Phillip LeBel Teaching Portfolio

 On Teaching

Teaching is a calling. It combines the pleasure of discovery of knowledge with the satisfaction in its transmission to others. This first became clear to me when I served as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher for three and a half years in a remote village in Ethiopia in the mid-1960's. There, I taught Ethiopian, African, and World history to students eager to learn about the world and to expand their skills and talents in an uncertain world. I decided then that I wanted to be in an academic environment in which I could both learn and share that knowledge with others. When I subsequently went on to pursue my graduate studies in Economics, I found a congenial discipline that not only has links to history but brings a satisfying rigor to understanding an ever more complex world.

Individuals bring varying learning skills and knowledge to the classroom. These skills are a product of background and temperament and carry differing implications for the learning process. Some students are highly motivated and have good study habits built around effective listening, note taking, and reading. Others may learn better by more active participation in the learning process, through classroom exercises and oral presentations. What we do know is that the more interaction students have with their subject matter, the more efficiently they learn. This is the approach I take in teaching economics today and I find that students learn more and retain greater knowlege over a longer period of time. To the extent that students complete their education with critical thinking skills, knowledge, and maturity of purpose, one can take satisfaction that they will succeed in their professional goals and careers.

Effective teaching builds on a series of good practices. In the March 1987 Bulletin, the American Association of Higher Education listed seven such practices: 1. Good practice encourages contacts between students and faculty; 2. Good practice develops reciprocity and cooperation among students; 3. Good practice uses active learning techniques; 4. Good practice gives prompt feedback; 5. Good practice emphasizes time on task; 6. Good practice communicates high expectations; 7. Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning. Graduate education programs, which naturally place central importance on the acquisition of good research skills and competencies, provide no guarantee that knowledge will be transmitted effectively in the classroom. Effective teaching thus requires a process of constant renewal in both knowledge and in the ways in which classroom delivery is accomplished.

As many teachers often discover, there are stages in learning how to become effective. One's first instinct's are to ensure that one has subject mastery, especially in a cognitive discipline like economics. This translates initially into a style based on the sheer presentation of knowledge, and not necessarily one that is most effective for others to learn from. Over time, as one becomes more comfortable with the knowledge in one's discipline, one then can turn to thinking about how to better impart that knowledge to students. If this process is to be productive, it requires three key elements: first, a fully transparent process of student and peer classroom teaching evaluations; second, a continuing process of faculty renewal through ongoing research contributions in one's discipline; and thirdly, an institutional commitment through which these goals may be achieved. I keep all of these considerations in mind with the preparation for each class and course.

 Course Portfolio

 Econ 101 Principles of Macroeconomics
 Econ 102 Principles of Microeconomics
 Econ 207 Intermediate Microeconomics
 Econ 208 Intermediate Macroeconomics
 Econ 301 Money and Banking
 Econ 303 Economic Growth and Development
 Econ 308 Public Finance
 Econ 314 Development of Economic Thought
 Econ 402 International Economics
 Econ 403 Comparative Economic Systems
 Econ 405 Economics of Sub-Saharan Africa
 Econ 420 Econometrics
 Finc 321 Fundamentals of Finance

 Econ 501 Economic Analysis
 Econ 503 Economic Problems of theThird World
 Econ 505 Aggregate Economics
  Econ 508 Economics of Public Management
  Econ 533 Corporations and International Financial Markets
  Econ 541 Foundations of Contemporary Economic Thought
  Econ 542 Economic Fluctuations and Forecasting
  Econ 543 United States and the World Economy


 On Academic Standards

 Academic success of an institution depends ultimately on the achievements of its graduates. The challenge is how best to prepare students for successful careers, given the diverse backgrounds of students and the complexity of the career marketplace. While there are many strategies to institutional success, one troubling phenomenon is the rise of grade inflation throughout higher education institutions. If all students are "better than average" by virtue of the high grades so many of them receive, then ultimately this results in a depreciation of what higher education institutions claim to offer in terms of quality, and employers are less willing to support higher education and discount the credentials that those institutions claim to produce. This places renewed concern for higher education institutions, and the secondary institutions that are the source of students, to re-examine the importance of academic standards and to find means to raise them in an efficient and equitable manner.

