Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Learning Log Uses

Here are few things to keep in mind as you write learning logs each day. If you are skipping any step in this process, you probably are not fully learning the material or have gaps in your knowledge that you are unaware of and could cause problems for you on exam day.
  1. Preview the content
    1. What prior information do you know about this topic already?
  2. Chunk the content into small “digestible bites”
    1. See chapter outlines
  3. Scaffold (sequence) the chunks
    1. See chapter outlines
  4. Process each chunk
    1. Discuss the topic with a classmate
    2. Summarize it orally or in writing
    3. Explain it to someone else
    4. Check whether you can complete the exercises and worksheets
    5. Connect material to outside of class examples 
  5. Represent the content in linguistic and/ or nonlinguistic ways
    1. Complete an assessment
      1. Written exam
      2. Practice IA
      3. Oral presentation
  6. Reflect on your learning

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Information about Ch. 3 Presentations

Oral Presentations

  1. News article based
    1. Normative vs positive economics
      1. Normative is value based.
      2. Positive is objective or factually based.
    2. Focus on one issue/problem/policy.
    3. Brainstorm possible solutions.
    4. Pros/cons of those solutions.
    5. State your conclusion/judgement.
  2. Presentation
    1. Minimum of 7 slides
      1. Intro/Title slide
      2. Slide for each criteria (A-E)
      3. Bibliography/Works Cited
  3. Time = ~10 minutes (6-15 minutes)
  1. News article brought to class to chat and check-in about on Wednesday, the 30th.
  2. Oral presentations start on Tuesday, the 6th of October.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Economics PhD - Career profile

Economics PhD - Career profile

A very interesting read on the career profile of getting an economics PhD in regards to choices and opportunities to do good and have a meaningful impact.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Robert Reich (Ranking Colleges)

Really cool post from Robert Reich on college rankings and what does or not qualify a university to be considered "elite" or highly ranked.

Of personal interest to me as a Californian, the University of California system as a whole had three of the top five schools and four of the top ten. If we add Stanford, California had five of the top ten spots on the recommended Washington Monthly link below!

Robert Reich (Ranking Colleges)
So, with college application season almost upon us, where should aspiring college students and their parents look for advice? 
In my view, not U.S. News and World Report’s annual college guide (out last week).

US New claims its rankings are neutral. Baloney.

We need another guide for ranking colleges – one that doesn’t look at the fatness of alumni wallets or the amount spent on each student, but does take account of economic diversity and dedication to public service. 
Fortunately, there is one. It’s a relatively new one, provided by the Washington Monthly.

An Economist Answers "Which issues are important (to me)?"

TheMoneyIllusion » Which issues are important (to me)?
I used a utilitarian criterion. On another day, I’d put many of these in totally different categories, but that’s how I feel today. On many of the key issues I’m not really with either party, but perhaps lean a bit Dem on the top issues. I vote libertarian. I left out some issues like feminism, racial equality, gay rights, etc., because it’s hard to pin down the specific public policy issues that are relevant today. Thus instead of feminism I have abortion and prostitution, issues that especially impact women. Obviously I support the gains that various groups have made over time in achieving greater respect and legal rights. I suspect that animal rights should be high on the list, but don’t know much about the issue. 
PS. The importance of an issue reflects the interaction if its intrinsic importance, and the plausibility of changing the outcome with different public policies.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Response to "How Much Stress Do You Need for Success?"

Scott H. Young recently wrote an article titled “How Much Stress Do You Need for Success?”. In it, he described his thoughts on stress and came to the conclusion,

My sense is that stress is useful to prompt a specific action, to a specific threat, or to promote alertness during a brief period of danger. That’s it. Any stress which doesn’t facilitate these purposes is wasted and therefore any beliefs that stress is necessary must be limited to these contexts.

This seems like a reasonable conclusion until you notice a few things. He never once defines the terms he’s working with. Throughout his article, he constantly interchanges stress with both fear and anxiety and in those senses of the word, his conclusion might be right. Fear and anxiety do seem like excellent mechanisms to prompt action and probably are the main reasons we evolved those emotions.

However, stress is a much larger concept than simply fear or anxiety. They are simply two small subsets of the total concept.1

Stress should be thought of as any stimulus which knocks something (not just humans) out of equilibrium.

From there, it is easy to understand that experiencing disequilibrium can be good or bad depending on context. Having unnecessary anxiety as he mentioned in his article in regards to exams or early morning flights is almost certainly wasted energy.

