach this class again, or would you consider releasing them this semester so we can use them to study for the final?

  2. I'd also be interesting in seeing the unlocked versions of the Excel homework. In terms of your question on attendance, my class attendance is pretty consistent across the board in that I always try to attend. Missing class is always by accident, usually because I sleep in, but otherwise I've heard that if you break up the cost of attending school, each class is approximately $40 and by not attending that money is wasted. I therefore always make a point to at the very least show up and "get my money's worth."

  3. Ok - here it is. The password to every worksheet is EIM (standing for Excel-ing In Microeconomics). Here is how to unlock a worksheet on PC. Something similar should work on a Mac.

    To do this, go to the tab at the bottom of the worksheet that has the name of the worksheet. Right click on it. There should be a menu item called Unprotect Sheet. Select that one and then Enter the Password where instructed to do so.

    Note that there is a lot of formatting in these things. I use white font a lot to hide data in plain view. You can see stuff by changing the font to black. There is also conditional formatting in the cells that evaluate the answers.

    Armed with that you should be able to access the content. Whether you can make heads or tails of it, I leave to you.

    Perhaps after the final one of you will remind me to change all the passwords for the use the next time around.