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T. Power

Dublin Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
Teaching economics to construction economists is paradigmatically different to teaching economics to ‘pure’ economists. While the principles of economics don’t change, the philosophical aim and the methodology of teaching the subject do change. Understanding and executing this philosophical variant enhances the students’ learning experience.

Teaching economics can open students’ eyes to a new way of thinking about the world. The study of economics looks at the world in a unique way because economics is a truly social science and it makes advances in finding solutions to the challenges that society faces. However, it approaches these solutions with the dispassion of a science and by using the scientific method. The appropriate philosophical goal is to convey this way of thinking to construction economics students in a way that enhances their thinking and which illuminates much about valuations, the environment and business – the learning pillars.

A prolific writer and teacher of economics Prof Gregory Mankiew of Harvard University said that “economics is a subject where a little knowledge goes a long way, something that cannot be said, for instance, of the study of physics or the Japanese language”. The responsibility that comes with teaching economics is that it helps promote deeper understanding and better policymaking. It makes for a better society.

Theoretical foundations are essential to make informed judgments. But most importantly, for construction economists, it is the delivery of theory in the context of applications and policy that enhances the learning experience. The economist, as scientist, must not ignore the principles of economics and finance when making judgments on value much in the same way that engineers cannot ignore the principles of physics when designing structures. However, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the global economic crash indicates that basic economics principles have been ignored.

This philosophy is best executed by individual learning because it is more suited to this task than group work, particularly at first year. However, Individual learning is challenging and students often demonstrate a degree of anxiety when learning on their own. The teaching methodology used must assist the individual learning process and is designed to remove the anxiety attached to learning. The evidence from student feedback demonstrates that once the engagement takes place this strategy leads to an enriching learning environment. Individual learning is more suitable and more effective to achieve this philosophy. Indeed a recent study by Arum and Roska suggests that studying alone is more effective than studying in groups. (Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roska).

This paper assesses the core competencies in a teaching methodology that accommodates this philosophy – communication, organization, flexibility and active learning. It proposes a justification for effective teaching using evaluation and reflection. It provides examples of how scholarly and professional activities adds value and connections that enrich the learning environment for the construction economist.