Friday, December 18, 2015

Reminder - Discussion Group

There is definitely no obligation for you to do this, but if you are interested in participating in the discussion group please lease me know.  Thanks.

Final Exam and Course Grades Uploaded into Moodle

Note that the Course Grade is in the Feedback area of the grade report.  I will upload the grades into Banner in a few minutes.

I believe the grading was generous.  I hope you feel likewise.

Happy Holidays.

Bah, Humbug. Scrooge was an economist!

Taking a little break from the grading.  I thought you might be amused by this paper, which is based on the following premise.  If you exchange real gifts with a distant cousin over the holidays, and the gifts have the same cash value, and each cousin doesn't really know what the other wants, wouldn't each of you be better off were there no gift exchange whatsoever?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The class doesn't end even after it is over.

You may be unaware that I have some monitoring turned on at, where the course files (PowerPoints, PDFs, and Excel Spreadsheets) are posted.  Every time somebody downloads a file from the class site, I get an email update.  I do this not for any strategic reason.  That was the default when I set up the account and I've simply left it turned on.

Today somebody downloaded the Excel Homework on the Shapiro-Stiglitz model during our final.  Now it is possible that the monitoring is in error, meaning the person downloaded it earlier and I only get the message after a substantial lag.  I am testing that now to see how long it takes after I've downloaded the file to get the email message.  (It took 5 minutes to get the email.)

My reaction to this may be other than how you'd react if you were in my shoes.  First, I don't know who it is.  Second, I doubt it impacted the performance on the exam much if at all.  But, third, and this is really the most important one, it seems to me that many of you are very stressed out during exam week.  There is supposed to be both good stress and bad stress.   Even the best actors get stage fright.  That's good stress.  But if there is too much of it then it is bad, and overwhelms you, and you act other than you typically would.  There was a comedian, Flip Wilson, who was popular when I was your age.  His tag line was - the devil made me do it.

If you get into a position where you manage others, know that monitoring can cause stress.  Part of your job will be to keep the devil at bay in the people who work for you.  I wish there was some magic formula for that, but I don't know of any.  All I can say is that sometimes it is better to forgive and forget.

On that note, I will start in on the grading.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A little humor and....

.... if you've never seen it before an essential part of anyone's education about American culture.

Project Grades Uploaded

I did have to do this manually, but I've now done that and checked my work.  Each member of the team got the same grade and received the same comments.  The comments were about the presentation only, since that was new.  I gave extensive comments on the paper already.

I've uploaded all the PowerPoints to a folder.  If you are interested in seeing what your classmates have produced, you can take a look there.

All grades but the final exam have now been uploaded.  So you should know where you stand going into the final and can prepare accordingly.

Good luck on your other exams.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Projects Are Graded

I am having a technical issue importing what I've got into Moodle.  If needed I will manually post these grades, but it would be much better for all if I can simply import them from my spreadsheet.  I will get this done in the morning, one way or the other.

Generous Grading on the Projects

It was not my intention to cause additional stress for any student about the virtual elevator speeches.  Yet I may have done that inadvertently with my previous post.  So let me assert here that I will target the grading for that component of the class so the average is around 110 points.  (108 points is 90% of the maximum, 120 points.)

The point of the previous post is that while making the elevator speeches is seemingly straightforward, doing it well is a challenge that requires thought and much practice to cultivate a sense of taste about what makes for a good presentation. The class project was merely an introduction to that.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Some Observations About the Virtual Elevator Speech

First, you can also think of this as a virtual executive summary of your (white) paper.  An executive summary is typically a one-pager that gives the highlights of the longer document.  The executive summary is longer than the abstract for your paper and the audience is probably different.  The abstract is written for insiders who will read the full paper.  The executive summary is written for interested generalists, who might very well not read the paper.  They get their entire impression of what is going on from the executive summary only.

Second, in evaluating your elevator speeches, I had already read drafts of your papers.  So it is not possible to return to the state of ignorance where I don't know anything about the paper you are reviewing or about what you've written on that score.  But I do try to imagine a reaction from that state of ignorance.  It is what you should have in mind about your audience when constructing the elevator speech.

Third, a good elevator speech is quite difficult to write.  You want to tell a simple story, because your audience is ignorant and they need to follow along with what you have to say.  On the other hand, you don't want it to be simplistic.  You want your audience to find your story compelling.  So you need to get at the gist and get rid of any detail that can be learned about later, if somebody in the audience wants more information.  Determining what is essential and what is detail that is not critical to include is itself a hard thing to do.

Then there is the matter of communicating the key ideas in a way the audience will understand them.  Here the issue is whether your metaphors work for an audience that is not as knowledgeable about the subject as you are.  Image choice is not a trivial matter.  Neither are the short phrases you come up with.

Because of the time we had available, you likely short changed the process required in generating a good elevator speech.  It was the best that could be done under the circumstances.  My goal for you with this project was not that you'd produce a great elevator speech this time around.  Rather it was to get you a little familiar with the process so you can better appreciate what it entails the next time you have to produce something similar.