I enclose here three modules that speak to various aspects of this issue. First is an institutional profile of grades by division and department, a profile that I add is similar to the profiles reported in many published sources among other institutions. Second is a student evaluation normalizer. The student evaluation normalizer is designed to adjust student evaluations on the basis of grades, and to eliminate the effect of grade inflation on those evaluations. Third is an examination profiler spreadsheet model. It provides an efficient mechanism to generate a normal grade distribution, with an automatic histogram to ensure consistency.

Adoption of the student evaluation normalizer depends ultimately on the willingness of an institution to solicit candid student feedback on teaching (as opposed to curriculum feedback, for example) in ways that can help one to engage in a process of continuous improvement. Only if faculty know that their teaching is taken seriously by students (and by their faculty peers) will they embrace the importance of continuous improvement.

 HTML File Version

 Spreadsheet Module Version
 Institutional Grades  Institutional Grades
 Student Evaluation Normalizer  Student Evaluation Normalizer
 Examination Profiler  Examination Profiler


  Student Evaluations

Student evaluations of faculty teaching now are conducted in the School of Business on a regular basis for each course each semester. Although current policy does not provide transparent disclosure of these evaluations, I think that transparency is an essential pre-requisite to maintaining emphasis on continuous improvements in teaching. I thus am providing sample feedback on teaching in my courses as part of this academic portfolio.

The current form used for collecting student observations is entitled "Student Feedback on Curriculum", rather than "Student Feedback on Faculty Teaching. It contains only the following five qualitative questions: 1. What are the strengths of this course? 2. What are the areas, if any, that need improvement?; 3. What changes do you suggest?; 4. What advice would you give a fellow student about this course?; 5. Other comments. As such, the form says virtually nothing about the professor's teaching style, effectiveness, or level of learning efficiency in relation to other professors or courses. Moreover, it is fashioned in such a way as to eliminate any quantitative scaling.

As I have noted in this portfolio page, unless one considers student skills, knowledge and achievement precisely matched to the programs in which they are enrolled, academic standards differ widely across the university. Because economics and finance has one of the more difficult programs (as judged by the mean level of grades), the ultimate path to positive reinforcement of effective teaching will require an honest and serious debate on the use of student and peer reviews of teaching in a transparent framework along with due consideration of differences in academic standards across departments and academic divisions of the university.

 Student Evaluations

Fall 2007

Econ 102-03 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 102-13 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 501-01 Economic Analysis

Fall 2006

Econ 102-05 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 102-09 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 102-11 Principles of Microeconomics

Fall 2005

Econ 102-05 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 102-10 Principles of Microeconomics

Econ 501-01 Economic Analysis

Spring 2004

Econ 570-01 - Business and the Socio-Political Environment

Econ 570-02 - Business and the Socio-Political Environment

Spring 2003

Econ 501-01 Economic Analysis

Econ 570-01 Business and the Socio-Political Environment

Econ 570-01 Business and the Socio-Political Environment

Departmental Questionnaire Student Evaluations

The following questionnaire was used for student evaluations in the fall of 1999 and in the spring of 2000. Rank orderings are 1 = One of the very best; 2 = Good; 3 = Fair; 4 = Poor; 5 = One of the very poorest. The questions used and results by section are listed below:

  1. The professor demonstrates enthusiasm about the subject matter
  2. The professor demonstrates the importance and significance of the subject matter
  3. The professor encourages critical thinking and analysis
  4. The professor introduces stimulating ideas about the subject
  5. Class presentations are planned and the class time is utilized constructively by this professor
  6. The professor encourages students to express themselves freely and openly
  7. The professor is easily accessible and encourages students to seek his/her help outside of class
  8. The professor explains course material clearly
  9. The professor stated the objectives of the course clearly in writing
  10. The assignments in this course give balanced coverage to major topics
  11. I have learned a great deal in this class
  12. I would like to take another course from this professor
  13. What is your overall rating of this professsor?

