Disney and real-world relatability can make commerce learning fun

Everyone is a player in the economy. The coffee you buy on the way to work, the lunch you make or buy, your labour in a part-time job, how your HECS debt works – there are so many lenses on economics to discuss just by waking up, getting yourself to uni and then to your work!

Some students are visual, some audio, some musical, some book-driven. As Professor Mark Williams, in the Department of Cognitive Science, has explained to me, information registers in different parts of the brain, and the more parts of the brain that get triggered, the longer lasting the memory is and the more meaningful that memory is in terms of recalling and applying information. So rather than just prose or just numbers, you add pictures, you add music, and it leaves an impression as a metaphor or a parable.

I’m known for incorporating Disney film clips into my lectures. Frozen, for example, is a wonderful way into a discussion about monopoly markets and competitive markets. Princess Elsa loves to hide in her room behind closed doors. Princess Anna likes to open all the windows and doors. But the one with the power is Elsa, who likes the barriers, and monopolies are all about barriers to entry to retain your market power.

The pandemic has been very challenging. I have always taught by bouncing off the audience and made good use of the physical space of a lecture theatre/classroom. You can’t do that on Zoom. I’ve implemented new ways of engaging. Breakout rooms obviously help, as does various collaborative software that might involve, for example, collaborative Post-it notes with platforms such as Mural, or a collaborative drawing board with platforms such as Padlet.

The benefit of this COVID-19 world, however, is the rise in overseas guest speakers. COVID has allowed us to glean extra insights from experts from all over the world – the UK, China, or South Africa – without the expense and the logistics. Now it’s just seamless. We’ve changed old mindsets about overseas guest speakers as being in the too-hard basket.

I don’t think there’s any secret about how to teach well except to be yourself. Equip yourself and have a growth mindset, with regard to teaching tools and practice. But at the core of it, if you are yourself, students will see you as a person first and a knowledge vessel second.

How would I like my students to view me? As easily excited, empathetic and empowering.

Who is the perfect student? The one who is willing to be always engaged with activities even if things do not make sense at first. Just have the trust that everything will come together, that there’s a purpose and a plan behind it – that the “aha” moment will come – #everyonesaywow.

This article was first published in Macquarie University publication, The Lighthouse.

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