Jan 26, 2014

My reading: "The Checklist"

I just finished The Checklist by Atul Gawande, one of my favorite writers. Gawande does not disappoints and surprises you in every chapter. The book was as good as Complications, but shorter. It was part of the material for my health economics class. Even though the main argument of the book is not about health economics per-se it ends up being relevant in the following way: checklists help reduce human error and can save human beings, the ultimate resource! The last chapter talks about the use of checklists in finance and investment, which is the part more directly related to economics. 

I assigned the book to present hands-on medical experiences to students (his descriptions are incredibly vivid), on how doctors deal with, sometimes, very messy and complex cases. To understand what health economics is all about it makes sense to talk about health first. The main idea I got from the book is that even in very complex situations (Gawande makes a difference between simple, complicated, and complex problems) the checklist is very useful.

From the perspective of teaching economics, I thought about the kind of checklist that will be useful to prepare for complex situations in the classroom, and ways to improve students' learning experiences. What items would be in that checklist?

Before the course starts:
  • A program is ready.
Before each class: 
  • To learn the names of the students.
  • Have exercises ready. 
  • Think about different ways to solve the exercises.
  • Prepare solutions that are visually attractive, clear and elegant (graphs done in Inkscape for example).
  • Prepare for questions from the exercises and readings assigned.
  • To have a clear idea of what will be happening in the class at the beginning, middle, and end. 
  • To meet with the TA 15 minutes before the class to discuss the contents for the day and the way in which the class is supposed to go.
Do you prepare a checklist before teaching? If so what is in there? I wonder if the best teachers (in economics) keep checklists . . . 

An interesting checklist is here

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