Reader in Economics and Finance Education, School of Economics and Finance
This Welcome Week activity provides a platform for students to discuss controversial topics in the fields of economics and finance. Induction week offers a unique opportunity to challenge students’ opinions by asking them to work in diverse groups where they are exposed to different opinions and arguments. The activity involves students working in teams and arguing in favour and against controversial arguments, even those that they disagree with.
During Welcome Week students are presented with some unpopular statements and they are asked to work in groups to argue in favour and against them. Particularly, the students are asked to provide three arguments in favour and three arguments against the statement provided to them. They work on their own to find the arguments, and they then meet with their group for one hour (three times during Welcome Week) to discuss and agree which three arguments they will put forward as a group.
This activity provides a platform for our diverse student body to challenge their opinions and converse with people they disagree with. Most importantly it provides an opportunity for them to work with a group of people that they haven’t met before and that come from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds
Some examples of topics that have been debated are 'zero-hour contracts’, commercial banks bail-outs and green taxes.
Students’ view on the statements are captured at the beginning of Welcome Week via a poll. The same poll is then repeated on the last day of Welcome Week and the changes in their opinions are presented to them. This experiment shows them how some opinions change through conversation and study, challenging this way their already held beliefs, and hopefully motivating them to engage with their studies with an open mind.
The success of this activity rests on students’ willingness to discuss with each other and work as members of a team. Choosing highly controversial and debated topics for discussion is also key for the success of this activity. After all, the most popular topics for discussion among economists are the unpopular ones that stir up controversy. And there are plenty of them in economics.
The "Unpopular Opinions" activity was very fun and I enjoyed coming up with different arguments for the statements with my group members.— Student taking part in last academic year’s welcome week activity
Reader in Economics and Finance Education