Improving Essay Writing in Economics

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

1) How are we approaching teaching for Year 13 next year?

Do teachers feel that current Year 12s are where they would normally expect students to be at this stage? Are teachers making any changes next year in light of this?

2) How can we improve essay writing in Economics?

How can we improve essay-writing across the ability spectrum? Do writing frames help or hinder? What individual skills do we need to teach to help students produce better essays?

3) Topic in Focus: How can we best teach Monetary Policy?

How do teachers introduce the topic? What elements of Monetary Policy do we teach, in what order and why? What misconceptions do students commonly hold about this topic?

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

I have actually nearly finished a (quite lengthy) write up of this question, but I'm now so behind with these write-ups that I thought it would be better to just post the video for you to watch.

A few comments/references/resources:

Firstly, I totally got the wrong end of the stick with Gavin's Competitive Paragraphs. He shows two paragraphs written by different students but making the same point. By looking at two comparable pieces of work, students can begin to see what makes one answer better than another. Daisy Christodoulou argues that it's difficult to tell how tall someone is by looking at them on their own. However, she argues that it's easy to tell which if two people are taller. The same thing happens here.

These articles from Teaching History are worth reading and the ideas are very applicable to Econ. They aren't free to access, unfortunately, so check if your history department has a subscription to the Historical Association:

128 Does Scaffolding Make them Fall? - Evans and Pate

164 Effective Essay Introductions - Worth

159 Weaning students off writing frames

I think this image from Greg Ashman sums up one of the issues with essays and mark schemes:

I feel that teaching essays can easily become a case of teaching the mark schemes, and that I know teaching students the blue box rather then the red spots is something I need to work on (although I don't quite know how!)

We reference the RES Essay Competition as examples of good essays - you can see winners from previous years here (scroll down)

I mentioned having 'cards' to scaffold essays and I mean these types. On a similar note, there's also a nice blog here about the hexagons approach. I used to use hexagons a lot and this punch is helpful if you go down that route, but I've since abandoned them because I don't think it gives much more than just using cards.

Andrew alluded to this blog post about his dislike of the Edexcel course, and a large portion of this focuses around the essay element.

I think that's everything we referenced, but if we talk about something in the video and it's not clear, let me know and I'll add extra references!

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