Thursday, January 19, 2006

Capital-Labour Substitution in University Education :: The EclectEcon

Great post by The EclectEcon on the growing podcasting of university lectures.

Will salaries in academia follow the same path as in electronic media where superstars earn super salaries?

Here's another thought about the Ludditian fears about lecture podcasts: I have this "friend" who isn't such a great teacher. If his colleagues start podcasting what conclusions can we draw about his teaching?



Blogger EclectEcon said...

Either your friend's teaching will improve, or he will concentrate on something else in which he has a comparative advantage, such as research, administration, or something outside academia.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Acad Ronin said...

My concern is that the research on teaching shows no correlation between teaching effectiveness and teacher ratings. The evidence even suggests that there is a negative correlation between teaching economics and teacher ratings. The problem appears to be that if one teaches economics well one changes how people think, and people resist changing how they think.

I once had two colleagues who taught Bus Econ. One had abysmal teacher ratings and one had stellar ratings. One day the star had to substitute for a day for the dog; later he reported that his sense was that the dog's students seemed to know more economics than his students did. Today, the star is a nationally noted univ administrator, and the dog is a chaired prof, still teaching econ. Make of this anecdote what you will.

I have just started to read Philip Tetlock's "Expert Political Judgement". He appears to have found that "the best forecasters and the timeliest belief updaters shared a self-deprecating style of thinking that spared them some of the big mistakes to which their more ideologically exuberant colleagues were prone." Who will do better in class, a professor who draws big, sweeping pictures with unshakeable confidence in the rightness of their view, or the professor who talks about the tentativeness and the limitations of their view? Certainty is compelling.

Finally, there is the issue of dialogue in the classroom. Is question and answer, even if not a full Socratic dialogue, or classroom discussion of little value? That one can learn from podcasts is not at issue. Frequently, one can learn simply by buying the text and going through it. So why do we even have classes? I taught myself basic corporate finance from Brealey & Myers; really understanding financial economics took longer and classroom exposure to a brilliant finance professor.

5:03 AM  

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