Below, Jeff Levine describes various aspects of how he teaches 11.438 Economic Development Planning.
Jeff Levine: The spring class was all Masters students from DUSP. In fact, I think they were all second-year students finishing up their degrees and looking for an elective that offered tools for the practice. The students had some background in community and economic development but not as much in the planning tools that public and non-profit agencies might use to advance policy goals. Since it was a small class, we were able to adjust easily to remote learning in March and had a comfortable and informal class structure.
Jeff Levine: Teaching in a professional degree program, one of my priorities is to help students learn to write for their future work environments. Busy decision-makers don’t have time to read a long theoretical paper on a topic. They may only have the time or interest to read the top page or two of a memo, and they want to quickly know what you want them to do. I asked the students to keep their memos to two pages or less, which can be harder than writing a five-page paper. Generally it worked well, and having multiple opportunities allowed the students to improve their memorandum writing skills.
Jeff Levine: Grading can be a little challenging in a graduate-level class without a lot of quantifiable outcomes. Using rubrics helped me provide a rationale for how and why I was grading material, and that helped me stay focused on the values I brought to evaluating the submissions. Rubrics such as “you make your argument clearly” helped me separate that aspect of the evaluations from others, such as “your argument is supported by the research.” Having said that, there is always a bit of a judgment call as to whether particular students is really utilizing their judgment or just repeating what I told them.
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Jeff Levine: I was looking for a way to explore what economic development planning tries to accomplish and what options are available to reach these goals. Starting with “lenses” allowed us to figure out the purposes of the field. Looking at “tools” allowed us to understand what options are out there for achieving those purposes. “strategies” brought the tools to bear on the lenses, and then “cases” allowed the students to see those strategies in practice. I thought it worked well for this class and I am using a variation of it in another class now.
Jeff Levine: I enjoyed presenting case studies and hearing the questions and thoughts from the students. They always had interesting perspectives on the cases, quite often ones I had not thought of.
The students' grades were based on the following activities:
Written work was graded in accordance with a rubric provided in the syllabus.
Instructor Insights on Assessment
Every other spring semester
Breakdown by Year
All second-year graduate students
Breakdown by Major
All students in the Master in City Planning program at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)
Typical Student Background
The students were all finishing up their degrees and looking for an elective that offered tools for the practice. They had some background in community and economic development but not as much in the planning tools that public and non-profit agencies might use to advance policy goals.
During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:
Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
Out of Class
Outside of class, students completed assigned readings and worked on written papers and projects.