Finally, let me talk about a few common errors that people make in doing these things.  The first comes when somebody makes a presentation to a muckety muck (a VIP).  There is then some desire for that somebody to use the presentation to establish one's own credential, thinking (incorrectly) that the muckety muck will pay more attention to the argument if it comes from an authoritative source, so using your presentation to show you've really done your homework as a way to establish your own authority.  Invariably this means too much detail will be presented.  While that may show you've done your homework, it also shows that you don't understand the purpose of the elevator speech.  So you will fail in this case.

A second error is including a lot of jargon that is unfamiliar to the audience and not being aware that you are doing it at the time.  This makes the presentation seem like it is in a foreign language to some in the audience.  It doesn't work for that reason.

The third error is that in the process of taking out the jargon the argument gets dumbed down too much and the message is only very broad strokes generalities, which don't communicate the value in the work that has been done.  Plain English messages can nonetheless make arguments that require intelligence to appreciate.  That is the goal, even if it is not readily reached.

Grades Uploaded

I have now uploaded grades for the last Excel homework, your comments in response to mine on the blog posts, and your blog posts in the second half.

I need to take a break.  Then I will get to the projects.  Realistically, I will not have that grading done till tomorrow, and possibly not till Monday.  But you should know where you stand in the course heading into the final, which is Thursday.

And, one more time, Moodle will actually say there are a total of 1020 points allocated for the course, because I gave the bonus on midterm 1 and had to up the max score on that as a result.  I will use the grade distribution reported in the syllabus to determine your letter grade.  In that there were 1000 points allocated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Big Picture Take Aways for Lifelong Learning

1.  A fundamental need to express your formative thinking

2.  Human decency/Kindness to others

3.  Making the circle larger.  This is sometimes called "Chin Up" Leadership.

Some background info for our review of the course

Credit Hours and Out of Class Time - In the old model that was in place, credits are given by "seat time" so our course is a 3-credit course because we are scheduled for 3 hours a week  (really for 160 minutes instead of 180 minutes because of the break between classes).  In that old model there was an implicit relation between out-of-class time and in-class time.  On average there should be 2 hours put in outside of class for every hour in the live class setting.  You can benchmark yourself by whether you were under, over, or approximately at that implicit standard.

National Survey of Student Engagement - This piece from twelve years ago was quite influential in defining "the problem" for much of undergraduate education in the U.S.  Note that this is not specific to the U of I.

Note that the U of I participated in the NSSE and some reforms on campus, particularly a push in undergraduate research, were a consequence of that participation.  But we never shared the results of the surveys done on campus in a public venue.  I saw some of the early results (from about 10 years ago).  They showed the campus ranked pretty high on rigor and having a demanding curriculum.  (Though I wonder if Engineering students were over surveyed in that.)  But we ranked pretty low in student-instructor interaction.  I'm afraid that one reason the results were not made public is that they weren't "brag points" across the board.  We had some strengths but we also had some deficiencies.  I believe it is quite difficult on campus to discuss the deficiencies.

NSSE and the Disengagement Compact

From Today's Chronicle of Higher Education 

Here the argument isn't so much about the intensity of the teaching and learning but rather about the move away from traditional approaches which produce critical thinking, toward vocational approaches that produce narrow competence only.
The Gutting of Gen Ed


Strategic Plan - Goals

Current Initiatives - Campus Conversation

What is your nature?

Two Views about How Engagement Might Be Generated (from Psychology)

Learning is hard work - Carol Dweck Mindset

Learning comes from self-actualization (Maslow) or from finding flow (Csikszentmihalyi)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

When should risk averse people take on risk they can't diversify?

Self-protection means taking action to lower the probability of loss, when there are limits to self-insurance and there is no commercial insurance offered.  The questions we want to get at here are:

(a)  Sometimes, does the individual desire to self-protect get in the way of taking on socially desirable risks?

(b)  What, if anything, can be done about this?

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate:

(1)  Grant System Leads Cancer Researchers to Play It Safe.  The big deal issue here is how to evaluate the next grant proposal written by the researcher.  The prior track record matters, a lot.  In other words, if under the previous grant the researcher could show that good results were obtained that serves as a strong credential for the next grant.  In turn, that encourages the research to be less ambitious in the previous grant proposal, so success is more likely.

(2)  Underdogs in sports competitions should be risk seeking, to maximize their chances of winning.  Favorites should be risk averse.   But many coaches, whether underdog or favorite, coach not to lose.  Can you provide a rationale for that?

What other forms of self-protection do we see in the workplace or in the classroom?

The dark side of being trusting

We've talked about this a little bit in class, in the sense that there needs to be some bonding experience up front for trust to be created.  But we never asked what a sufficient bonding experience looks like, and what happens when we make mistakes and start trusting too early.  The linked piece is a good read, in part because it shows we are all potentially at risk of being scammed by somebody else.  Incidentally, the second sentence in the paragraph below gives some insight as to why Economics is sometimes referred to as "The Dismal Science."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

PowerPoint Template for Elevator Speech

We will review this presentation in class today.  It should help get you going on the last part of the project, the (virtual) elevator speech.

Last Year's Final

You can use this for practice.  We will review it in class next week.