Economically, my dear Watson

What has Sherlock Holmes got to do with teaching economics? Possibly, quite a lot. It’s one of the many thought provoking insights that I got from attending the DEE09 conference last week …

Daniel Blackshields of University College Cork presented a paper on how he uses the Sherlock Holmes Investigative Model (SHIM) to teach students to approach economics in an investigative fashion.

Poster from the SHIM session – a full sized image is also available.

This 12 week performance workshop for arts economics students uses a detective motif to get students thinking about economics in a different way, to reflect on how they are thinking / learning and hands over ownership of the process by asking students to apply the model themselves.

Blackshields intrigues them by using examples from the popular TV series CSI, strips out the technology by going back to Sherlock Holmes, relates it to economics by citing the economics detective Henry Spearman and shows how to use it in economics research with examples from popular texts such as Freakonomics.

Students are shown that economics tries to deal with uncertainty, but that the action of looking for clues and deciding which are relevant can lead to pattern recognition. This leads on to them formulating a hypothesis and gives them a working conjecture to test – much like Holmes and his use of deduction – so that students should never guess, but always follow the evidence.

It was a thoroughly charming presentation that turned upside down notions of traditional teaching methods, as well as acting as a reminder that out own Internet Detective may have some wider application.

This part of the programme also featured work on Linking Research and Teaching in Economics by Linda Juleff of Napier University. She introduced us to the case studies from Economics Network in this area that have come out of their regular lecturer surveys.

Michael Watts of Purdue University galloped through an impressive array of survey data from the United States looking at Time Allocations and Reward Structures for U.S. Academic Economists from 1995-2005 – suggesting that males, professors and non-native English speakers get to spend more time on research than others.

This parallel session gave a comprehensive look at the numbers behind, attitudes towards and teaching of economics research, with the skill of the presenters making it seem, quite elementary, my dear Watson!

Further updates from the conference will appear on the DEE09 blog including a round-up of the keynotes featuring Robert Chote, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Or take a look at the recommended links on Delicious or photos from dee09 on Flickr.