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Volume 3, Issue 3, September 2021

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Themed Section - Innovations in Teaching Environmental and Resource Economics

Teaching by the Case Method to Enhance Graduate Students’ Understanding and Assessment of Wicked-Type Problems: An Application Involving the Bears Ears National Monument

Amanda J. Harker Steele and John C. Bergstrom

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Posted online: September 15, 2021
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doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313686

Abstract: This paper presents the results of a teaching project designed to enhance graduate-level agricultural and applied economics students’ understanding of wicked-type problems, and the limitations of benefit-cost analysis (BCA) as an evaluation criterion for such problems. We employed the case method, a participatory, student-centered approach to teaching, wherein students work in groups to evaluate a case. The case used for this study focused on a wicked-type problem at the time that this study was being implemented, namely determining “What is the ‘socially optimal’ or preferred size of the Bears Ears National Monument?” The effectiveness of the case method in achieving expected student learning outcomes was assessed through the application of a sign test and a Wilcoxon signed rank test to students’ responses on a pre- and post-survey. Student learning outcomes were further assessed using the grades received by students on an individual and group assignment. Overall, results suggested the case method is an effective tool for advancing students’ understanding of wicked-type problems, but not necessarily for teaching students about the limitations of BCA as an evaluation criterion for such problems. It appeared students may have already been familiar with the limitations of BCA, prior to participating in the study.

Keywords: Bears Ears National Monument, case method, economic valuation, quantitative and qualitative decision making, student learning, and wicked-type problems

Seeds of Learning: Uncertainty and Technology Adoption in an Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Game

Babatunde Abidoye, Sahan T.M. Dissanayake, and Sarah A. Jacobson

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Posted online: May 11, 2021
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   Adaptation Incentive Recording Sheet
   EBA Game Handout  
   EBA Game Handout 4Page
   EBA Game Instructions
   EBA Game Instructor How-To
   Extensions and Modifications
   Seeds of Learning - Game Play Slides
   Suggested Readings

doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313687

Abstract: We introduce an interactive game exploring ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) to climate change, with a focus on technology adoption and uncertainty. The game is useful in academic classes and training sessions for policy makers and stakeholders. Participants play the role of small-scale farmers in a developing country where their farming practices cause erosion that pollutes waterways, while at the same time climate change is making farmers more vulnerable to natural threats like flooding. The game gives participants a series of opportunities to adopt EBA practices: for example, a riparian buffer strip, low-till farming, and agroforestry. The practices differ in the uncertainty surrounding their effects on yields. The game deploys three policies to encourage adoption: a flat payment, a conservation auction, and a flat payment with a pilot bonus for early adoption. Players observe each other’s choices and outcomes, which allows for social learning. Participants get a hands-on understanding of climate change’s impacts, adaptation, ecosystem services, payment for ecosystem service programs, choice under uncertainty, social learning, adoption of new technology, learning spillovers, cost-effective conservation, and conservation auctions. We provide all materials necessary to run the game, a list of suggested readings, and ideas for discussions and assignments.

Keywords: Classroom game, climate change adaptation, ecosystem-based adaptation, payments for ecosystem services, technology adoption, uncertainty

Managing a Multiuse Resource with Payments for Ecosystem Services: A Classroom Game

Lauriane S. Yehouenou, Stephen N. Morgan, and Kelly A. Grogan

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Posted online: April 22, 2021
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doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313688 

Abstract: This article presents a classroom experiment that introduces students to the concept of payment for ecosystem services (PES) applied to a multipurpose renewable forest resource. Through a natural resource management game, students can analyze how PES programs may alter the individual and group harvest decisions and stocks of both components of the multipurpose resources. Participants can choose between harvesting whole trees for timber, harvesting leaves for fodder, or some combination of both. In each round, students choose the quantity of both resources to harvest for profit. Students complete the experiment with and without the PES program to enable comparison of decisions across management regimes. The outcome (usually complete forest removal) at the end of the game helps demonstrate the tragedy of the commons in the absence of conservation policies.

Keywords: Classroom, ecosystem services, experiments, natural resource management, payments for ecosystem services

Making Learning about Climate Change Fun and Interactive

Misti D. Sharp and Jada M. Thompson

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Posted online: April 22, 2021
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doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313689

Abstract: Climate change policy is a challenging subject to teach to undergraduates as it requires knowledge of a complex physical system (our planet) combined with an understanding of our global social-political-economic structures, which engender puzzling, yet, predictable behavior by participants. Further complicating this learning environment are the personal and social implications of choosing to combat climate change versus allowing others to address the problem (i.e., free-riding). To simulate the complex decision environment for climate change policy making, a “public good game” classroom experiment is a useful activity that allows students to make decisions regarding the provision of a public good (climate mitigation) while observing how their behavior and the behavior of others results in benefits (or costs) that are shared by all. In this paper, six public good games are played by students in an undergraduate environmental economics course with different parameterizations in each game simulating different aspects of climate change negotiations that can help explain why some policies related to climate change succeed while others fail. Special considerations for face-to-face versus online implementation are explored.

Keywords: Classroom, ecosystem services, experiments, natural resource management, payments for ecosystem services

Research Articles

What does the pandemic mean for experiential learning? Lessons from Latin America

Grace Melo, Dérgica Sanhueza, Sarahi Morales, and Luis Peña-Lévano

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Posted online: September 7, 2021
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313690

Abstract: This study presents survey evidence of Latin American college students’ perceptions of the switch from in-person instruction toward online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three key findings emerge that present a negative outlook for higher education in programs that rely heavily on experiential learning. First, undergraduate students are not fully satisfied with the quality of online education received during the pandemic, especially the quality of experiential learning-based courses. Second, students perceive lower teaching quality independently of the course type as the main factor affecting learning. Third, students who experienced adverse stress and other limitations during the pandemic expressed difficulties in learning and have concerns about their educational paths, although just a small group expressed intentions to switch careers. These findings may affect long-term education in agricultural and applied sciences and show that remote education has not been successfully addressed in many countries of this region.

Keywords: Agricultural sciences, educational plans, experiential learning, online education

Teaching and Educational Methods

Learning about Consumer Demand from Student Surveys

Scott M. Swinton

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Posted online: July 21, 2021
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   Excel Document

doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.313691

Abstract: Active learning can help students to grasp abstract economic concepts and become acquainted with quantitative data analysis. This paper describes how a survey of willingness to pay for pizza that is designed, executed, analyzed, and interpreted by students can motivate learning about consumer demand. The approach, which can be adapted to other consumption goods, builds understanding of consumer demand from the level of the individual to the market.

Keywords: Active learning, demand curve, student survey, teaching microeconomics, willingness to pay