Following on from the successful “Dismal Science” A Level Economics Spiderweb Discussion in September, the Economics Department were keen to build another Spiderweb discussion unit into their Year 12 course. Michael approached me towards the end of November with a suggestion for the Income and Wealth topic – with the inquiry question “To what extent should the government prioritise a fairer distribution of income and wealth?”. As in September, the department would largely teach the theory as they usually would, but students would be provided with a range of articles to read over the two week period to broaden their knowledge into real world situations. This would then prepare them for a Spiderweb discussion at the end of the unit (this time followed by an exam style essay).
I am very fortunate that, as in September, Michael had a very clear idea of the outcome that he wanted and gave me plenty of warning! From my perspective these inquiries are an ideal opportunity to work on students’ academic reading/ reading for information skills and to get them thinking about the provenance and bias in the materials they read. Given there is little to no lesson time for them to work on this, it is a relatively short inquiry and so makes sense to provide them with most of the articles – but give them a chance to access some of them via our databases to familiarise them with those. I have also provided them with an Inquiry Journal and Construct sheet.
In October we invested in LibGuides (described as a “content management system” – but from my lay perspective it feels like a simple but powerful website builder designed specifically to help libraries to share resources in a way end users find intuitive). It was a big decision because the subscription is quite expensive, but it seemed like the best tool for us to use to support our EE students (I’ll post about that another time). This seemed like an ideal opportunity to use that tool for an inquiry, so I’ve spent a happy half term building a LibGuide for the Economics Inquiry. A key part of the process for me was making the political bias and trustworthiness of the sources clear. It could be said that students should do this for themselves and yes, they should. By modelling it for them so clearly I am hoping to show them both how important it is and how to begin going about it. This is an ideal opportunity for this because the political bias of many of the sources is reflected in their economics, so I am hoping students will begin to see a clear connection between political leanings and economic principles (which crops up elsewhere in their course). Part of the battle with getting them to routinely check the credentials and bias of their sources is to make them curious and to help them to understand why it matters. That is my goal here.
I have just sent the guide to Michael and am hoping it is what he wanted…the inquiry gets under way on March 9th so I will feed back soon on how it is progressing. All the resources are available on the LibGuide, but I will also post them on this site soon. [Note that no-one external to our school will be able to access the ‘password access from home’ link to InfoTrac that I have given in the guide because I have put that up through SharePoint as it is an institutional subscription. Equally your ability to access the Financial Times will depend on whether your institution has signed up for this, but if you haven’t you can do that for free here.]