THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 31, Fall 2006

William A. McEachern, Editor

The Grapevine

For fifteen years The Grapevine has passed along teaching ideas from across the country and around the world—more than 150 items to date. For a change of perspective, let's give students their say. RateMyProfessor.com allows students to supplement their ratings with comments on the professor and the course. Here, I draw from hundreds of student comments to quote those that I found most instructive. I was less interested in relative remarks such as "best prof ever" or "worst prof ever," and more focused on those teaching qualities that students found good or bad. All quotes are from students commenting on economists teaching at the sample schools. Although I offer an equal number of quotes identifying good and bad qualities, keep in mind that most comments on the site are positive.

The Good...

"Lectures are well organized and thorough. Sense of humor, good storyteller. Expects students to know a lot, but he teaches it all, and very well."

"Very clear and concise. Dry humor is nice addition. Great lecturer—weeds through the BS to the heart of the material. Straightforward questions on problem sets and midterm."

"Genuine, curious, funny, interestingly odd, intelligent conversationalist. Really thoughtful and prepared." "Amazing, clear, punctual, HOT."

"If you look up the term "open-door policy," you would see [her] face there. One-on-one attention is an absolute skill she has mastered. Extremely lucid lectures."

"Such a wonderful professor. He's incredibly approachable and always available for office hours. He has definitely challenged me to look at econ in a different way."

"He really does want his students to succeed, and if you have a problem with homework, he'll email you right back if you ask him."

"He gets to know every student, and his explanations are really helpful. He cares that every student understands the difficult material."

"She's clear, concise, and incredibly intelligent."

"He cares so much about his students that he gives you his cell phone number to call if you need any help."

"Explained everything thoroughly. Lots of great examples. Simplified situations but still showed the concept very well."

"He actually makes me look forward to an economics class. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard at times. Engaging, intelligent, and focused, he is sure to please with his sure fire way of teaching. If you don't pay attention though, you'll be screwed."

"Extremely organized, very helpful, and absolutely clear."

"You miss a day, you miss a ton."

"He will make you love macro, and you will want him to teach you again."

And the Bad...

"Destroyed my interest in economics. Proves that maybe the policy isn't right, not all professors should have to teach undergrads."

"The homework was nothing like the material covered in lectures, and the midterm/final wasn't anything like the lecture or the homework."

"The first day of lecture, [he] tells you that he doesn't want you to come to his office hours. It's all downhill from there as he speaks his mumbo-jumbo."

"Totally confusing. Only 10% of the class would turn up, and half would fall asleep. Doesn't like undergrads."

"Constantly approval-seeking, generally disorganized, useless overall. Gives very weak and disorganized explanations littered with inappropriate political rhetoric."

"Spends all lecture beating around the bush trying to explain one simple topic, and ultimately fails miserably."

"Why is this woman still teaching? She doesn't like it, she doesn't like you, and she might not even like economics. One thing is for sure and that is the fact that she doesn't want to make this experience enjoyable for anyone."

"He lectures about everything but micro; you'll know more about his life story than you will about the micro."

"He lectured on the easy topics in the chapter that are pretty much common sense and left the rest for us to figure out ourselves."

"He went so far as to make fun of my name because I drew something wrong. That was low. Tells people to leave egos out of the room yet can't leave his own."

"Where to start? She can't explain concepts, scribbles illegible gibberish on the blackboard, gets mad at the students when they don't understand concepts (and blames them for not understanding), is late to classes (even on testing days), her tests are misnumbered and unclear and in fragmented English."

"Arrogant, boring, impossible to know what he wants on tests and papers."

"Doesn't teach and won't answer questions."

"His answer to everything: 'Google it!'"

"Disorganized, unclear. Stood at the board with chalk in one hand, eraser in the other, waiting to wipe off his long-winded way of getting to an incorrect solution to a simple problem."

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