10 Feb 2014

Do university lecturers carry their academic research to classrooms?

We must accept that. Most academics –including myself– struggle when they have to write a short briefing of their teaching philosophy . The common answer relates the main two missions of the university: teaching and research. University lecturers are expected to carry the lab –understanding lab as individual academic research– to classrooms. But it rarely happens, especially in undergraduate courses. I recently came across to one interesting exception: The Phillips Curve
 
The Phillips Curve describes a –short-run– negative relationship between inflation and unemployment and received the name from William Phillips who first identified this pattern with empirical-driven study collecting information of inflation and unemployment for the period 1861-1957 in the UK. He did not receive the Nobel Prize, but at least six of the authors building –part of their research– to the better understanding of the relation between unemployment and inflation achieved this award for their contributions. In chronological order: Paul Samuelson in 1970, Milton Friedman in 1976, Robert Solow in 1987, Robert Lucas in 1995, Edmund Phelps in 2006, and finally Thomas Sargent in 2011. All the insights and recommendations from this debate are still important for policy makers when defining their monetary –interestingly the independence of central banks is a consequence of this debate– and fiscal policies. And therefore are relevant for undergraduate and postgraduate students in economics and business. 
 
Apart from the technical details, it is also a great opportunity for students to discover the processes and advances of the academic thinking. To understand how after the discovery of an empirical pattern other authors look whether it is generalizable or not, and some others construct robust theoretical models based on the previous empirical studies. This kind of build-in-academic-debate teaching content can be motivating and encouraging for those students showing a prospect interest in developing an academic career. 
 
In sum, teaching the Phillips Curve is a good illustration of the generation of knowledge. And certainly, we need to see more academic developments like this in textbooks and teaching notes. What in my view it actually means bringing the lab to the classroom.  

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