Learning Outcomes for Economists: Part 1
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Learning Outcomes for Economists: Part 1

Doug Norton

The current issue of the American Economic Review contains an article titled, “Learning Outcomes for Economists“. This is a brief article with a simple premise to use “Learning Outcomes” (LO) to guide student efforts. According to Allgood and Bayer a good LO should focus on (1) What students should know, but also on (2) What they should be able to do with that knowledge. In their paper they present five LOs that were, “the culmination of a project organized by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) involving a dozen economists thinking carefully about what it means to learn economics.”:

Microeconomics provides a set of tools for understanding, predicting, and evaluating individual choices and collective resource allocation. By achieving the following learning outcomes, you will be able to make better decisions with the resources you control, be better equipped to explore policy issues, be prepared for further study in economics, and discover how the study of economics can enhance your intellectual exploration of the world. By the end of the course, you should be able to:

LO 1. Explain how economists use the scientific process to expand understanding of individual decision-making, market outcomes, and government policies, and apply the process by practicing curiosity and hypothesis testing.

LO 2. Choose and use appropriate concepts and models to analyze and evaluate choices, outcomes, and policies in diverse settings.

LO 3. Develop quantitative reasoning skills by working with equations and graphs and by explaining the need for empirical methods that distinguish causation from correlation.

LO 4. Identify the assumptions underlying models, and connect the assumptions to particular theoretical results and/or observed conditions.

LO 5. Discuss economic issues in ways that promote mutual understanding and inquiry, demonstrate fluency in basic economic terminology and tools, and explain economic reasoning to and incorporate insights from noneconomists.

I think these dovetail well with what we’re doing at MobLab. In a follow up post I will write material that matches our platform content and student workbooks with the learning objectives offered in Allgood and Bayer (2017).