Another example where a person is knocked from equilibrium is eating food. The act of introducing new contents to the stomach fires up a host of processes within your digestion system, which attempts to bring you back into equilibrium by breaking down the contents and shuttling them to the right places.

So what’s the difference between these types of stresses and what stress should we be seeking?

The first example mentioned above (exams/flights) does not augment your work capacity in any meaningful way. In fact, it can harm your ability to work as your mental focus will be on things out of your control and thereby leave you with less bandwidth to productively attack issues within your control (such as quality sleep in his example).

The second example mentioned above (eating) does augment your work capacity. By eating and digesting food properly, we are left with more energy and the ability to do more work.

And this really gets to the heart of the whole stress “issue”.

“Good” stress, or what Hans Selye referred to as “eustress” in opposition to “distress”, results in positive adaptations that enable increased work capacity, i.e. increased energy.2

“Bad” stress results in maladaptations that decrease work capacity and lower your total energy.

All of this points directly to our answer of when we need stress. We need it any time we are looking to create positive adaptations that enable us to do more work. Period.

So can we find “examples of low-stress, high-achievement individuals”, which would then “put water on the theory that high stress is a prerequisite to accomplishment” as Scott puts it?

Of course.

Just like we can find individuals that are able to squat 500 pounds the first time they walk into a gym. Lifting 500 pounds for any person is an impressive accomplishment, just not one that required stress for that individual. They were genetically gifted and able to accomplish more with less when compared to the average individual.

This is what’s known as the “law of individual differences” within the strength and conditioning community and it is equally apt in Scott’s examples.3

Not all high achieving individuals will need loads of stress to develop adaptations that enable them to achieve great things. Some are simply born with those adaptations or with genetics that allow them to adapt quicker and more with less stress, thereby accelerating them to achievement in half the time another person might need.

So, yes, we need stress. Stress is good. Not all stress as Scott pointed out, but enough of it that when thought about from the correct perspective, should make us seek and chase down the stress that will help us develop the adaptations we need.

Before closing, I’d like to make one thing exceptionally clear. Stress is about adaptations.

Before you ever intentionally induce stress on yourself or others, it’s a good idea to pause and think about the desired adaptations first. If you don’t know the stress required to create the adaptations you want, consult someone with more knowledge (e.g. teachers, coaches, consultants, etc.).

If you are about to induce stress and you haven’t thought about the likely adaptation, pause and give it a think. You may realize that the stress you’re about to exert on yourself is most likely to result in adaptations you don’t even want and it’s therefore a good idea to simply not go through with the activity or experience and find something else more likely to create the adaptations you do want.

I see this problem in schools all the time. As a system, education often induces very high levels of stress in students without really analyzing the likely adaptations.

One maladaptation I’ve seen from this system is that students view work unfavorably. They have the false belief that any and all work is something handed down from someone else and that they will automatically have little interest in it. This seems to create the disposition in students where they avoid any self-created work and attempt to be happy by only engaging in activities that require little energy expenditure, such as hanging out, playing video games, listening to music, or shopping. This is a shame because research shows that we actually gain more fulfillment and enjoyment from activities that require higher levels of engagement.4

Finally, if you are not looking to create new adaptations, you don’t need to induce any stress. However, if you want new abilities, stress will be involved. In fact, by definition, you can’t have “new” without stress.5

Further Reading

Monday, September 7, 2015

Productivity and Pay - The New York Times

Below is a very short and interesting blog from Paul Krugman at the New York Times.

Productivity and Pay - The New York Times

Still in Sydney (next stop Tokyo), where it’s much too beautiful a day to sit inside blogging. But I did want to flag an excellent report by Josh Bivens and Larry Mishel on the productivity-pay gap.

The divergence between pay and productivity — a lot of productivity gains, almost total failure to trickle down — is one of the most striking features of American economics these past 40 (!) years. It’s also the subject of endless attempts at debunking, of claims that the divergence is somehow a statistical artifact. What Bivens and Mishel do is take on these arguments carefully, not dismissing them completely, but showing that they explain only a fraction of what we see. Rising benefits are mainly a pre-1979 issue, explaining almost nothing since then; the “terms of trade” — consumer prices rising faster than the prices of U.S. output — is also mostly pre-1979, and in any case only a fractional concern. And so on.

One thing they don’t say explicitly, but is important: the next time you hear someone claiming that middle-class families have, in fact, seen a big rise in living standards, you should know that to the extent that this is true (which is less than claimed), it’s mainly about working more hours. Pay really has almost stagnated despite rising productivity.