As a first time Graduate Student Instructor this fall, we had to write a teaching philosophy. As I’m getting ready to put materials together for my class this spring, Econ 131: Public Economics by Emmanuel Saez, I took a look at what I had written and figured I’d post it.
My Teaching Philosophy
As a teacher, I strive to treat students with respect and to show them why I love economics.
Respecting students creates a more enjoyable learning environment, enhances relationships with students, and improves learning outcomes. Respecting students involves being clear about what is expected and valuing their time. That means coming prepared and on time, giving assignments that matter, providing good feedback, not wasting time on side tangents, covering the most important issues and conveying material in a way that many can understand. It also involves remembering that people learn in different ways, come from different places, and plan on achieving different dreams (not all of which are getting a Ph.D. in economics).
The best way to help people understand economics is to channel my enthusiasm for the subject and help convey why I think the material is interesting and meaningful. I absolutely love economics and think it is incredibly important. It shapes many aspects of our lives: from our jobs, to our towns, and our health. Reminding students of this not only helps motivate them to learn some of the nitty-gritty tools that may seem dry, but can inspire them as it has me. In my experience, almost everyone learns more when they listen to someone who is engaging and cares about the subject of discussion. People also remember things much better when they can relate the idea to a story or an emotion they felt when encountering a concept. As such, grounding the many equations of our discipline in real and powerful examples and stories can greatly enhance learning. Providing motivating examples and issues for what we are learning, going through the evolution of economic ideas and why each lesson’s content matters in the real world, and using anecdotes from economic policy mark the ways in which I use my enthusiasm to enhance student learning.
I also strive to incorporate some of the things my best teachers have done for me. I maintain focus on the big picture and provide intuitive explanations not just because it seems easier, but also because it helps people learn and understand concepts more quickly and more deeply. I ask for feedback and incorporate it in how and what I teach regularly. Overall, I think everyone deserves an opportunity to understand economics well and I genuinely enjoy helping them learn how to think like an economist. It’s a remarkably valuable skill and I think the best way to share it is with respect and enthusiasm.