LEARNING BY DOING: Doing Research in Undergraduate Classes? Catherine Boulatoff Dalhousie University, Economics Department INTRODUCTION The benefits associated with undergraduate students conducting research include: • Improved students’ skills in design and hypothesis formation, • Learning about data collection and interpretation, • Gaining literacy in information, communication, and computer work (Lopatto, 2006, in McGoldrick, 2007) To actively engage students in learning, and in the process of motivating undergraduate students to “do economics”, recommendations include: • Using games and experiments in class (Becker & Watts, 1998; Strober & McGoldrick 1998), • Having students undertake original research, and • Teaching students design and conduct surveys (Whitehead, 2000; Cheo, 2001) CASE STUDY Saint Lawrence University, upstate New York (Liberal arts college (12:1 facultyStudent ratio, 2,360 students) * Senior seminar “Special topic in Environmental economics” in Fall 2005, 11 economics major senior students enrolled in the class, Meeting twice a week. Evaluation: 2 Exams (50%), Hwks (10%), Group paper (20%, Participation (20%) * “The purpose of this class is threefold: to teach you about a particular case of environmental problem, to give you experience in writing a proposal of the consultancy type, and to give you some experience in team work.” * Same group of students in Environmental economics class (N= 25) obtained funding, administered the survey and analyzed the data in spring 2006, . Funding =$1,600 by students; Mail survey to 1,500 residents STEPS, TIMELINE AND BENEFITS TO STUDENTS Topic choice: become familiar with body of literature on the topic; learn to negotiate and articulate ideas with members of the group (1 month) Survey Design: learn how to design survey; conduct focus groups; and present survey to community. Write a proposal requesting funding for the project. (1-2 months) Survey Administration: select sample, stuff envelopes, find addresses, deal with returned postages, make phones calls, wait and organize responses. (1-2 months) Survey coding and analysis: further quantitative skills in entering data, coding survey answers and econometric analysis (Excel, Limdep) (1 month) A CONTINGENT VALUATION SURVEY OF WIND FARM IN UPSTATE NEW YORK DEMOGRAPHICS 31% rate for mail survey, 1/3 female, 56 years average age. Median education level: 14 years (2 years after high school) Median Household income: $47,500 (slightly larger than median for geographic area) ATTITUDINAL VARIABLES ABOUT WIND ENERGY AND WIND FARMS Overall project was known to residents, and response was positive. Expected benefits included: job creation (43%), air quality improvement (67%), and improvement of US energy independence (81%) WILLINGNESS TO PAY (WTP),AND WILLINGNESS TO PAY TO AVOID (WTPa) TO HOST WIND FARM 91% in favor of hosting wind farm , Average WTP = $18; WTPa = $33. Most preferred actions to support the project: sign a petition (61%). Variables explaining WTP included: Income (positive), proximity of residence (negative), and the positive attitude toward wind energy (positive) OVERALL Greater students’ engagement, real group work, improved negotiating skills, practice of written and presentation skills, strengthening of organizing and planning skills (for both students and instructor), useful in job interviews, peer reviewed publication for instructor. Challenges include students’ levels, timing of the research (Fall/ Spring, one semester or two), time intensity of the project for the instructor, funding (timing and obtaining), quality of data obtained.