Teaching Tips: Writing Prompts
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Teaching Tips: Writing Prompts

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Doug Norton
In recent years numerous studies demonstrate how games improve student performance. Nevertheless, there are important pedagogical practices an instructor can implement to boost the effectiveness of games in the classroom. One practice is having the students write reports about their participation in a game.Cartwright and Stepanova (2012) in the Journal of Economic Education test how much students writing a report improves performance. The magnitude might shock you. They found average scores on questions related to student reports increased a whopping 50 percent! But, what does a report look like? Their reports occurred outside of class and after an in-class discussion (for more on in-class discussion see here).This was their procedure with sample prompts (I bold and italicize their prompts):
“Following each seminar/experiment, we will put the data from the experiment onto Moodle [the course Web page]. You should use this data in writing your report. For each experiment, you will find below the questions that we would like you to answer in writing your report with the percentage weight that we give to each question. The questions cover the theory behind the experiment, the data, and real-world applications. Note that we are relatively flexible on how you structure your report .... As an illustration of the questions for each experiment, we herewith provide the questions for week 3.Theory: What do the demand curve for tokens and the supply curve for tokens show? Draw both curves for each of the markets in the seminar. Explain what is market equilibrium and calculate the market equilibrium price and quantity for each of the markets in the seminar. (40%);Data: Find the average price and quantity sold for each market in the seminar. Was the experimental data consistent with the equilibrium prediction? (40%);Real-world applications: Thinking of the goods that you buy (and sell), discuss some of the different ways that there are for buyers and sellers to meet each other and ‘agree’ on a price. How do these ways differ from what happened in this experiment? (20%).”
For these outside of class reports there is less focus on the thought processes of the students. I assume this was done during in-class discussion. In either case these are great questions. Having students recall economic concepts and alternate between data and theory is going to cultivate the "economic way of thinking in students" and perhaps spark curiosity about deviations from theory.I most appreciated their last question, "How do these ways differ from what happened in the experiment?". This last question emphasizes to students that economic interactions occur within different institutions or "rules of the game". A double oral auction has centralized information on bids/asks and both sides can make offers and counteroffers. It is from this strategic interaction that the competitive price emerges. However, in different trading institutions like posted-offer markets there is much slower convergence to the competitive equilibrium