Developing and assessing the communication skills of students on

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					Developing and assessing the communication
 skills of MSc Applied Economics students

          University of Westminster

        Philip Hedges & Peter Urwin
• To describe the context for the assessment

• To outline how assessment can help develop
  communication (& application) skills

• To explore alternative practice of assessing
  communication & application
                 The Issues
• Colander (2004) and O’Doherty, Street and
  Webber (2007) highlight qualitative evidence of
  skills gap in the typical Economics graduate

• Employers perceive a shortage of application &
  communication skills

• Economists should be able to use economics
  practically & be able to communicate findings to
  specialised & non-specialised audiences
        The Westminster Context
• Employed on a double credit (40) module
  “Application and Appraisal in Economics”

• Core module on MSc Applied Economics & optional
  for International Business Economics students

• Starts in Semester 2 (January – May) and continues in
  burst mode through Summer School (June – July)

• Government Economic Service recommended
                Module Aims
• In the context of supporting policy the focus is
  on the Application of Economics to real world
  scenarios & the Communication of Economic
  arguments to both specialist & non-specialist

• Successful students are able to show how
  economic techniques of investigation can
  support the development of effective policy
            Mix of Assessment

• 3 x viva voce individual examinations (worth
  30%, topics self-chosen) (Feb, April, June)

• 2 x individual written reports (based on 2 of 3
  viva topics, worth 20%)(May, July)

• 1 x unseen written in-class test (50%) (July)
          Formative Assessment
• All summative assessments are carried out individually
  though we also set a group presentation (24 hr
  preparation) as part of Summer School which are
  recorded & held on the module Blackboard site

• We also set written individual short-answer questions
  for each student

• Summative & formative feedback is given on the vivas
  & the reports, and formative provided additionally for
  the group presentation & individual responses to
             Viva voce drop-in
• Each viva voce topic is first outlined in a 10
  minute “drop-in” session with 2 academics to
  determine the student’s focus

• Aim is to suggest the economic concept(s)
  likely to be useful & empirical/technical issues
                Viva Voce Exam
• 10 mins student vocal presentation (without
  overheads, using notes only as prompts)

• 15 mins questions & answers led by 2 academics

• All recorded digitally for CD transfer back to student
  with written feedback form

• Marked out of 30, 10 marks for
  knowledge/understanding, 10 marks for application,
  10 marks for communication
           Some Topics Chosen
• Cost-benefit analysis for nuclear energy

• The case for high speed rail

• Competition in E-books & E-readers

• Illegal downloading & the movie market

• Economics of crime & the effect of incarceration
Results (%)

Yr 1 n = 8, Yr 2 n = 10
• Second viva mark usually higher than first, and
  third mark somewhere between the two

• Second report mean lower than first

• Overall mean for 5 out of 6 assessments has
  increased from the first to the second cohort
  with 25% more students
Questions? Problems?
   Best practice?

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