Course Objectives, Procedures, and Evaluation



"Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question. Truth is something that we can attempt to doubt, and then perhaps, after much exertion, discover that part of the doubt is unjustified." Niels Bohr

 A. COURSE OBJECTIVES

1. To develop a theoretical conceptualization of the impact and evolution of institutions and be able to utilize it to:

a. Develop the ability to predict the consequences (performance) of alternative institutions (subject of the final paper).

b. Develop a critical evaluation of normative propositions used to judge alternative institutions .

Each student should be able to take a piece of legislation and begin to determine how it changes property rights, the power of different groups, and probable economic performance. Or vice versa, the student should be able to take a given performance objective and suggest new rights to achieve it. This involves use of theory to both formulate researchable hypotheses and organize existing experience. A key skill is to use theory to type problems and patterns of interaction so that the experience in other situations can be brought to bear on new problems. In a phrase, the key skill is one of pattern recognition.

2. To sharpen perception of the everyday world of interdependencies and institutions around us (this skill will be developed in short essays and culminate in the final paper). To read the newspaper and see property rights issues.

3. To bring out that which is in each student; to let each proceed a bit in his/her own becoming. This is an open-ended objective. Not every student is expected to arrive at the same place, but to exhibit a bit of growth. This is reflected as much in the questions asked by the student as in the answers (all assignments involve this and especially the final paper whose topic is student chosen).

4. To improve intellectual craftsmanship and skills of scholarship.

To develop productive work patterns. The Journal File (essay) is one tool.

To develop an improved capacity to extract ideas from a variety of sources.

To develop an improved capacity for evaluating, relating, and creating concepts.

To develop an improved capacity to organize ideas for written and oral presentation.

To develop an improved capacity to learn from others and to contribute to their learning.

To develop productive attitudes through practicing critical but open minded analysis.

To develop a personal frame of reference for organizing concepts, issues, and information related to political-economic institutions.

To develop an understanding of new concepts from a variety of disciplines relevant to political-economic behavior.

To develop an improved understanding of some of the research methodology used in the study of the performance of the political economy.

To develop a greater appreciation for the potential contribution of applied social science.

To develop an improved understanding of yourself as an applied social scientist.
 
 B. PROCEDURES

1. Class Discussion

The class period is for exchange and discussion of the assigned material. It is predicated on the fact that the printing press has been invented (and the scribe need not read from the sacred scrolls to the unlettered). It is assumed that the student has read the assigned material prior to each class period. Be ready to question, apply and extend the material. To further discussion, each student shall prepare a number of typed, double spaced, two-page papers as assigned. The main value of the writing is to do something with the concepts and a preparation for oral discussion. It also can be one basis for evaluative feedback and therefore, at least six of these short papers will be graded at random. (See guide below entitled "What Are Some Ingredients of a Good Essay" for further suggestions). For background to our educational approach, read Carl Rogers, Client Centered Therapy, Chapter on "Student Centered Teaching."

2. Journal File (JF)

All students are expected to keep a JF. A JF is a powerful tool of intellectual craftsmanship. The concept of the JF will be promoted through a variety of reinforcers. If successful, it will become part of your every day professional practice. For a discussion of the JF, see C. Wright Mills, Sociological Imagination, Appendix, "Intellectual Craftsmanship."

The JF is most of all practice in writing yourself out. We often do not know what we think about a topic until we do write out what it is that we believe and understand. It is a way of trying out ideas, putting them on paper, thus forcing you to think them through. Highlighting text is not enough.

The JF is an act of writing to yourself for future reference. It is a fact of the human condition that we forget. In the process of taking courses, reading the papers, experiencing life, we accumulate ideas, collect useful information which can be useful in future work. But if you do not write it down much of it will be lost.

The JF includes the following, and more, as determined by your interests, needs and style of work:* A flexible organization. You need categories and key words which help impose order on your work and at the same time provide the keys to retrieval. (You many wish to use a data base software.) It needs to be flexible so you can organize it for different projects and change it as your paradigms evolve.

 * Descriptions of major and minor themes and concepts you believe are important to your work.

* Systematic contributions to your own framework or paradigm for analyzing policy issues. This would include putting your themes in perspective and relating them. Develop your research agenda, variables and hypothesized relationships.

* Most importantly the JF includes original writing related to your paradigms and policy interests as well as original writing related to issues raised by your current reading, especially readings from the course while in 810.

* Relevant comments on what's going on in the world that is related to the topics of the course or your professional interest.

* Most particularly, while in 810, original writing in response to the readings of the course. Especially answering the questions - What are the implications of this reading to my particular area of policy interest? How does the reading inform or relate to my major themes and paradigm and how is one concept related to another, perhaps in a different course?

* Each student is asked to select an area of policy interest. Consider the JF as a tool for writing a major paper or a book dealing with this area of policy. The JF should include an evolving outline of the book (maybe your thesis).

