Teaching Philosophy

Two principles inform all of my teaching. First, my objective is not to teach students what to think about economics, but rather, to teach them how to think about economics. Facts and formulas can always be looked up in books. The true function of a university education is to develop students’ abilities to think critically and analytically. Second, my pedagogical objective is not to improve my teaching, but rather, to improve student learning. This objective shifts the focus away from “covering the material” to creating an atmosphere conducive to learning. This atmosphere requires student participation, treating students fairly and with respect, and it requires sensitivity to the students’ varying perspectives and backgrounds. This atmosphere allows the possibility of meeting students halfway between where they are and where I would like to bring them – to a place where they have learned to think more critically and analytically.

History of Economic Thought

In collaboration with a writing instructor (John Spencer), we have integrated the teaching of writing into fourth year History of Economic Thought courses. This transformation is described in “Using Writing Across the Curriculum in Economics: Is Taking the Plunge Worth It?” Journal of Economic Education, Summer 1993, 219-230.

As Chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Education for the History of Economics Society, we organized the inaugural Workshop to Promote the Teaching of the History of Economics, History of Economics Society Meetings, Duke University, July 2003. Aimed at those who might consider teaching (or who currently teach) the history of economic thought, the workshop highlights the best practices and practitioners in the field, providing information and resources to make it much easier to offer a high-quality (content and pedagogy) course, or to update an existing course. Ideas and teaching techniques from the workshop can also be applied elsewhere in the undergraduate curriculum.