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Counting Cars to Win Best In Class

When Chandini Sankaran, Clinical Associate Professor in the Economics Department at Darla Moore School of Business, applied for a Teaching Innovation Grant for Integrative Learning she didn’t realize that she’d become the recipient of an Economics Educators’ Best in Class award. The teaching innovation grant, co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office of USC Connect, was for full-time faculty members to develop, implement and assess instructional materials or practices designed to increase students’ capacity to integrate within and beyond the classroom experiences. Based on course or program learning outcomes, integrative learning experiences would support students in meaningfully connecting theory and practice.

With the support she received from the grant, Sankaran successfully implemented a fun and unique economics field research project in her Economics of Sustainable Development (ECON 509) course. For the project, students counted the number of vehicles during peak hours in Columbia. Using the data collected, students outlined a procedure for the adoption of a different system of transportation, or a method to reduce congestion, after approximating the economic and environmental costs and benefits. Students learned to think like economists while using the scientific method of developing a hypothesis, collecting data, analyzing data, and presenting their final analysis as a video project. Students also complete a mid-project reflective exercise and peer reviews of their classmates videos

After completing the grant project, Sankaran submitted it for the Economic Educators Best in Class Award, a national award for innovative teaching methods. The award is co-sponsored by the National Economics Teaching Association (NETA) and Cengage Learning, a leading educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education and K–12, professional and library markets worldwide. The award winners were judged and picked by NETA. Sankaran was thrilled to win the award for second place. The award included $500 in cash for the winner, $250 for the winner’s department of economics and a free trip to Cengage’s 12th Annual Economics Teaching Conference to receive the award.

Commenting on Sankaran’s award, Christy Friend, director or the Center for Teaching Excellence stated, “The course development grants that CTE co-sponsors are designed to support faculty who want to innovate in their classrooms. Chandini Sankaran’s project has been very successful, and we’re thrilled that it’s received national recognition.”