It is EVERYWHERE… Active Learning. At least now that I have been introduced to it. I find myself searching for it in my own classroom experience as a student. Since last week, I have come up with a multitude of successful (and unfortunately) not-so-successful examples of active learning. I want to call this my Baader-Meinhof experience (aka frequency illusion) of the week.
One of my best active-learning experiences occurred in one of my Economics classes. Although I am an Economist by training, I do recognize that the class material taught in Economics classes may be considered dry, boring, and hard to digest for many students. Topics of this particular course included supply and demand (Yes, Father Guido Sarducci got that one EXACTLY right), moral hazard, adverse selection, incentives, elasticity, externalities, rationality, opportunity costs, and so forth. Alongside traditional teaching methods (e.g., lectures, problem sets), students were selected into groups to work on an assignment called The Group Fiction Project. The assignment read as follows:
- Watch a movie (not a documentary) or read a book of fiction and prepare a presentation of it.
- The presentation will include a brief description of the main plot of the movie/book and an outline of its economic content (either how the events of the movie/book were triggered by economic forces or how the events of the movie/book affected some economic market or markets).
What a great idea, I thought. Our group decided to go with Ocean’s 11. Here is the trailer as a reminder:[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_bzUIbE5jo%5D
I do remember being a little skeptical in the beginning. How in the world were we supposed to identify economic principles in a movie?
We agreed upon watching the movie independently, coming up with initial ideas, and sharing them with the group afterwards. Ideas started to develop quickly, and we enjoyed not just having to read a textbook. Instead, we could discuss a great movie while applying economic concepts. How cool is that? The more we talked about it, the more we found “economically-influenced” scenes. We called our project “The Economics of Crime – A Criminal Mind and his Rational Choices.”
In a sense, the instructor triggered a Baader-Meinhof experience of economic principles by connecting them to something many of us enjoy doing in our free time – watching movies. Active Learning 101. Well played, Professor. Well played.