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Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Results of the 2003 Economics LTSN Survey of Economics Lecturers: Executive Summary

This is the summary of the full report, which analyses the results of a National Survey of Economics Lecturers carried out between May and June 2003 by the Economics Learning and Teaching Support Network centre (Economics LTSN). The full report can be read via this link.

1. Purpose of the study

The survey was intended to provide valuable information on the way various economics courses are delivered in UK universities. The findings will be compared to future survey results to see if there have been any significant changes.

2. Background

The survey was conducted online for ease of use and low cost. There were 125 respondents from 63 HE institutions, which accounts for a slightly more than 10 per cent of all economics lecturers in UK HE. Although a wide range of views has been expressed, the results could be biased towards lecturers with an interest in learning and teaching issues, as they could be more likely to complete the survey.

3. Profile of our typical respondent

The results of the survey describe our typical respondent as:

  • male (81%)
  • in the post of Lecturer (pre 1992)/Lecturer or Senior Lecturer (post 1992) (50%)
  • in full-time employment (94%)
  • with more than 10 years experience in teaching in higher education (62%)
  • having between 5 and 10 teaching hours in his usual working week
  • spending up to a half of his time on teaching and the rest of time equally on research and administration
  • dividing his time devoted to teaching nearly equally between the four activities of preparation and production of student materials, delivery, assessment and course administration
  • presuming that the department values teaching less then he does
  • having few, if any, incentives to improve the quality of his teaching
  • having attended less than two seminars/workshops/conferences dedicated to teaching in the past two years
  • using in his teaching some form of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for posting course materials and the provision of course information
  • being quite likely to have changed his lecturing methodology in the past two years (nearly half of the respondents have changed it)
  • using economics statistical software in teaching
  • being aware of Economics LTSN

4. Key results

The survey reveals the following:

  • Teaching practices are definitely changing, as nearly half of the respondents have changed their lecturing methodology in the past two years.
  • Use of the Virtual Learning Environments is increasing. The majority of the respondents use some kind of VLE for teaching.
  • Prevailing lecturing activity is still mostly "chalk and talk".
  • There are gender differences in teaching practices: female respondents prefer more interactive methods like small-group work, role-playing and games.
  • There are differences in the proportion of time spend on research according to the length of employment. Respondents with the shortest and longest experience in teaching tend to spend more time on research, while those from the group of 9-10 years in employment as lecturers spent a relatively smaller part of their time on research.
  • There is little if any incentive to change teaching practices. Some even mention negative incentives.
  • This reinforces the main message from the survey: lecturers think that their department undervalues teaching. The majority of the respondents (54%) believe that their departments consider teaching considerably, or at least somewhat, less important than research. By contrast, less than one-third of the respondents themselves (27%) share this view. More than two out of five place equal importance on research and teaching, while only one in five thinks that that is the way their department sees it.
  • Many of the respondents hope that the LTSN will raise the profile of teaching and learning issues and develop a stronger commitment to such issues within the Economics HE sector.

In the survey the respondents were asked to choose one or two of the modules that they teach and answer specific questions regarding this/these module(s). We have included in the full report some case studies as an example of the way various modules are taught in UK HE Economics. In comments on their approach to lecturing many respondents expressed concern with the level of students' motivation and abilities, stressing that their approach to teaching is conditioned and compromised by the size of class and limited time, which makes interaction difficult.

5. Conclusions

The survey is an important step in information gathering about learning and teaching practices in Economics HE in the UK. The data analysed in this report do not represent the opinions of all Economics lecturers: they reflect the views of those who participated in the survey. In their view, departments undervalue teaching and there are few incentives to improve their teaching practices. The survey's main value will lie in the longer term, forming a base for tracing changes in teaching practices.

6. Appendices

The appendices include statistical data from the survey in both graphical and tabular form. They also include selected edited quotes from respondents' answers to the open-ended questions.

Read the full report

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