The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

3. Delivering economics modules relying on maths and stats skills

3.1 The balance of maths and stats content in economics lectures

A successful strategy for engaging students in maths and stats for the study of economics requires a programme of well-considered modules with clear linkages between modules. Nevertheless it is often harder than it may seem. In part this is due to staff taking ownership of their module with less of a focus on the programme and students’ learning as a whole. A second issue is that staff have different teaching styles and approaches. Therefore it needs a strong programme team and regular forums, such as team meetings and away-days, to resolve these potential issues.

3.2 Planning seminar/workshop sessions

Seminar/workshop sessions for core economics modules may be organised with a balance of questions around applied maths and stats alongside discussion questions or short presentations. This allows students to be reminded of maths and stats techniques, covered in the stand-alone maths and stats modules, whilst seeing their application. The key principle is that a solid understanding of economic principles is achieved when students can explain a concept using mathematical representation, graphical representation; where they can interpret relevant statistics alongside the ability to explain the concept in words, orally or in writing. Core economic module seminars/tutorials should bring together all of these approaches when asking students to explain key concepts. Discussing how errors in understanding can be realised and resolved through examining key concepts in different ways should encourage students of the appeal of this approach.

3.3 Assessment

The assessment of core economics modules should aim to test a student’s ability to explain a concept using mathematical representation, graphical representation; the interpretation of relevant statistics as well as in explaining a concept in words. Core economics modules often include an exam as either part or the whole assessment of the module. There could be thought given to a compulsory question requiring students to present an answer that illustrates their ability to apply their maths and stats skills. This could be followed by a selection of essay style questions.

Another option could involve setting a report type of assessment allows a range of skills to be tested. It is important to give learners with different strengths an opportunity to illustrate their knowledge and understanding. In order to achieve this the teaching sessions leading up to the report submission should be tailored to develop the skills of a diverse cohort step-by-step. Group work can be helpful when carrying out the class tasks as different group members will have varying abilities to complete different tasks. There may be some thought as to the merits of a group report depending on the learning outcomes and range of student ability.