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Economic educators

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UD alum, global economic educator Kasman workshops with master’s students

When searching for solutions to the world’s most serious problems, many would agree that education is a clear choice. But few could explain specifically how education can help solve issues like poverty, governmental instability and social inequality.

Working to find those answers is Romina Kasman, an educational consultant for the Department of Social Inclusion at the Organization of American States (OAS), a partnership between all 35 independent nations of the Americas.

In 2014, UDaily featured Kasman’s work improving finance education resources for children and adults in Peru as an intern for the Peruvian Superintendence of Banks and Insurance. At the time, Kasman was a student in the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MAEEE) program, which is designed to equip students with strategies for teaching economics, entrepreneurship and personal finance education.

Kasman completed her work in Peru as part of her MAEEE implementation project, which challenges students to further education and policy in their home communities. She then worked preparing teachers in Bogotá, Colombia and Mexico to teach economics and personal finance.

Bruce Weber, dean of UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said that Kasman’s work “illustrates the amazing global reach of Lerner’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE),” home of the MAEEE program.

“Those countries will benefit from more fiscally informed citizens that understand how markets and sensible economic policies contribute to the well-being of their societies,” Weber said.

And this summer, Kasman returned to the UD campus for a workshop on economic education with current MAEEE students.

There, she described her current work, such as a project collaborating with Guatemala’s secretary general to tackle multiple problems like that nation’s 60 percent poverty rate.

When facing such complex and diverse issues, Kasman said, solutions like education have wider-reaching impacts than one might expect.

“My question is: What is the role of economics in all of these sustainable goals?” she said. “And how can economic and financial literacy contribute to achieve these goals?”

“It’s very difficult to reach a point where you can say, ‘I’m going to solve everything,’ but you have to start from one problem that may be connected with others,” she continued. “That kind of prioritization of problems, of thinking… It’s one of the most interesting parts of the methodology.”

For example, she explained: “In the most dangerous countries of the world, only putting a light in a street can save a lot of lives. Just a light.”

But the benefits of such an intervention go beyond lifesaving, Kasman said, when thinking holistically. “For example, putting a light in the street means that children can go to extracurricular activities [like tutoring, sports and the arts].”

Helping students to embrace this holistic way of thinking about communities and social problems can help them to understand economics and finance as well, Kasman said.

“Sometimes, when you get students to think very macro, it helps them to… become practical.” she said. “This kind of exercise can give them another view of how things are out there.”

“You identify needs, you identify challenges in our world,” Kasman continued. This global citizenship perspective, she said, helps students to understand the real-world impacts of their work, and to answer big questions like: “Why am I doing this?”

“We have to focus on what our students want – what they want, not for the day to day classes, but what they want for the present, their near future – and also teach them how to think collectively… to think about how they can get together with others to build something different.”

Kasman led the workshop as an active conversation, with MAEEE students joining in many times to share their opinions or ask questions about the future of economic and personal finance education and their role in solving global problems.

These current students are also already proving what they can accomplish with their newly honed skills, completing impactful implementation projects in their own communities when not on UD’s campus completing summer coursework.

The current MAEEE cohort includes educators from 16 states and 2 countries, including 11 teachers from the state of Delaware.

Each of them sought to create projects with positive effects that will continue to be felt throughout their schools, districts, states and countries for years to come.

A current student’s experience

The unique implementation project of one such current MAEEE student, Andrea Caceres Santamaria, focused on behavioral economics. This field explores the impact of factors like human perception and thinking on economic decision-making.

Behavioral economics focuses on subjects like the anchoring effect, which is the human tendency to focus on the first piece of information offered when making decisions.

This is the same phenomena that can make an overpriced used car seem reasonable: By basing negotiations on the original too-high asking price, reduced prices seem fair even if they are still too high.

Caceres Santamaria had the idea for the project after she and colleague William Bosshardt of Florida Atlantic University read texts by Daniel Khanneman on behavioral economics. The pair then wrote lessons for high school classrooms based on the study and research therein.

“The lessons needed to include experiments that tested the theories,” Caceres Santamaria explained, “[so that] students could see the results for themselves.”

The project received funding from the Council for Economic Education, and Caceres Santamaria and Bosshardt presented the lessons at the 2015 Council for Economic Education Annual Financial Literary and Economic Education Conference.

“It has sparked some great interest on the topic,” Caceres Santamaria said. “The room was at capacity, and there was a lot of excitement.”

The team then presented the lessons during a workshop in New York City in July.

“The workshop was a great success, and teachers are finding that they can implement this along with what they are already teaching in their economics classes,” Caceres Santamaria said.

“The goal of these lessons is for teachers to see that they can incorporate these lessons into what they already teach, and provide students with the opportunity to analyze the psychology behind the economic decisions that we make.”

Caceres Santamaria and Bosshardt are in the final stages of editing the lessons, incorporating input from teachers who field-tested them in classes. In October, they will present the completed lessons at the 2016 Council for Economic Education Annual Financial Literacy and Economic Education Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Caceres Santamaria, who is from Greenacres, Florida, also had a unique experience during her time as an on-campus UD MAEEE student this summer.

After a six-day long journey from Florida, Caceres Santamaria, her husband, their bunny and their Jack Russell terrier spent four weeks camping at the Woodlands Camping Resort in Elkton, Maryland.

The couple lived in their 21-foot travel trailer, which includes “every comfort of a home,” including a full bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

“I got to have home-cooked meals every day,” said Caceres Santamaria. “We even started to wonder why we have a larger home in the first place.”

On the experience of the MAEEE program itself, Caceres Santamaria said that being a student again after eight years of teaching helped her to reflect on her own teaching techniques.

The program’s exams, for example, “actually made me change the way I give exams,” she said. She’s significantly decreased the number of multiple choice questions she uses in favor of extended response prompts, for example, because, “In my studying, I found myself making sure that I could thoroughly explain concepts and not just memorize, which is what I want my students to do as well.”

Caceres Santamaria also described her fellow students, as well as CEEE faculty and staff members, with one word: “Enthusiastic.”

“As much as we love to teach, it seems that we love to learn just as much,” she said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm about how what we have learned will be taken back to our classrooms and beyond.”

“I am forever grateful for the great experience, knowledge and opportunity,” Caceres Santamaria said. “This was a life-changing experience that I know will open doors to other opportunities that I did not think were possible.”

“All in all I can honestly say that I couldn't imagine having done this any other way.”

 

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