Interview With Economics Instructors Education Essay

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In recent years, there has been a big reawakening of interest in economic education. In addition, the philosophical and principle content of economics and its task in economics education have been an issue of discussion. This has come from many quarters, including academic research, in policy circles and in general media debate. This collection of interviews with lecturers of Economics boarder on various aspects of the economics of education such as teaching philosophy and approaches, aims of Economic Education, types of assessment as well as issues and challenges in teaching and learning economics.

The goal of economics education in schools is shifting from a mainly academic approach towards more prominence on teaching that meets the needs of students in their current and future lives (Kneppers et al. , 2012). Application of economic knowledge in daily economic decisions is now the emphasis. The shift of emphasis had led to call for change in both the teaching and learning processes. Colander, (2007) believes that the profession was indeed changing, which led him to wonder whether, and how, those changes were being reflected in graduate training. MCLEAN, (2010) stresses that the escalating cost of higher education and growing competitiveness in international labour markets necessitates that courses and curriculum provide greater economic benefit. The main determinants of what is taught in economics are the academic departments and the individual instructors. No doubt it will be fascinating to see how teaching in economics would revolutionize if students take part in both curriculum development and in the selection of the teaching method or activities (Ongeri, 2009).

These interviews were conducted in two separate institutions of higher learning in Malaysia: University Putra Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University College. The lecturers were contacted on Monday 11th March, 2013 for appointments. Dr. Suhaila Hj. Abd Jalil of department of Economics, UPM was contacted on phone after two attempts to see her in the office was not successful, however she agreed to give the interview on Tuesday 12th March which she did. Wan Liyana Mariah Bt Wan Zainal Abidin of KLMUC was contacted in her office, Monday 11th March, and she agreed to give the interview on Friday 15th March.

INTERVIEW WITH DR. SUHAILA HJ. ABD JALIL

Dr. Suhaila Haji Abdul Jalil was born and bred in Segamat Johore.  She received her primary and secondary school education from Canossian Convent School, Segamat.  She further pursued her Diploma in Business Studies from MARA Institute of Technology in 1970.  After her diploma, she left for the United States to continue her studies at the Ohio University, Athens, Ohio in 1973 on a PSD Scholarship.  She was conferred the degree of Bachelor in Business Administration in 1976.  Dr. Suhaila switched to a new discipline when she pursued her Masters of Arts (Economics) at the University of West Virginia, Morgantown, West Virginia and received her degree in May 1978.  Later, in the same year (June 1978) she joined the Faculty of Economics and Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia (then, Faculty of Resource Economics and Agribusiness, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia) as a lecturer in the Economics Department and has remained there since.   Currently she holds the post of a senior lecturer at the faculty.

In 1983 Dr. Suhaila was awarded a fellowship from the Association of International Development program (AIDP) of Australian Universities and Colleges to set the initial groundwork for her Ph D. and spent three years at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia.  In 1996 she was conferred the Doctoral of Philosophy (Economics) by University Putra Malaysia, for her thesis "Capacity Utilization in the Malaysian Palm Oil Refining Sector". 

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

She believes Economics is a very abstract subject and needed to be treated with care. Coase, (2009) lamented that the degree to which economics is isolated from the ordinary business of life is extraordinary and unfortunate. Despite this, it is easier passing knowledge across because everyone is an economic agent. Whether we realize it or not, we all take economic decisions. Economics can illuminate the other social sciences because, ultimately, economics is the study of people making choices and regardless of the discipline, choices are involved (Malek, 2010).

AIMS OF ECONOMIC EDUCATION

The aim of economic education is to prepare students to make economic decisions. We all face with these decisions: which career part to follow, where to live, whom to vote for. Generally, voters like to vote for candidates that have good economic knowledge because he or she will be making choice on behalf of them. Economics is the main thing; business people also make economic decisions and the quality of their decisions depend their knowledge of economics. Another aim of economic education is to make students ready and fit for the labour market. All these and a lot more are contained in the course outlines as learning objectives.

TEACHING APPROACHES IN ECONOMICS

What you are teaching will determine the approach that will be used. This teaching approach will encourage students to learn economics and understand the power of the economic way of thinking. When dealing with theories, teachers still need to teach which make it more of teacher centred. In applied economics, students are greatly involved in the learning process. To a great extend students centred and problem based learning are employed. This teaching dynamism will help boost student's interest during class and in the subject of economics in general.

TYPES OF ASSESSMENT

She believes in discussion with students rather than examination. In discussion with students you are able to assess their understanding of basic concepts. Posing thought provoking questions during discussion test students' knowledge and shows how vast students are in economics. Many students will only read to pass examination, because they are only chasing paper (certificate) while discussions assess if students have learned what they are to learn.

ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING ECONOMICS

The main challenge today is that students have gone from being an active learner to become passive. Students don't want to contribute to the learning process, either they are shy or proud to contribute. Students' participation is reducing from time to time; it was not like this when we started. Another thing is a shift of emphasis from economics to business, everybody is talking about business forgetting that you cannot be a good businessman without good knowledge of economics. Formerly it used to be department of economics and business is taken care of there, but now business has been separated from economics that is saddening.

SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO IMPROVE THE CURRICULUM

The curriculum should be updated to what is current in the market and that from time to time.

