The most insightful thing I did during the course was to ask students to complete an attitudes and opinions survey at the start and end of the course. This was designed to canvas their opinions on what issues they cared about and how the perceived the role of economics in relation to these issues. This was insightful because it provided me with information that I would otherwise have had to assume and also allowed me to test whether students’ attitudes and perceptions shifted (in average) over the course of the module. The module was assessed using an end-of-Semester exam and in-class MCQ exam. This would not provide me with a way of knowing whether the module had an impact on students’ perceptions on social justice and economics; and so, the questionnaire was useful in this context. I think it is also important that we do not presume to know what students think and care about, but rather ask them so that it informs how we present the material to make it relevant to their concerns.
I attempted in each class to increase the extent of class participation and interaction. This was challenging in such a large class that was held in a large lecture theatre with a stage and tiered seating. I did not remain on the stage and walked throughout the lecture hall. I asked questions of students and as they became more comfortable that this was going to be a common feature of lectures and that their contributions were not “right or wrong”, they participated to a greater extent. In one class I provided a list of 5 questions that I wanted students to consider and created groups of 3 or 4 and asked each group to take a particular position on one of 5 question. They had 20 minutes to consider an answer and I asked some groups to share their perspectives. This led to a debate on the questions. I found this useful because I wanted students to appreciate that the purpose of the module was not to provide right and wrong answers, but to provide them with ways to think about the questions or issues they care about.
Several times I used the two-minute paper at the end of lectures. This asked what students found most interesting in that class and what unanswered questions they had. This was useful for my own reflection on classes and allowed me to start subsequent classes by addressing issues of which I would not otherwise have been aware.