“Fostering an equitable learning environment that promotes student growth requires communication, empathy, and understanding.”
I served as the Instructor of Record for AFRE 100: Decision Making in the Agri-Food System during the 2022 Spring Semester at Michigan State University. Throughout the semester, we covered topics including (i) neoclassical and behavioral economics; (ii) food supply chains, value-added, and food marketing; and (iii) welfare measurements and their usefulness in assessing market failures. A copy of my AFRE 100 syllabus is available, below.
Michigan State University’s student teaching evaluations score instructors from one to five, with one being the best overall score. Rather than presenting an aggregate score, the university develops a set of composite scores. The departmental average across categories for the Spring 2021 semester ranged from 2.07 – 2.25. My scores are presented below.
- Instructor involvement: 1.44/5.00
- The instructor’s (i) enthusiasm when presenting course material, (ii) interest in teaching, (iii) use of examples, and (iv) concern with whether students learned the material.
- Student-instructor interaction: 1.63/5.00
- The instructor’s (i) encouragement to students to express opinions, (ii) receptiveness to new ideas and others’ viewpoints, (iii) stimulation of class discussion, and (iv) the student’s opportunity to ask questions.
- Course demands: 1.71/5.00
- The (i) appropriateness of the amount of material the instructor attempted to cover, (ii) the appropriateness of the pace at which the instructor attempted to cover the material, (iii) the difficulty of assigned reading topics, and (iv) the contribution of homework assignments to your understanding of the course materials.
- Course organization: 1.71/5.00
- The (i) instructor’s ability to relate the course concepts systematically, (ii) overall course organization, (iii) ease of taking notes on the instructor’s presentation, and (iv) adequacy of the outlined direction of the course.
Fostering an equitable learning environment that promotes student growth requires communication, empathy, and understanding. It is my core belief that students’ mental health, physical health, and family affairs come before my coursework. Throughout the semester, I make a concerted effort to connect with students, request feedback on ways to improve my teaching mechanics, and accommodate students facing unforeseen circumstances. I believe that a professor’s role in the classroom is to guide students toward course objectives and offer support when needed.
My teaching style most closely resembles a lecture, though I use visual aids, supplemental readings and videos, and interactive polling to accommodate different learning styles. In future courses, I plan to incorporate experiments into the classroom to allow students to see economic theory in action. (I refrained from using experiments in my previous course due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.)
Lastly, students oftentimes struggle to see the real-world relevance of economics due to the mathematical rigor and abstract examples. One strategy I use to demonstrate real-world value is to incorporate current events into my lectures and homework assignments. For example, throughout the semester, students were tasked with finding a recent news article related to food or agriculture and were asked to summarize the contents and connect it to class material in a one-page write-up. Students found this assignment to be beneficial in solidifying their understanding of key concepts, with several stating it was their favorite component of the course.