Let us say you have mastered economic theory: you are well-versed in the laws of supply and demand, you know all about international economics and what factors drive the economy.
You have a particular fascination for economic models; how they shape politics and public policy... and you want to share that awe with students of all stripes.
That is both noble and commendable.
You should know that, more so than for any teacher in any formal institute of learning, a tutor's viability is predicated on his/her reputation, which is based on several factors:
- knowledge of your subject matter
- teaching methodology
- accessibility – how amenable and engaging you are
- organisation: how your lessons are structured and sequenced
Which student hasn't experienced a teacher who, when posed a question, answered we'll cover that later or worse: read your book; your answer is in there?
Simply having earned a doctorate in Economics does not a first-rate teacher make.
Knowing how to plan and organise your wealth of knowledge such that your pupils will rave about you to their friends and classmates, and even write testimonials about your style of instruction is, quite literally, putting your money where your mouth is.
Obviously, doing everything off the cuff runs counter to the very idea of efficiency. Planning your economics lessons is a vital step toward them coming off without a hitch.
Let us give you a few pointers on creating Economics lesson plans that our most successful tutors have passed on to us.
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Who is Your Audience?
In a sense, being a teacher is equal to public speaking and, just as any popular orator must, you should tailor your curriculum and delivery to the needs and limitations of those who will be listening.
For example, an A-Levels student might have a substantially better grasp of the vocabulary of economics than, say, a prospective retiree hoping to learn about investment and mortgages.
Conversely, someone scheduled to sit the civil service exam might need a crash course in global economics, to the exclusion of other economic concepts ...
You see how critical it is to take into account the diversity of your student body?
Certain qualities your tutees embody would also demand consideration.
You would not want to address golden agers in the same casual manner that you might employ with university students, for example.
Nor could you insert the same cultural references into your lecture.
What about those pupil(s) for whom English is a second language?
You may have to spend a bit of time learning about their country's economy so that you could draft clear analogies, easily understood by them.
You may also have to budget extra time to explain the unique lexicon employed by economists.
Check out these online tutoring jobs for economist teachers here.
What is Your Methodology?
Economics is not necessarily the most lively or light-hearted of subjects to teach. Still, it can be made interesting through analogies and scenarios that serve to depict topic fundamentals.
If your idea of mentoring economics students mirrors the perceived dryness and gravitas of the subject...
While we can't predict any tutor's success rate, we can, with some veracity, aver that your following would not be as great as the teacher who makes the material come alive.
Unlike language learning or maths, Economics is an elective subject, from GCSE through A-Levels and on to university studies.
That means that, most likely, your tutees would already be imbued by a certain fondness for formulas and figures.
A great question to ask prospective students during your initial interview is: why are you learning economics?
The answers could vary wildly, your most sought-after one being: "I love the numbers and the orderliness of formulae, but the fields of Physics, Engineering and Applied Mathematics are saturated!"
Bingo! Immediate teacher's pet!
We certainly wouldn't accuse any teacher of preferring one student over all others, but it does happen with startling regularity.
Most likely, the answer to the above question would fall somewhere along the lines of It is a viable and potentially lucrative career field.
To wit: I need to learn fundamentals for my business MBA, I am considering international trading, I see myself as a politician, someday...
You should keep careful records of student profiles so that, come time to progress through lessons, you can target his/her aspirations in your teaching.
Although every student – and their needs are different, your fundamental pedagogy should remain constant:
- Be engaging: students respond well to a teacher who is lively, friendly and receptive; open to questions and discussion.
- Be knowledgeable: your tutee may place emphasis on a facet of economics that you perhaps are not wholly familiar with.
- Should that be the case, you may have to do a bit of studying yourself, prior to giving lessons!
- Be patient: no matter what is currently boiling in your kitchen, your students deserve every bit of tolerance and forbearance you have at your disposal
- Be kind: Although the student him/herself has expressed a motivation to learn about economics, where that motivation comes from could be a different source altogether.
It is quite possible that family pressure could be the prime motivator behind a student's decision to major in economics, even though s/he may or may not have a love for it, or even any aptitude.
If that is the case, you surely have plenty of teaching resources and ways to encourage recalcitrant students into exploring economics as a career field.
What does all of this have to do with formulating lesson plans?
