The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

Assigned work: private study

Rather than merely expecting students to follow-up the lecture by reading or working through questions, you could assign them work to do. If you are not assessing this assigned work, whether summatively or purely formatively, you will need to provide incentives to encourage students to complete this work.

You could emphasise the intrinsic benefits of the work in helping them to improve their understanding and, thereby, their final grade. You might also emphasise the development of subject-specific and generic skills that will be of benefit to them later in their studies or in their career. The use of log books or a system of personal development plans/portfolios (PDPs) would help to encourage this more holistic and reflective approach.

The assigned work could help students to prepare for the next lecture. For example, if in the next lecture you are going to develop a theory that you have introduced, you could set students a couple of case studies that put the theory into an applied context or set a couple of problems that require the students to use the theory. For example, if you have been looking at Keynesian goods market analysis, or IS/LM or IS/MP analysis, and were planning to look at fiscal policy in the next lecture, you could get the students to study particular features of the last Budget and how they relate to projections made in the government's Budget document. This type of work can help students to see how the lectures are linked. It is useful to pose one or two questions at the beginning of the next lecture to evaluate this work. These could be in the form of multiple-choice questions, e.g. on a Powerpoint slide. A show of hands would be a simple way of checking how well the students had answered them. An audience response system is a more sophisticated approach (see Case Study 1 below).

Assessed work: formative and summative

There are several ways in which lectures can be linked to assessment.

First, students’ understanding of the material may be tested directly. A seminar shortly after the lecture could begin with an objective test, a short essay, a problem, or a case study.

Second, the lecture could be directly relevant to an examination or formally assessed assignment. Students are likely to be motivated by the knowledge that a specific lecture covers material directly relevant to a question posed in the examination. However, while this might be an effective means of getting students to attend the lecture and to concentrate, it could encourage surface learning if it merely provides an opportunity for students to regurgitate material. If deeper learning is to be encouraged, then students would need to know that the form of the assessment will require them to apply, rather than reproduce, the understanding gained through the lecture.

Third, students’ lecture notes could be assessed. This could form a small part of summative assessment, if clear marking criteria have been given to students. Alternatively, students could read and provide written comments on each other’s notes. This commentary could then be assessed. This approach provides benefits to students through the commentaries they receive from peers and the reflection on note-taking that the assessment encourages.

Fourth, each student could be asked to provide a commentary on one lecture which would be distributed to other students and formally assessed. The number of students commenting on each lecture would vary according the size of the lecture group. Once students have prepared their commentary they could be disseminated through a VLE, Intranet or shared drive. You could require that word processed notes should have appropriate diagrams and tables in PowerPoint or Excel, pasted into the document. With a large lecture group, you could assign some students to act as editors of the notes. These types of activity not only encourage students to take a more reflective approach to their learning in lectures but also help to develop précis and critical skills. They also signal the importance of lectures and provide useful feedback to you.