A grad student asks Tyler for his pointers

The most important lesson is to use the right textbook.  Beyond that:

1. Give a damn.

2. Get to the point when you speak.

3. Expect something from them.

4. Teach to the students who are interested in learning.

5. At all levels, do not overestimate the attention span of your audience.

6. Do not be afraid to be idiosyncratic, provided you adhere strictly to #2.

. . .

Doesn’t Bryan Caplan have a post on this?  Here is John Baez on how to teach.  Peoples, what can you recommend from the literature?

My take:

If you are like most first time teachers the key is to show up and start talking. I’d like to say that your students are as afraid of you as you are of them but that’s not even close to being true. You are terrified. They are out for blood. That’s just the reality.

Once, you get passed that: enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm. No matter what you are saying your effectiveness will be primarily determined by how much you love saying it.

If you think you are ready for the big time then I would offer this

1) Preferably the class as a whole and certainly every lesson should have an arc. Mine usually go like this: There is some mystery about the world. Obvious answers fail. This one succeeds.

2) Jokes work well but preferably when they are well rehearsed  and they come straight out of the flow. If you have to stop and say, “here is a joke” you are already in the second tier.

3) Contra most folks, I love Powe Point. However, at its best, the slide comes after its been explained or motivated. So that you are talking, building to a more and more technical point and then boom you tap next and it becomes clear.

4) Callbacks. They are damn hard, but worth it if you can nail it. I nailed a whole semester callback once and got a standing ovation.

The idea is that you motivate something as a quasi-interesting side point or strange technique obsessed about by odd people and then later it becomes the answer to some huge mystery. The big callback I nailed had to do with Hotelling’s Rule, but that’s all I’ll say on online.

4b) I have never figure out how to execute it but I heard a professor once give a lecture that started with an anecdote and then the entire lecture was told within the anecdote. However, after probably 5 minutes or so you had forgotten that this was an anecdote. Then he closed the lecture by finishing the anecdote. It was a work of art and needless to say I remember to this day exactly what that lecture was about.

Lastly, lots of folks say they expect economics to be boring or have had economics classes that were boring. I am sure that when I have been off my game I have bored a few students, but as a general matter this is baffling to me.

There is literally nothing that you have ever cared about or ever will care about that is not impacted by what you learn in this class. I sometimes tell introductory students that they will never experience anything as important or as profound as what I am about to tell them and I am dead serious. How could they?

This is the science of choice. Life is choices. Everything else is supplementary material.

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