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Helping Economics Students at the Lower End

On the agenda for January's EconEdChat were 3 questions:

1) How can we help students to make good use of extracts in exams?

2) How can we support students at the lower end?

3) New Years Resolutions: What are you going to try out/start/stop doing in your classroom in 2021?

This post focusses on the second question. You can read the first question here.


We discussed numeracy, and how students (especially this year ) might not have mastered the prerequisite skills we often assume they have. This ties in with our entry requirements, which, as we found out in this chat, vary significantly between schools. Nichola said she does stand-alone lessons teaching those students the maths they need. Tutor2U currently have a free course for students to work on the required quantitative skills which is worth a look. Gavin mentioned Maths for Economics by Jim Lawrence. I like that this book has some nice worked examples and explanations, but I really wish there was more practice at the end of each page than just one or two questions

On the topic of Quantitative Skills, Jake mentioned how he uses variation theory to teach the numeracy students need. He shared these resources which demonstrate how he does this with elasticities - they're really worth a look. Antony mentioned Guy Durden, who has written about Variation theory in relation to Economics education.

We've mentioned a bit, which seems popular, if a little glitchy. Peardeck is also mentioned as being a bit clunky.

I mention The Writing Revolution , and the list of connectives. I can't find an online version of this specific list, but it had some language on it that perhaps wasn't so useful, as well as missing some phrases which students might find helpful. I've written up an alternative version here.

I was really encouraged to hear that Manisha finds success with asking students to upload their independent learning. I was worried about a Goodhart's law* situation, where students upload stuff that looks very productive but takes a short amount of time (e.g filling a page with a spider diagram) and shy away from tasks where they might be learning a lot but generating very little evidence (like reading a chapter of wider reading). I was really pleased that this doesn't have the case. (We spoke in more depth about different approaches to homework in this chat)

There's a growing collection of retrieval stuff of Carousel Learn. We've mentioned Adam Boxer's Retrieval Roulette here - you just download it and put your own questions in and Mr Allsop History's version which turns these quizzes directly into Battleships/Connect 4/Blockbusters. I was trying to upload mine but I think there are too many questions and it's causing it not to work. If I can find where the bug is, I'll upload it. In the meantime I'm focussing on getting it all onto Carousel.

Overall, I think the gist is that the best way to help weaker students is fundamentally good teaching - clear explanations, regular recall practice, promoting numeracy and literacy etc. Teachers should consider that difficulties will often be topic specific so need addressing specifically. Since weaker students can have very different profiles, teachers should be wary of 'one size fits all' intervention. However, the graphic below might be of some help in targetting some of the systemic problems in students' work.

*Any mention of Goodharts law requires me to show this cartoon from Sketchplanations

Econ Ed Chat takes place the first Wednesday of the month at 6pm GMT. All welcome.


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