Newspaper articles can also be used in assessment. Here we discuss how they can be used in examinations, coursework and presentations. Other assessment strategies can be considered, but we focus on these because of their widespread use.
If students are assessed by examination, we suggest structuring the paper in four sequential sections aimed at assessing the development of cognitive skills. The higher-order cognitive abilities receive a greater weighting in the mark scheme. The first section should require students to answer short essay-type questions aimed at assessing their level of knowledge and comprehension. The second section should contain some abstract problems whose solution reveals the students’ ability to apply theory to practice. Questions aimed at testing the students’ ability to analyse alternative policies or strategies within the context of a fictional problem should feature in the third section. The case study should be included in the fourth section and students should be asked to deal with a set of questions aimed at testing their ability to synthesise and evaluate knowledge. A pass mark should be awarded to students who complete satisfactorily at least the first two sections and who, therefore, show at least some basic knowledge and comprehension. A first-class mark is awarded only upon a satisfactory completion of all four sections.
There are many advantages in structuring the exam paper in such a way. It would represent the ‘natural conclusion’ to a module whose activities are structured around the principles of the gradual development of cognitive skills and the use of case studies. It offers transparency for both students and lecturers, since the ability to deal with the various sections reveals the students’ actual level of knowledge. It also clarifies to students the amount of effort required to achieve desired results. Figure 5, from the exam paper for the first-year course Introduction to Macroeconomics, reflects this educational taxonomy.
Section A – Knowledge and Comprehension – Answer the following questions. (30 marks)
Section B – Application – Solve the following problems. (20 marks)
4. The following table lists a number of components of UK gross national product from both income and expenditure sides of the account for 1995 (figures are in £000s).
|Consumer expenditures||367,853||Taxes on expenditures||83,023|
|Net property income from abroad||328||Stock changes||–5,303|
|Government expenditures||121,899||Investment spending||95,442|
|Other factor incomes||1,665||Imports||140,415|
5. A typical family living in Sandy Island consumes only apple juice, bananas and cloth. Prices in the base year are £4 a litre for apple juice, £3 a kilogram for bananas and £5 a square metre for cloth. The typical family spends £40 on apple juice, £45 on bananas and £25 on cloth. In the current year, apple juice costs £3 a litre, bananas cost £4 a kilogram and cloth costs £7 a square metre.
6. The following expressions show the relationships between variables in the goods and money markets. Fill in the gaps (dotted lines) in these ‘chain relations’ and briefly explain their meaning.
Section C – Application and Analysis – Solve the following problem. (10 marks)
7. In a closed economy autonomous consumption is given by c0 = 200 and the marginal propensity to consume is c1 = 0.8. Investment, government spending and taxes are, respectively, =300, =300, =200.
Section D – Analysis and Synthesis – Solve one of the following problems. (10 marks)
8. Suppose that a closed economy is initially operating at Yn. Now suppose that the government increases spending in the economy so that G increases.
9. Suppose the domestic economy is initially experiencing a trade deficit. Further assume that government officials would like to eliminate the trade deficit. By using the goods market and the net export graphs, answer the following questions.
10. Suppose that the British government decides to adopt a fixed exchange regime so that the pound to euro exchange rate is fixed at a specific parity.
Section E – Synthesis and Evaluation – Comment on the following article. (30 marks)
‘Hopes that the UK manufacturing sector has stabilised received a further boost on Wednesday, with accelerating output and order books pushing a closely-watched survey to its highest level since December 1999.
Meanwhile, a Confederation of British Industry survey suggested the retail sector, which had been burgeoning while manufacturing slumped, appeared to be tempering itself.
The purchasing managers’ index (PMI), compiled by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (Cips) and Reuters, rose from 50.6 in March to 53.4 last month. This was the third consecutive month that the index stayed above 50, the mark which signals growth.
Manufacturing demand rose at the fastest rate for almost two and a half years as companies reported an increased volume of new business from both domestic and foreign customers, Cips said.
Export orders rose for the second time in the past three months, and at the fastest pace for more than five years. Companies surveyed said business conditions were improving.
Although the survey added to hopes that the manufacturing sector is emerging from the months of recession, it is unlikely to change expectations that the Bank of England’s prime interest rate will remain at its 38-year low of 4 per cent until the second half of the year.
Cips said many companies thought a recovery in the US manufacturing sector had helped stimulate growth in much of Europe, with demand from the Middle and Far East, as well as Canada and the US, also up in April.
However, companies doing business with South American countries, particularly Argentina and Brazil, reported slower growth in export orders.
Seventy per cent of companies reported that sales were up in April, while 13 per cent said they were down. The plus 57 per cent balance was a significant improvement on the plus 31 per cent in March and was the highest individual monthly balance since August 1988.
… The three-month moving average, which smooths out month-to-month fluctuations, suggested sales were still slightly below the growth rates of last autumn, the CBI said.
Grocers reported the strongest annual growth since August 2001, while other retailers reported strong growth in sales of clothes, durable household goods, furniture, carpets, hardware, china and DIY products.
Last week, gross domestic product data released by the Office for National Statistics showed the UK economy stagnated for a second successive quarter in January to March, growing just 0.1 per cent in the quarter after zero growth in the quarter of 2001.
The annual rate of growth was down from 1.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year to 1 per cent – the lowest for almost 10 years.’ (Financial Times, 1 May 2002)
Comment on the above article and use the AD/AS model to explain the economic situation in the United Kingdom. Should the Bank of England intervene in the economy by changing the interest rate? Why? (Suggestion: before using the AD/AS model, use the aggregate demand relation to comment on the UK economy.)
Figure 5 Embedding the educational taxonomy in the exam paper
Students assessed by coursework should be given a case study newsclip and should be required to provide a detailed account of the events described in the article by resorting to economic theory. The analysis should break up the article into simple components. Relationships between economic agents, actions and outcomes should be established, and an evaluation of the problem should be provided.
It would be helpful to accompany the case study with specific questions that determine the boundaries within which students need to work. The questions should be similar to those used for the discussion of newsclips in seminars. In particular, it is important to set questions aimed at assessing the students’ development of cognitive skills. In this respect, a first question could, for example, simply ask the student to describe the economic theory that can help investigate the case study. The answer to this question would simply reflect the student’s level of knowledge and comprehension. The student can then be asked to provide an analysis of the article and to show how the theory applies to the specific case. Application and analysis would be tested. Further questions can ask the student to summarise the most important elements of the events described in the article and to provide an evaluation of the economic situation and suggestions for future actions. The students’ ability to deal with these questions would reveal their actual level of skill development and would consequently determine the grade they would be rewarded with.
Assessing students by presentation is not only an effective way of testing their level of understanding, but also helps them develop other transferable skills such as the ability to communicate to a particular audience, time management and organisational skills. The presentation might require the student to act, for example, as a business news reporter who has to analyse, present and evaluate a piece of economic news for a wider general audience. In this respect, the reports presented by the economics correspondents in programmes such as the BBC’s Newsnight provide an appropriate model. The student should be asked to provide a summary of the news, identify the main emerging issues and provide a critical evaluation of the implications for various agents in the economy.