Improving Teaching Effectiveness in Introductory Economics Courses Using the Test of Understanding of College Economics (TUCE)

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Measuring and evaluating teaching effectiveness is a complex and difficult task. Nevertheless, the information derived from such measurement and evaluations can be extremely valuable to individual instructors in terms of their further development as teachers.

The Test of Understanding in College Economics (TUCE) has been used extensively as a means of measuring student learning in introductory economics courses. This purpose of this paper is to illustrate how information derived from the TUCE in introductory economics courses can also be used to provide feedback to instructors in these courses to help them improve their teaching effectiveness. The results obtained can be used to help instructors better understand a) what students are learning and how well they are achieving the learning goals for their courses; and b) specific areas of course content and cognitive categories for which students' performance is poor and/or lower than their overall performance.

Identification of content and cognitive categories for which students' improvement is low, or lower than their overall improvement, provides useful information that can be used by instructors to indicate those topics to which they should concentrate additional time and emphasis in teaching the course in the future. In addition, instructors may want to consider changes in teaching strategies in order to better communicate information and engage students as a means of improving their understanding and achievement of course learning goals. Results obtained in this way can be used in conjunction with student evaluations of courses and instructors in an ongoing process of improving teaching effectiveness.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The focus of this study on using outcomes achieved in introductory economics courses as a means of evaluating teaching and providing feedback to instructors is consistent with the following definition of effective teaching: "Effective teaching can be defined, very simply, as activities that promote student learning. It encompasses all of those instructor behaviors that foster learning of the instructor's and/or of the institution's educational objectives." (UCLA Office of Instructional Development, https://www.oid.ucla.edu/ publications/evalofinstruction/eval1#1, accessed on October 1, 2010)

Research on evaluating teaching effectiveness is extensive. While teaching effectiveness and student learning are closely related, historically the focus of this research primarily has been on discovering and describing teacher characteristics that are associated with good teaching. This approach emphasizes the process of teaching such as course organization, teaching behaviors (lecture, discussion, etc.), as well as student learning activities and evaluation procedures.

Summarizing the research on characteristics of good teachers, Eble, (1988, pp. 21-22) notes:

   Most studies stress knowledge and organization of subject matter,
   skills in instruction, and personal qualities and attributes useful
   to working with students.

Eisenberg (1996), cited in Seldin (1999, p.3) analyzed 18 studies concerned with effective teachers and reported the following characteristics of such teachers: knowledge, organization/clarity, stimulation/enthusiasm, use of active learning, effective communication, and instructional openness.

Specifically in terms of economics instructors, Boex (2000) used responses from student evaluations of instructor surveys to ascertain the attributes of economics instructors that are associated with teaching effectiveness as perceived by their students. Six broad instructor attributes were identified: presentation ability, organization and clarity, grading and assignments, intellectual or scholarly capacities, instructor-student interaction, and student motivation. Results of this analysis indicated that students perceive the dominant attributes of an effective economics instructor to be organizational skills and clarity. …