INTERVIEW WITH WAN LIYANA MARIAH

Wan Liyana Mariah Bt Wan Zainal Abidin is a lecturer in faculty of business administration and management, she received her bachelor degree in Economics from International Islamic University in 1999, specializing in Islamic economy and furthering her masters education at University Malaya in 2004, with Masters of Economics after which she started lecturing in the year 2004 in University Nilai and she also lectured in kbu international college before proceeding to KLMUC

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

"I believe each student is unique, that is my teaching philosophy" acknowledging this uniqueness helps to handle them differently. Not all students can score "A", let see how to help others to also come higher. Though it is not easy teaching economics, but she enjoys teaching economics because that is her passion. She dislikes the traditional method because that did not put into consideration the uniqueness of each student's ability. She sees herself as the facilitator; she is open to questions, discussions and comments coming from her students. She enjoys her students' participation.

AIMS OF ECONOMIC EDUCATION

Many of the students see economics as just something in the text book. The aim of economics education is to make economics real. Students must know how to apply the concepts to their own lives. They must understand that economics is everyday life, your decisions at various junctions of life. Whether to go to school or not, what kind of job you want to do, all these and many more are economic decision. When you relate all economic concepts to real life situations the students find it very interesting to learn economics. Motivating students is pivotal in learning economics and the only way to motivate them is making it real.

TEACHING APPROACHES IN ECONOMICS

We do have three hours lecture, the first two hours for lecture and last one hour for problem solving. At times we discuss together using case study and the students find very accommodating. During discussion on some occasions they are divided in groups and she tries moving around to evaluate their progress and also to make contribute in their discussions. "I had a wonderful experience during my undergraduate day in IIUM, I learnt that students appreciate you coming to them rather than asking them to come to your table to learn.

TYPES OF ASSESSMENT

Students are given course outline in order to let them know what they are expected to learn during the semester. The students are assessed through quizzes, mid-term test which is in multiple choices questions, assignment and presentation. When students come up with presentation, they show the knowledge of what they have learnt and also boost their confidence. The aim of the assessment is to get a normal distribution curve in students' grades.

ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING ECONOMICS

The first challenge is that students do not know how to relate basic economic concepts to the lives. Another challenge is the use of graph in economics, most of the time they find difficult to interpret the graph. "I made students understand that economics with graph, you cannot explain it without graph." Understanding students' predicaments should make you down to their level.

SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO IMPROVE THE CURRICULUM

The language transition should be smoothened. In high school economics is taught using Malay, while students are expected to learn in English in institute of higher learning which may be quite difficult to do.

ITEMS

DR SUHAILA HJ. ABD JALIL

WAN LIYANA MARIAH BT WAN ZAINAL ABIDIN

Teaching philosophy

Everybody is an economic agent

Individual uniqueness

Aims of Economic Education

Better economic decision

Preparation for labour market

Real world application

Teaching approaches

Teacher centred

Problem solving

Student centred

Case study

Type of assessment

Discussion

Quizzes

Presentations

Assignments

Tests

Issues and challenges

Passive participation of students

Application to real life

Mathematical concept

Suggestion

Updating the curriculum

Smooth language transition

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

The interviews gave great insight into how economists are trained and the process of teaching, learning and assessment. Tremendous amount of issues are covered in these interviews. Starting from the teaching philosophy of lecturers in this field, it is regrettable, but true, that some lecturers teach students without having much proper knowledge of how students learn. Many lecturers know how they learn best, but do not fundamentally consider how their students learn and if the way they teach motivate students to learn. In planning, development and implementation of the learning process students' differences should be acknowledged. Not everyone learns in the same way, or uniformly about all types of subject. Lecturers should also understand that discipline and level of material to be learnt will also affect learning. Students bring different backgrounds and expectations to learning.

The aim of economic education is to light up a student's perception about the real world, and this can change the tone of public discourse. Unfortunately, Coase, (2009) emphasized that the field had experienced a paradigm shift, steadily acknowledging itself as a theoretical approach of economization and abandon the real-world economy as its subject matter. According to Malek, (2010) an introductory course in economics is perhaps the most essential class a student can take in college because it teaches a innovative way of logical thinking. It helps students to become better consumers of the media, and it allows students to analyze clearly and logically the policy recommendations or proposals of politicians. The most important goal of economic education should be to teach the economic way of thinking. As Becker, (2007) points out, quoting Siegfried et al. (1991), "the primary goal of undergraduate courses in economics is to enable students to think like economists." Winch, (2002) argues that a student who wants to be educated in order to pursue a meaningful occupation or to earn a living clearly has an aim in mind, but economic education offers much more than that.

The teaching approaches used are also fundamental to what students learn. The learning outcome will greatly influence the approach adopted, different approaches should be used when teaching 'to know' and 'to do'. Economics is a "learn by doing" discipline. One must practice these skills, knowledge, and abilities to expand and maintain task know-how (MCLEAN, 2010). What students do after acquiring economic education is very important and that make students the pivot of teaching process. Malek believes teaching economics effectively is an important factor in how students learn. Let us also have this in mind that different students learn in different ways and all students benefit from having teaching approached from several angles. Economics should be taught by a combination of two or more of lecturing, discussions, reading, writing, cases, and games depending on the learning outcomes.

Assessment can be a useful tool for both the students and the instructor in shaping the learning outcomes as well as the learning approaches that students enjoy in relation to learning a task. Through close observation of students in the process of learning, the collecting feedback on students' learning, lecturers can understand how students react to particular teaching approaches. A good assessment can be useful to both to students and teacher. The goals of economics lecturers differ, depending on their subject, the specific content of their courses, their students, and their own personal philosophies about the purposes of economic education. Through assessment both lecturers and students can evaluate how successful the learning process had been, however, it should be not that promoting the cognitive growth and academic skills of their students is not the primary purpose of assessment.

It has been widely believed that many students lack interest in studying economics because of application of mathematical concepts in economics. When lecturers are determined to teach students are also motivated to learn. A passionate teacher put in more to the learning process which also encourage students to learn easily.

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