Annotation: Learning Objectives and Syllabus Design

The first three learning objectives are interrelated and policy oriented: understanding what a recession is, what causes recessions, and how the government can push back against recessions with various policy levers. These are the most fundamental contributions of macroeconomics of the last 80 years, and knowledge of these business cycle fluctuations is monumentality important for our students. An essay on the efficacy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will help bring all of these learning objectives together, by applying the measurement and theory they’ve learned to a concrete policy question regarding the advisability of implementing an enacted counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus package during the Great Recession. This assignment will also help advance the fourth learning goal, by requiring students to collect, plot, and interpret relevant time series data—an integral skill for entry level positions for many economics majors. The essay will also require an early draft to be submitted for peer review, to practice giving peer feedback, give students a new lens to thinking about their own draft as they review their peer’s, and help improve the quality of their writing. A shorter writing project asking students to analyze the Fed’s most recent policy decision, framed as drafting a Wall Street Journal column, will help foster the fifth goal, notably thinking about economic context and journalism. Much more than its prerequisites or other core requirements, this course is a great opportunity to boost the practical economic literacy of our students and encourage citizens to think about economic news and policy decisions. The sixth goal is important for fostering global citizens and informing our students thinking about controversial policy disputes over the merits of trade and globalization. Periodic problem sets and exams will also encourage students to stay on top of the material practice a mix of the algebraic, graphical, and analytical writing ways of internalizing the course material accompanying these learning goals.