PERC is affiliated with Goldsmiths interdisciplinary degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and this term we want to highlight some of the excellent work done by the students on this degree. We are re-posting pieces written by students to highlight how effective student blogging can be as a teaching and learning tool. At the same time we are giving space to students by acknowledging the high quality blog posts they create.

Political Economy and the world outside the classroom window

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the PPE degree at Goldsmiths sought to fill a void in Bachelor Degrees in social sciences offering a political economy approach. The PPE course was designed to revive the pluralist tradition of political economy, as well as cultural economy, to understanding the role of the state, global market forces and socio-cultural change. From the outset this degree sought to bring the world into the class room by giving students concrete issues to investigate: something they can dig their teeth into, that also provides an avenue of exploration of key concepts like the state, the market, regulation, society and culture that, together, form ‘the Economy’. To do so we thought through different types of learning and assessment that could better facilitate a more hands on approach to learning about how the economy and society interact. A course blog was one avenue that offered us an opportunity to engage students in a new medium – as digital content consumers/producers – in order to get them thinking about the economy taking place outside the classroom window.

Is a course blog a useful tool for teaching political economy?

We set up a course blog for the first year compulsory module ‘Issues in Cultural and Political Economy (ICPE)’ which is designed as an interdisciplinary module to compliments the three core courses in politics, philosophy and economics required to complete the first year of the PPE degree. ‘Issues in CPE’, as its come to be known, uses a case study type approach to the study of four key areas of study: elites, neoliberalism, the environment and everyday life. These four key issues are then examined from different perspectives: the market, the state, culture and society as well as from local and global perspectives. With such a wide array of potential routes to intellectual engagement we sought to offer students a digital space to think through the interconnections they see between the real-world and the class room as well as between the different course modules.

Having a course blog was a useful teaching tool that gave students an outlet to become familiar with how to craft interesting and engaging argument by producing blog entry. Creating a post challenges students to use and visualize complex data and information in a succinct blog post. In terms of academic skill development, students are given an opportunity to learn how to dissect dense text and write a short summary, giving them an opportunity to write in ways that are not assessed or confined to an essay structure. Other more mundane benefits of giving students the opportunity to learn by doing, improving their practical IT skills. Some first year students came to university without the necessary IT skills to make a blog post, but they left it know how to. These practical skills are important, we need only look to how much of academic life is about engaging with digital media, to appreciate the benefits to students looking to enter the workforce.

In more practical terms, we wanted to use the posts to the course blogs to replace the seminar requirement for student presentations. Having spent many hours painfully listening to students simply read out their notes on the assigned reading, we wanted to have a course blog where each week assigned students would present their blog post, with pictures and hyperlinks. Admittedly, some students still posted their basic notes from the reading; but, importantly many did not. The featured ‘PPE Student Blogposts’ show the capacity of students to write insightful engagements and thought provoking critiques using the digital medium of the blog posts.