Selected Comments: (Econ 102-05, fall 1999): "There's no doubt that Professor LeBel is very knowledgable (sic) in the subject of economics. But the topics presented are not explained in an easy way"; "You are a very good professor. However you should try to help the students more. I like the way you teach the class. You teach assuming that the class already knows the tuff, when the truth is, we are there to learn it. Other than that, you are very good at what you do"; "Profesor (sic) has a strong grasp and knowledge about the subject but needs to realize this is a survey class. Often used terminology that was unfamiliar and often moved extremely quickly."; "Professor Lebel (sic) is a very intelligent man who knos his material. However, when it comes to portraying it to the class he doesn't get through. I feel he needs to slow down and explain things in terms easierto understand by all."

(Econ 501-01, fall 1999): "Speak slower, repeat assumptions of each model; Give easier questions; Summarize the topic in the end of each class and give us some summarization of the web; Web site content a lot of information but we will like (sic) to have some help in interpreting."

  Principles of Microeconomics (2 sections, fall 1998)

1. Strengths of this course: the professor; to help me be more experienced in making ecisions dealing with everyday life; he is very outgoing; he is very into the teaching of his subject; to learn the specifics of the economic system; new economic vocabulary used very frequently; good examples and charts; good explanation of objectives; thoughtful course outline; articulation of subects; Dr. LeBel knows exactly what he is talking about at all times; he is a very educated man that (sic) takes teaching seriously; he can explain any question you may have;shows how small businesses make their decisions; lots of information; gives you an understanding about micro-economics and events in society; he is enthusastic about what he teaches; he grades fairly; in this course we did a lot of group work which helped me, personally, a great deal; we were given a lot of practice work from the lectures in class, which really reinforced what I had learned; preparation for advanced courses in economics; the instructor is enthusiastic; the group work; he knows what he is talking about; the professor went over a lot of information; he did not only talk about the U.S., but different countries, too; taught well; heavy concentration on graphs/mathematical relations; I like the course and the way Dr. LeBel teaches; itis not really hard, but this is my first business course; the course itself is very important for students who are majoring in business and economics; handouts, groupwork, knowledge of the professor; the professor knows his topic very well and explains things thoroughly if they are not undrstood; contents; Dr. LeBel is very good and very helpful when it comes to certain concepts the students do nt understand; lot of information; very useful subject matter; professor knows his material; this course teaches me how economics is dealing with our society; group activities; class discussions; the subjects are all covered; the book is very helpful and makes difficult conceptseasy to understand; the teacher knows information very well; it is very informative and ties in a lot with what is happening in the world today; it covers a lot of information and gtves us a better understanding of economics; it teaches a lot of the economy and how different markets, prices, government concerns, taxes and trade can affect the welfare of the society and the standard of living; there are lots of manual exercises to do; there is a wide variety of economic topics discussed that can be easily related to past and current economic situations; the professor teaches the subject theory, but gives a relationship with the real world, for example, constant references to current events.

2. What are the areas, if any, that need improvement? for a 100 level class, the professor sure don't (sic) teach like it; this class is more like a 400 level class; he must slow down his lectures, because he speaks very fast; length of time dedicated to material is short; more explaining; needs to go slower; making sure the class understands the information given; class overall needs to slow down; exams are more difficult than the exercises; less (sic) graphs/transparencies; he needs to teach slower; he goes on when people are not ready; simplify the course so that students who aren't economics majorscan understand it; lots and lots and lots of information; reviewing for tests; we should go exactly by the book; he must talk slower so that we have a chance to figure out what could be improved; the mathematical aspects of microeconomics; well, this is a very dry subject, so if you aren't understanding or don't feel motivated, you will become very bored; the terminology is hard to understand; maybe try to slow down a little bit; the skills to be able to interpret graphs; step by step approach to do the math calculations; the presentation of the material needs to be improved; fewer charts; more examples to the material at hand; slower pace while explaining the materials; he is too "math" oriented; we don't get into the political side of economics as much as I would like; the professor should go over the information slowly; he tends to talk too fast and it is difficult to follow; we need a 15 minute break during the 2.5 hour class; decrease the math/graph part by 80 percent; class conversation is on so high level it sometimes is hard to understand what the subject is about; Dr. LeBel does not teach from the book, yet we had to buy a book; he does not explain the mathematical part of the course in full detail; he needs to slow down while lecturing and doing work on the board; he needs to bring more class work; he should teach as a professor not a Ph.D. level; teaching at a slower pace; refer to the book material in class; it is too long and we did not get a break; more from the book; none; more clarification of material - professor sometimes moves way too fast; when we do homework it would be more helpful to go over it in class so we have the right answers when studying for a test; Dr. LeBel needs to slow down and do more class activities; the charts and explanations; the book is not followed enough in this class; the teacher doesn't talk to the students properly so that they can understand; algebraic equations need to be explained more; more explanation of the topics and better use of the blackboard; Dr. LeBel needs to speak more slowly and listen to questions and comments made to be able to have all the students understand the material; the vocabulary he uses should be more to the students' level.

