According to economist and scholar Abu Rizvi, academic institutions and their faculty are faced with the task of providing students with effective and long-term teaching. In order to achieve this, he provides the following advice (as cited by Tomorrowa��s Professor 2015, p.7):
- Teach for further use, not for recall or display. Too often we ask that students simply recall their knowledge. They succeed when they can reproduce information. But disciplinary understanding is a tool to be put to use, not a trophy to display. When we teach we shouldA�frame our concepts expansively, showing their broadest possible relevance. If we want what we’re teaching to be pertinent to other times and places we have to return to it time and again, showing its value in varied settings.A�
- Focus on threshold concepts, not complete coverage. NumerousA�studiesA�show that students durably recall and employ only what they have absorbed through varied practice or have distilled into applicable principles. This means that we have to identify and teach the concepts, methods of inquiry, and procedures of justification that are most generative and constitutive. What, those in my discipline have to ask, is it essential for an economist to know? Such understandings have been termedA�threshold concepts. Once a student learns such a concept–for example MPC and the associated multiplier analysis–she starts to see the world in a different way, as a disciplinary expert would, and crosses a threshold toward mastery. Not only do such frameworks have the generality to be broadly applicable, they organize a welter of information into manageable form, and give the learner the means to inquire further. Once learned, threshold concepts are hard to unlearn. They have the student as much as she has them. So rather than march students through material in the name of “coverage,” we need to take the time to give students deep familiarity with threshold concepts so they are durably acquired.
- A�Align assessment with goals. We found with predictable regularity that assessment trumps good intention. Exams and grades, not our lofty statements, form theA�hidden curriculumA�to which students actually respond. Claims that higher-order skills are essential–such as the creativity and flexibly appropriate application Mian and Sufi displayed–will be ignored and lead to confusion when what is assessed isA�altogether different. We should design assessment to bolster our purpose, not counteract it.A�
- Focus on valued products and performances. Students should make and do what disciplinary experts make and do. Each field values particularA�products and performances. These might be essays, experiments, proofs, designs, analyses, art objects, programs, performances, or presentations. Instead ofA�learningA�aboutA�them, students should take partA�inA�them–just as learning to drive involves driving and not just a written exam about driving. And, as with driving, the novice will require initially simplified and supported tasks, with appropriate feedback. Without thisA�scaffolded practiceA�students will gain no feel for what the discipline values and, when confronted with authentic tasks, will be nonplussed.A�
- Combine content and skills. Evidence is clear that our choice is not to favor either content or general skills. Critical thinking, for example, does not arise easily from purely disciplinary coursework. Nor does the learning of a skill seem worthwhile to students without a disciplinary setting in which it finds meaning. ThusA�critical thinking is best fosteredA�when content and skills are skillfully woven together. We should seek to combine disciplinary content and relevant skills into the kind of satisfying wholes that address actual problems, and not just those that arise in the context of schooling.A�
- Work with others. Not only did Mian and Sufi work with one another, they relied on settled opinion and practice within a disciplinary community. They engaged others in debate. Students have to become used to working with one another since the complexity of the issues they will face demands collaboration. Moreover, since actual problems do not fall neatly on one side of a disciplinary divide, students have to become used to working across disciplinary lines, and have broad familiarity that allows them to do so.A�
- Complex problems, not pat answers. Economic policymaking in the wake of the Great Recession didn’t have a fill-in-the-blank answer. But, as Mian and Sufi’s response showed, such complex problems nonetheless have better and worse answers. We should teach so students come to understand that the issues and opportunities they will face do not have answers that areA�either perfectly absolute or endlessly relative. We should teach so that students learn that there is more to the world of understanding than possessing a uniquely correct answer or saying anything goes. Otherwise, they won’t see a purpose in giving reasons, seeking evidence, establishing claims, and everything else that we value in critical thinking and discipline-based argumentation.
Tomorrowa��s Professor [Internet]. [Place Unknown]: Tomorrowa��s Professor. An EconomicsA�Lesson: Teaching for Disciplinary Understanding; c March 16, 2015 [cited 2015 Mar 28]; [1 screen]. Available from:A�http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1395.