Econ plans to bring back intro course

Yale already has a large supply of introductory economics students, but next year there will be an even higher demand for English-speaking teaching assistants.

The economics department will likely bring back the popular Economics 110a, “An Introduction to Economic Analysis,” in which introductory microeconomics is taught in small sections by faculty members and advanced graduate student teaching assistants. These seminars would give freshmen a more individualized alternative to the Econ 115 introductory lectures.

Though the economics department has not offered Econ 110 for several years, director of undergraduate studies Merton Peck said the course will be similar in format to its past incarnation. He said at least one section will be taught by a faculty member, rather than a graduate student.

Peck said Econ 110 should be “up and running on at least a small scale next year.”

Professor Donald Brown will be in charge of planning the program and supervising teaching assistants this fall. Brown is on leave this semester and was unavailable for comment.

Peck said the subject matter of the seminar is “almost identical” to that of Econ 115, an introductory micro-economics lecture. But instead of being taught to an audience of between 150 and 250 students, Econ 110 is taught entirely in sections limited to 25.

The economics department has studied course offerings extensively, and while professors determined that students from Econ 110 are no better prepared for the major than students who took Econ 115, they feel more comfortable in small classes with the same teacher for every class meeting, Peck said.

“Many freshmen are more comfortable in a class of 25 than in a lecture and section,” Peck said. “Coming from high school, they’re used to the same instructor and groups of 25 or 30.”

Plans for the number of sections and teacher assignments for the introductory seminar are still tentative. Peck said the availability of qualified teaching assistants is one of the major factors in determining how many students will be able to take Econ 110.

“We want very good ones who have experience teaching, are comfortable with the English language and work well with students,” Peck said. “I think we’re going to have a problem finding qualified teaching assistants because we’re competing with positions for head TA in Econ 115 and 116 and the graduate program.”

In previous years, the economics department offered Econ 110 in the fall and Econ 111, an introductory seminar for macroeconomics, in the spring, but stopped offering both of these classes because of lack of experienced teaching assistants.

“I’m pretty sure we will not be able to reinstate [Econ] 111 next year because of a shortage of qualified teaching assistants,” Peck said. “There is much more responsibility on the teaching assistants [in Econ 110 and 111].”

Economics major Jan Szilagyi ’01, who took Econ 110 during his freshman year, said he thinks reinstating the seminar is a good idea because students will get more attention in class.

“The TAs are more accessible than a lecture professor,” Szilagyi said. “It’s also better because it’s hard to make a lecture class that big fun. No one feels personally connected to the professor.”

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