3. What changes do you suggest? use mathematical formulas in the early stage of the course and use more theory in the beginning; not much, just the fact that his lectures need to be slower; lengthen class time or shorten material; needs to go slower because there are people like me that (sic) don't know anything about (the) subject; a slower pace, the class seems to be rushed; sometimes we don't receive all the information; slow down class; reduce the level of the exams a notch; fewer graphs; stay closer to the book so that material is supported by the teacher; review the chapters from the book more in detail to prepare for the test (sic); we should go exactly by the book ; for him to talk slower so that we can encorporate (sic) the diagrams number (sic) with the problems; slow down the lecture or materials; the pace of the clas should be slowed down.

4. What advice would you give a fellow student about this course? unlss you want a math class don't take it, but if you can get past the math it really is a great class and Dr. LeBel is a great teacher; try to take the class on more than just one day; read the book and try to follow the professor; attend the class because that is really important for understanding the course; do not take this course with him; not bad; read the book; take good notes and be good in math; none; this course is very tough and so are the exams; I suggest to other students that in order to pass this course adequate study time is necessary; learn to speed write; If you do the homework and pay attention, you'll be fine; I would tell them to pay attention; make sure you go to class, because if you don't you're only hurting yourself; it's a difficult course to take - take it with another professor; do not take this course if it only meets once a week - too much formation and the class is too long to hold your attention; bring a lot of coffee and know every economic term before the class starts; dont tae it; don't take it from 9:00-11:30 and try to get it spread out more - maybe 2 times a week; keep up with the readings and make sure you understand the worksheets and spreadsheets that are discussed in class; study.

5. Other comments: the course is o.k.; he is a fair professor - I enjoyed his class; very nice teacher, very smart guy - just needs to make us understand; hi; good prfessor, but thereis too much material; I wish that the professor would teach more from the book to help us study for the exams; the teacher as a human being is nice (sic); he is smart, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic but it is a hard class he goes too quickly; read these books - "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt and "Principals (sic) of Economics" by Carl Menger, and "Human Action" by Ludwig von Mises; the professor should give tests on each individual chapter instead of 9 chapters at once; none; none; basically, a good course if it (sic) slowed down a little; you can get much more out of it; I think this professor is one of the most intelligent professors I have had so far; Dr. LeBel should do more board work and really show how things are done; less straight lecture; talk on our level because not everyone here is an economics major; this class is not very easy!

  Principles of Macroeconomics (one section, fall 1998)

1. What are the strengths of this course? good oveview; the book is good but not used enough; the professor uses good examples that help us understand topics discussed in class; group exercises allow concepts to be learned easier; the book is good; the practical issues have a lot of real world functions; group exercises; good handouts and good text book; the professor is "extremely" knwledgeable, very prepared and has excellent handouts and course materials; giving the basic course about economic issues in general so that it prepares students for advanced courses;none; this course teaches us how the world of money works; the book by Mankiw is reasonably understandible (sic) you learn a lot, Dr. LeBel goes nonstop; I have learned a great deal about economics; it's a good course but it would be easier to follow if it were taught slower; he gave us very useful exercises to be done in class; excellent textbook, it is very easy to understand; very in-depth ad interesting; I find it interesting how the economy works and what effects (sic) it; information; Dr. LeBel has a broad range of knowledge and often he contributes interesting facts during a lecture; it enables you to obtain a base or foundation in economics; this class has helped me to understand a lot better about the economy as a whole - prior to this class I had no understanding of what the economy was all about.

