Monthly Archives: June 2011

This semester, I’ll be seeing you in:

In my experience, on the first day of class, all students — but especially first- and second-year students — tend to be a bit nervous.  You may not know what to expect from teachers and classmates and that can be gut wrenching.  On top of that, everybody (and I mean everybody, your teachers included) is dealing with all sorts of challenges in their lives — family, relationships, work, financial issues, etc.  So, here’s my advice: Relax! Take a deep breath and relax.  Don’t let anything distract you from your goals while in SFC.

And here’s something that can help you define those goals more sharply: Think of all your classmates and teachers as people you want to get to know, connect with, and be friends with.  As you’ll learn in my economics courses, an economy is a bunch of people cooperating with one another.  Societies exist and become more productive because people help people.  That is the whole secret of a prosperous economy.

When you get to your last year in college, this will become even clearer to you, especially when the economy is in such a tough spot: You will need all the connections and all the help you can get to find your best career opportunities and take advantage of them.  How do you think big leaders accomplish anything?  By having other people help them accomplish those things!  So why not use your years in college to create and foster solid relations of friendship and collaboration with classmates and teachers and everybody else in the SFC community?  By so doing, you’ll have on your side a bunch of good, smart, and hardworking people caring about your wellbeing.  That way your dreams will get closer to being realized.

So, relax and build friendships and work relationships.

Now, I know: Some or most or all of you are concerned about how I grade and how to get the best grade you can obtain in my course.  Grading is tough for any instructor.  I’m no exception.  On the one hand (see my speech above), I want to encourage collaboration among my students.  On the other hand, I have to grade each of you individually and feel that I am being absolutely fair.  Although I must care about the results and skills that you demonstrate to me, I care a lot about the effort that you show.

But FYI, the areas of performance I take into account are these (the weight given to each in the grade is in parenthesis):

1. Conceptual understanding (1/3)

By this, I mean that you have to show me that you:

  • Understand the questions, problems, and instructions given, and provide exact and complete answers to the questions asked,
  • Set up the problem or grasp the question correctly, showing a solid understanding of the relevant concepts, and interpreting your results correctly
  • Use the right formula or follow the correct procedure to solve a problem or determine the answer, and
  • Use conceptual knowledge creatively, solving unexpected problems, rather than merely repeating mechanically the procedures drilled in class.
2. Analytical proficiency (1/3)

This means that you:

  • Use rigorous logical reasoning to solve problem/determine the solution,
  • Exhibit ability to operate with algebraic symbols,
  • Show ability to operate with graphs and uses basic geometric concepts to solve problems or determine solutions, and
  • Show arithmetic and data handling ability, correct numerical calculations and computations, and proper use of tools (calculator, excel, etc.).
3. Other academic/professional attitudes and skills (1/3)

Some of these items are the hardest to grade, but I make an effort to see that you:

  • Attend classes consistently and punctually, submit your assignments on time, exhibit overall ability to plan ahead, and prepare exams well (all evidence of a maturing sense of professional responsibility),
  • Show ability to communicate clearly, accurately, and concisely in any form (verbal, graphical, and algebraic, proper/careful use of math and linguistic symbols, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, spelling),
  • Show initiative, interest in economic issues, manifest in class participation, questions, comments, interventions, consultation and discussion with instructor and peers,
  • Exhibit ability to fruitfully work in groups, help others, cooperate well, and lead,
  • Show creativity and an understanding of the complexity of economic life, with awareness of uncertainty, undecidability, and inherent limits of human cognition, and
  • Show effort to fit economic understanding in a broader, critical world view, with a sense of the ethical demands imposed by living in today’s society.