Creating a Lesson Plan
Just as a roadmap shows different routes to reach a destination, a well-crafted lesson plan permits flexibility and spontaneity in teaching.
The analogy of a lesson plan being a map is apt in more ways than one: such a document should be a guide linking past sessions with the upcoming one.
One of the most vital aspects of a lesson plan is its time breakdown.
Suppose your session lasts 50 minutes: how will you spend them?
The negligent tutor would advocate: Eh, we've got almost an hour; surely we'll cover a bunch of stuff!
You, the conscientious mentor, would plan down to the last minute.
How's your week been? Were you able to finish last week's assignment? Did you hear about America's new sanctions on Iran? What do you think of them?
Warm-ups should comprise of a greeting and some manner of gearing your student's thoughts toward economics.
Talking about current events, perhaps even listening to a relevant podcast segment would work well.
Your warm-up should last perhaps 5 minutes, and you have the greatest control over the session at this point.
This is where you present new information; ideally, your warm-up topic of discussion will segue neatly into the development of new material study.
Here, you will do most of the talking. However, you should remain vigilant for signs that your student isn't following your speech; perhaps fidgeting or frowning.
Asking questions along the way is not a bad idea, but please nothing so generic as are you with me so far? or You understand?
Perhaps looking for a tie-in with already known facts, or asking your student to paraphrase and put the new knowledge into context would work well.
Around 10 minutes should be sufficient for expounding on new material.
At any point during this segment, you may have to pause in order to allow your student more time to organise his/her thoughts, or for you to widen a limited perspective.
Be prepared for discussion, but keep your eye on the clock.
At this point in the lesson, your student should be prepared to work on his/her own, but with supervision.
You may have worksheets prepared that s/he can work on, or you might task him/her to analyse a graph or equation.
If you are teaching a group of students, you may plan an activity in which collaboration is key.
You should allow 15 minutes for this portion of the lesson, which includes time for questions and answers.
Here your student(s) works on his/her own, and it should be active work: writing formulas, answering questions in writing, or perhaps outlining an essay or a simulation of an economic condition that s/he will turn in next week.
During this phase, there should be little talking, either by you or your student.
This segment should take up to 15 minutes; the perfect time for you to draft next week's lesson plan!
Final questions, notes and perhaps a summary quiz rule this last segment.
You may impose extra work during this time, or provide a preview of the next lesson.
Most importantly: make sure your student is comfortable with the just-learned material. If there is a measure of uncertainty, you may provide extra study links in the form of videos or websites.
This portion should wrap up the lesson, possibly providing material for next week's warm-up.
Final Notes on Lesson Planning
The strategies of an educator are predicated on many variables, not the least of which are the subject and teaching materials s/he has to work with.
Determining the students' objective is of prime consideration to organizing the flow and progression of tutoring sessions.
New material presentations may include charts and graphs, podcasts, news articles and Powerpoint; simply relying on textbooks could limit your and your students' productivity.
You should be cognizant at all times of students' comprehension, to the point of interrupting the lesson to ensure understanding.
Unlike math or language arts, which are common core subjects with wide applications, economics is a relatively narrow field which demands a concrete understanding of fundamentals before moving on to other concepts.
Writing lesson plans is a critical step in your preparation, prior to starting instructional activities:
- to give you teaching ideas
- to provide a guideline for teachers and students – what worked well, what did not, and how the student responded
- also to measure if the cumulative lessons' trajectory is aligned with students' objectives
- to assess pupils' progress
- to keep a timeline of what economics concept has already been taught, and its degree of mastery.
Ideally, you should try out several templates before settling on the lesson plan template that works well for you.
You will also find several sample lesson plans online, should you be at a loss on how to organize your sessions.
In a classroom setting, the main purpose of a daily lesson plan is so that, should the teacher be absent, a substitute teacher could step right in without wondering what to teach that day.
As a freelance Economics instructor, nobody will be looking over your shoulder, nor is it likely that anyone would cover your lessons for you.
Still, you should incorporate lesson planning into your teaching activities to demonstrate your professionalism, and to illustrate your methodical mind.
Your students will see you as a primary source of leadership while they learn to master economics concepts.
You have a duty to provide them with the very best example, and that starts with planning your lessons well!
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