2. What are the areas, if any, that need improvement? the lecturer introduced many confusing self-made charts and diagrams that overcomplicated the goals of the book; class lectures are too advanced for this class since there are no pre-requisites and most people taking it have not had economics classes before; sometimes gets boring, should give maybe 5 minute brake (sic); maybe show a quick video, or something to break it up; none; the math needs to be easier to understand and the text does not teach it; more interaction between the class; the professor sometimes goes too fast for me to keep up; the course is, as I understand it, to be an introduction to macroeconomics - our professor should not be teaching an elementary level; the interpretation of grphs and mathematical calculations; none; the professor covers topics too fast and is hard to understand; he goes through so much so fast that some students are left behind; the course should be taught slower; he speaks too fast and sometimes it is very hard to catch up to what he's talking about; extremely difficult; details explained in solving math, perhaps a little slower pace; more work or practice in graphs and math; slow down; Dr. LeBel needs to slow down when he speaks; the leture is way too fast and often filled with unimportant information and is difficult to filter out relevant information; more examples from every day life are needed as it is difficult to apply to life; maybe there should be a lab so that the class would be divided into 3 hours of theory and an additional day for 2 hours of problem solving and graphs; maybe a summary of all the formulas to be used in the course of the class.

3. What changes do you suggest? follow the book more closely; simplify and slow down lectures (this is an intro course for many students); going over the textbook and mor e examples like review quesions from each chapter - the charts are too advanced; slow down, somees it gets confusing; maybe slower or taught at a more basic introductory level; more group exercises; some of the exercises are just calculator repetition and could be changed; another professor who understands this course is basic, not 4th level which this class feels like; examples involvingining calculations to be applied in real world; none; more problems to work on involving supply, demand, total social welfare, tariffs, etc.; the text book should go more into the mathematical aspects; he can speak a little bit more slow (sic) and to try to remember that there's (sic) some people that (sic) have no clue about economics - this is because sometimes he's extremely specific about economics language; more aids to help us study for tests; details in solving math, more time needed in working with graphs; slow down; more class discussion and less math; often we're given a complicated math problem to resolve - we can do it but not know what it means; homework dealing with all problems used in class because if we only do them in class we will not remember later.

4. What advice would you give a fellow student about this course? bring a tape recorder to class; buy a tape recorder; concentrate and follow along in the book, and take good notes; read the text; take it if you must but do not go out of your way for it; read the book and pay a lot of attention; make sure you're familiar with algebra before you take econ 101; even though I think Dr. LeBel is a genius, I don't think he should be teaching this course - his talents are being wasted here - I also think that the majority of the class is lost or not very clear on macroeconomics and its concepts because of the in-depth information and level Dr. LeBel provides; it has to be taken because it is required; none; get familiar with the terms (GDP, CPI, etc.) and know algebra as it will be used; tape the lectures, listen during the lectures, and read before class; He knows a lot and knows his topics and he is a person who you can learn a lot from - besides that, he's an excellent person; study; refresher in math, not to take other courses with this class; slow down; listen very carefully - rely on the book for tests; read all chapters, do all the problems, and make sure you brush up on your math skills before taking this course; pay a lot of attention in class, take notes, and if possible, tape the class sessions to better help him/her in the tests.

5. Other comments: tough but rewarding; professor is very smart but does not really know how to teach the course; give us a little 5 minute break so we can refresh and gain our concentration back; very knowledgeable professor - he tries to help us understand but sometimes it's hard to keep us - I think I'm learning a lot, but struggling to accomplish it; no comments; none; I would enjoy the class if it were taught at a pace that I could follow; teacher is extremely intelligent but moves a bit to (sic) fast for the class - the mathmatical (sic) problems that he gives out in class should be explained better - I enjoy this class but it is extremely difficult; the course is very interesting - Dr. LeBel has good class projects to aid students in math work - however, more time is needed in this area - the pace of the class is too fast for this much information; it is difficult but if you study, you'll do fine; I'm a bio major switching into business and I see this class very similar to a chemistry class.



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