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Queen Mary Academy

Inclusive practice in first year economics

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Professor Rachel Male

Professor of Economics

Building a diverse and inclusive curriculum is a key focus of the undergraduate economics programme. One example of this, both in terms of subject area and assessment, is ECN102 World Economy. This first year module is compulsory for a number of degrees in the School of Economics and Finance.

Responding to a need

The World Economy module has been designed to develop a community of self-driven analytical students, who can understand the theoretical underpinnings of macroeconomic models (at an introductory level), whilst demonstrating an understanding of the impact of these theories in real world scenarios.

Important consideration is given to how to make comparisons of economies at different levels of economic development and the data required to ensure these are reliable and meaningful for economic analysis. Importantly, it gives students the insight to critically interpret reports and news articles, such as those reporting economic growth rates of different economies.

The assessment is designed to reflect these aims, with a combination of regular individual assessments alongside a collaborative end of semester group poster presentation, which acts as a community building exercise.

Weekly quizzes provide the opportunity for students to monitor their progress and understanding. These short quizzes contribute a nominal component of the overall module mark (1% per quiz), but help to encourage continuous engagement and the development of reflective learners, able to review and respond to their own progress.

Community building

Throughout the semester, students also work in groups to research, design and create a poster presentation. These posters provide a country by country snapshot for a wide-range of diverse economies, varying in levels of economic development and geographical size and location. The posters are presented in an event that marks the end of the first semester. The poster presentations help to build community both within the student cohort and more widely within the school, as the poster event provides the new undergraduates with the opportunity to present and discuss their findings with the wider community of students and staff within the School of Economics and Finance. The poster presentation groups are created organically through expressions of interest in particular economies, rather than being self-selected or randomly assigned. In this way, the groups help to align student interests and provide the opportunity for new social bonds and collaborations to be created at the very beginning of their university experience.

Applying students’ understanding to real world problems

During the module, students also complete a written assignment, to help develop their academic writing skills at an early stage. In this piece of work, students are provided with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of economic models by their application to a given scenario. This can take the form of either asking the student to analyse country data and propose an economic policy (e.g. to reduce poverty rates or to increase growth rates), or to analyse the expected effectiveness of a proposed policy, given the economic data for that country. This covers a diverse range of economies and policies: from a sanitation project in Eswatini; the World Bank (2020) Africa Human Capital Plan; to the impact of Covid-19 on growth and poverty in developing economies (with students choosing a diverse range of economies from South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia). This approach early in the students’ undergraduate career facilitates better understanding by asking students to go beyond just reciting the economic models and applying them to real world problems.

Applying skills and knowledge across modules

The written assignment and poster presentations also provide important links within the undergraduate curriculum, and especially to Economics and Finance in Action which runs concurrently to this module. The opportunity to apply skills and knowledge across modules is important to ensure that students see the links and applications between their modules and within the broader subject area, rather than compartmentalising to what is required to pass a specific topic.

Professor Rachel Male

Professor of Economics

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