3. Weekly Essays and Class presentation

A two page typed JF essay will be handed in most weeks as assigned. At each class, several students will be asked at random to summarize an idea from their JF essay dealing with the readings and topic of the day's assignment. It is a useful finding from psychology that intermittent reinforcement is effective in learning. You can expect praise for work well done in response to random opportunities to present your ideas in these weekly reports. Essay due dates are listed in the Rough Guide menu item on the course web page.

Since all the essays are an integral part of class discussion, late papers will be graded zero unless prior arrangements are made. The lowest grade is dropped.

4. Midterm Exam

After the main theories have been introduced (end of Section II of Course Outline) a concept exam will be given to check for basic understanding of the conceptual tools of the course.

The midterm exam will test for student understanding of the course concepts as a base for application in the rest of the course. At the midterm exam you may bring and use your JF. It will be an open JF exam, not an open book exam. If you have written a JF for each period even though it is not handed in, it will be available to help you with the exam.

5. Final Paper

Each student is required to submit a final paper. The paper is to be in the form of a manuscript as if for the Journal of Economic Issues or Journal of Economic Psychology. It is to be 10-12 pages double spaced. Keep this paper in mind as you write for your JF. The concept of the JF is one of work in progress. You should be able to draw from the JF in preparing the paper. The paper should address a significant policy and or disciplinary issue, showing off the depth and breadth of your understanding of the concepts of institutional and behavioral economics. It is suggested that you develop ideas and units for the final paper as you write yourself out in your JF from the beginning. (Further directions for this paper will be distributed -- available on the web.)

6. Evaluation

Weekly essays 30%

Midterm exam 30%

Final paper 40%

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A final note: I intend to learn and to have some fun interacting with you in this course. I hope it can be mutual. I teach only to learn. I get bored just telling others what I know. The assigned material of mine is what I have to offer on the subject at this time, but I want to go beyond them. I cannot unless I get some feedback from you. I too want to grow and to understand more at the end of the term than at the beginning. With your help, we shall. If you wish, we can learn together.
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WHAT ARE SOME INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD ESSAY?

What Purposes Does It Serve And What Use Can Be Made Of It?
 

1. Not just a paraphrase of readings. Indicate your judgement of the big points and answer the question "so what?"

2. Extend the ideas of the readings. Indicate what other cases are similar. Relate to problems that concern you.

3. Creativity and insight. Can't be expected every time, but let's try.

4. Ask big questions. The task you set for yourself is important. Even unanswered questions can demonstrate understanding.

5. Deal with the material. If it is no good and not applicable, say so and why. Indicate what would be required. If it is useful, indicate what it means to you and what difference it makes in your thinking. No one has to agree with any reading, but it must be dealt with intelligently.

6. The objective is to improve your skill of inquiry. The policy conclusion and personal values of the writer, while important and relevant, are not the basis for evaluating the paper. It is rather the quality of the argument and the ability to relate concepts and observations. Two papers may receive equally high marks if well reasoned, though they reflect quite different conclusions, attributes and values.

7. Relate theory to empirical observation, both your own experience and the contemporary world as well as case materials provided in the course.

8. Papers should be cumulative. Build on past material where relevant and learn to use systems of interrelated concepts.

9. Analyze both your instructor's articles as well as other assigned reading. Criticize, extend, apply in areas not explicit in the articles, and relate to other concepts and material.

10. All papers after Period 7 should explicitly use the SSP paradigm and formulate testable hypotheses therefrom.

In my written comments, I will try to get you to consider the implications of your statements and alternatives to them. Even those comments not followed by a question mark are nevertheless made in that spirit. They are not meant to be the best truth, but something to be considered, weighed, and kept only if it has meaning to you. I only ask that it be thoughtfully dealt with. No one can think for you and in the end no idea has any value unless it is incorporated into one's own thinking. A low grade, I hope, comes not because you did not say exactly what my comments say. They are not corrections in that sense. Rather the grade reflects an overall judgement of your skill in meeting some of the above objectives. If you have a question about my evaluation, please see me at an early date. I hope even the objectives are open ended and if something else has more meaning, let me know what it is and your reason for it and I will consider it with you.

Some time going back over your paper, the readings, and your instructor's comments would be well spent. Occasionally, you may wish to rewrite a topic rather than write a new paper on the next topic. This, of course, has its opportunity costs and you must judge this for yourself.

Your essay should be the basis for classroom oral discussion. It is your chance to practice presentation of your ideas and questions and get professional reaction from colleagues.

Your essay should not be viewed as something extra laid on the usual learning and investigation process. It should just be written record of where your mind is in order to facilitate interaction and testing of your thinking with that of others so that growth is enhanced.

Make your essays conversational. If you think you have a good point and you particularly want me to react to it, put a note in the margin to that effect. "Now get this" or "Help."

Papers should be double spaced typed, 12 point type, with at least one inch margin all around. No title page or formal footnoting is required. Pick a major point and develop it. Don't try to cover too much ground. Late papers will not be accepted without prior arrangement.
 
 
 Reading maketh the full man.

Writing maketh the exact man.

                            Francis Bacon

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If you have any questions or comments, please email schmid@pilot.msu.edu

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