Faculty Best Practices
Paul Gift, PhD
Assistant Professor of Economics
I try to break up lectures every half hour or forty-five minutes with group activities or games. One game involves students representing six different companies in a simulation of competitive dynamics in different market situations. They are given background on the company's market potential and cost structure and a range of what their customers are willing to pay. Students must set their prices while making predictions about what their competitors will do. This process iterates until I announce the final round. The company with the highest profits in this round gets the reward. I then change the game to mimic different real-life market situations so students can feel the market forces at play and experience their impact on pricing strategy and business profitability. This helps give them a clearer, more memorable understanding of the business implications of the market scenarios we are examining.
The small class sizes offered at the Graziadio School make it easier to give personal attention, but I also like to bring it outside the classroom. I let them know they can call me seven days a week on my home phone. I like to hold external events in the first couple weeks of the term to help students feel more comfortable with me and with each other. Every term we do Korean barbeque in Koreatown, and sometimes we do karaoke in West L.A. I tell them if you can sing in front of each other, then you can certainly make comments and ask questions in front of each other, even sometimes silly questions. We've all asked silly questions before. What's important is asking questions and learning, whether silly or not.
In my evaluations, the number one thing students give positive feedback on is the narrated PowerPoint notes I provide. When I present in class, I don't like to use slides with a lot of words on them, because students tune it out. Instead, I only use slides that have an image, video or diagram. Then after class, I provide them with the full PowerPoint, which includes not only written notes but also a video and audio file of me talking them through it. Students tell me they sometimes listen to it in the car during their commute or on their iPod at the gym – they appreciate the convenience of being able to go back and review the material any time they want.