I believe that the ultimate goal of teaching is to motivate my students to be critical thinkers and to equip them with the ability to identify and solve problems on their own. In order to attain this goal of teaching, I think the following five elements are critical:
1. Understanding and fulfilling the diverse expectations of my students.
Students who take economics courses come from heterogeneous backgrounds. I always attempt to recognize the different backgrounds and goals of the students, and design courses to accommodate these differences. This is the first step toward successful teaching.
2. Conduct and keep up to date with frontier research
One critical element of successful teaching is to keep up-to-date in the new research on the subject at hand. In this way, I can both convey the latest discoveries and describe the process of obtaining them. Economics research offers good examples of how to identify and solve problems with the analytical tools taught in economics courses. Conducting frontier research and integrating the research with teaching is an effective way to empower students to be self-motivated problem-solvers.
3. Have fun in teaching and learning
Students learn best when they enjoy the classroom environment. To make technical material entertaining, I present rich real-life examples. For example, in teaching a course such as macroeconomic theory, I am careful not to approach learning as a robotic and monotonous process in which I distill knowledge of models, formulas and results, allow students to digest the knowledge, and then have them regurgitate this information during test time. Instead, I combine the economic theories with many examples of the applications to macroeconomic policy making. I maintain an open-door policy and offer assistance my students, whom I try to know on a first-name basis. In my experience, this feat is invaluable to my students and makes them feel special.
4. Instill the "economic" way of thinking
Because most students will not become practicing economists, the main goal of my teaching is not to teach specific knowledge (e.g., theorems, proofs) but to instill a general "economic" way of thinking about human behavior and human society. I encourage students to understand the methodologies and philosophies behind economic theories and to carry such understandings in their everyday practicalities.
5. Teach students to think both independently and originally
In my teaching, I encourage students to understand that, ultimately, they are responsible for their own education. I emphasize that their graduation is truly just a commencement of the educational process. Most of their learning lies ahead; the world is changing faster and faster with information growing at an exponential rate. Their minds must be flexible and open to new ideas. To do so, I incorporate the up-to-date economic theories and policies into my classes and stimulate open-floor discussions. I also encourage independent and original thinking by having open-end essay questions in homeworks and exams.
I never think that teaching is an obligation or a burden. I always regard myself as an economist and an economics teacher simultaneously. I feel that teaching and research are complementary to each other. As an economist, I am often thrilled by the process of identifying and solving economic puzzles. As an economics teacher, I have a zest for conveying these thrills to my students. As a teacher of economics, I will be well satisfied if my students successfully learn to think like economists and can apply that paradigm to tackle the problems either in theory or in the real world.