April 18, 2017 Reading Time: 2 minutes

AIER’s founder Col. E.C. Harwood encouraged “the educational aspects of the Institute’s work to be specifically aimed at teachers.” In addition, Harwood was interested in integrating John Dewey’s approaches to stimulating students’ and teachers’ intellectual eagerness. Dewey considered a systematic education in the subject matter as the first and the most important step for a teacher in becoming “the intellectual leader”. When teachers master the content, they are able, as Dewey wrote in his 1933 book “How We Think,” to “take advantage of unexpected questions or unanticipated incidents. [Their confidence in the content knowledge will] be accompanied by a genuine enthusiasm for the subject that will communicate itself contagiously to pupils.”

AIER’s Teach-the-Teachers Initiative program follows the ideas of John Dewey and E.C. Harwood and adopts the best contemporary methods of educating teachers. The evidence shows that the dynamics of the classroom in the 21st century call for active learning, authentic assessment, teamwork, and flexibility. In our program, AIER helps teachers gain deeper knowledge of economic concepts and develop creative pedagogical approaches to assist students in learning these concepts.

The three cycles of AIER’s initiative used AIER research findings to educate 122 teachers in three topics through AIER’s 85-year history: money and inflation; business cycles and unemployment; and government and the economy. During the workshop, teachers learn basic concepts and the intricacies of scientific methodologies pertaining to these concepts. They also develop a lesson idea to field-test in their classroom after the program. Our program is interactive, which stimulates creativity and enthusiasm. Its success in boosting teachers’ knowledge is evidenced by their testimonies and by students’ evaluations, which state that the lessons are engaging, their teachers are confident, and the material is relevant.

We also involve Teach-the-Teachers Initiative alumni in helping us spread the word about the program. This month, 2015 alumnus Alex Kaufman from Edward M. Kennedy Academy in Boston shared his lesson plan with the audience at the New England Regional Conference for the Social Studies. Alex incorporated the unemployment-survey lesson, which we demonstrated during the TTI program, into his world history class. His lesson is entitled “Calculating Unemployment and Decision-Making in Weimar Republic.” At the conference, Alex shared how understanding economic principles helps his students comprehend the historical context of the fall of the Weimar Republic. He emphasized that connecting historical context to individual choices and beliefs provides students with a window into the mindset of German citizens living during the Weimar Republic. Alex also noticed additional benefits of this lesson including greater collaboration with peers, better oral presentation, and improved active listening and speaking skills.

After Alex’s presentation, I was once again reassured that our approach to professional development workshops is a successful and innovative way to bring economics into high school curricula. This summer we are holding the program in St. Louis, Miami, and Omaha. Registration is open. Please join us!


Picture: Alex Kaufman from Edward M. Kennedy Academy in Boston presents his lesson.

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Natalia Smirnova, PhD

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