Educational: Opening remarks for the winter semester 2017/2018

My editorial

As the academic year starts, I start using my scientific blog for educational purposes, too. During the winter semester 2017/2018, I will be holding classes in English in the following subjects (curriculums): International Economic Transactions, Economic Policy, Principles of Organization and Management, Microeconomics, and Undergraduate Thesis Seminar. In order to assure as smooth a delivering of educational content as possible, I will be using my two, mutually mirroring scientific blogs, to find respectively at  https://discoversocialsciences.com or at https://researchsocialsci.blogspot.com . By ‘mirroring’ I mean that every update on one blog has a twin on the other, and the reason for mirroring is my willingness to be present in two environments: Blogger, and Word Press. My students can feel free to browse any content I am placing there, and the updates specifically addressed to your curriculum will be labelled as: ‘Educational’ followed by the name of the subject, followed by any additional information. If you need to contact me individually, here are my email addresses: kwasniewski@afm.edu.pl  or  krzysztof.wasniewski@gmail.com .

Curriculum ‘International Economic Transactions’

This specific update addresses specifically the curriculum labelled ‘International Economic Transactions’, at the graduate (Master’s) level of studies. In these classes, we will be studying various types of international economic relations, and to that extent, it will be very much a development on what you have already learnt in the classes of macroeconomic, international trade or economic policy, during your Undergraduate studies. Still, there is one particularity to this particular curriculum, namely the focus on the process of institutionalisation in international economic transactions. In these classes, we will be focusing mainly on those aspects of international economic relations, which are institutionalized in international agreements and treaties. In your earlier years of study, you have certainly acquired some knowledge about international organizations like World Trade Organization, European Union, ASEAN and others. You probably remember, as well, the institution of bilateral agreements and treaties between countries. In this class, we are going to focus on the ‘how?’ of those institutions: how do they come into being? what are the premises for the underlying negotiations? what type of phenomena hides behind particular dispositions in those agreements and treaties?

You will be graduating this subject with your individual research project. Your task, and the basis for your final grade in this curriculum, consists in preparing a written analysis of an international economic agreement or treaty. Of course, such an assignment gives rise to questions from your part: what’s the point? what should it look like? which particular agreement or treaty? how to do it? First things first, the point of doing it. The didactic goal of this particular curriculum is to develop your skills in the analysis of documents pertaining to international economic relations, for one, and your presentational skills, for two. I expect the work you will present to demonstrate that you can: a) search and analyse the relevant sources, documentary and others b) wrap your observations up into an intelligible document of your own.

Now, the way your work should look. What I basically expect from you is an essay, of at least 2500 words, with proper referencing of the sources you have used. I will be grading this essay on the grounds of three criteria: scope of research (weight 0,5 in the final grade), depth of analysis (weight 0,5), logic and grammar (acceptable or not). The scope of research means simply the number of sources you convincingly reference in your work. By convincingly referencing I mean, first of all, referencing at all, i.e. providing a proper bibliographic reference to any sources (google up ‘scientific referencing’ or ‘bibliographic referencing’ to know more). Convincing referencing means, in turn, that in the body text of your essay you explicitly refer to those sources, i.e. I can see a logical link between the contents of the source in question and your own writing. The basic source you will have to reference to will be the international agreement or treaty that you will be writing about. Convincingly referencing to the contents of this particular document gives you 1,5 points, or the Polish ‘pass’ grade, namely 3.0, weighed 0,5. If you expand your referencing up to 5 sources in total (books, articles, official policy statements etc.), you get 2,0 points (or 4,0 * 0,5), and referencing more than 5 sources gives you 2,5 (5,0 * 0,5). The depth of analysis means the understanding you demonstrate in your writing. I distinguish four basic levels regarding this criterion of grading. At the lowest level, your writing does not demonstrate any understanding at all. This is the case of those ‘I-will-copy-and-paste-from-Wikipedia’ essays. It is worth a fail, and disqualifies your whole work, even if your reference list looks impressive. I give the ‘fail’ grade to plagiarisms, as well. The basic level of demonstrable understanding, worth 1,5 points (3,0 * 0,5) is an essay, where you describe correctly the economic context of the agreement (treaty) you are working with, but you do not articulate it into an argumentation with a hypothesis. You can get 2,0 points (4,0 * 0,5) if you present an articulate argumentation, but without clear conclusion. Finally, if the flow of logic in your essay convincingly leads to an explicitly formulated conclusion, you get 2,5 (5,0 * 0,5).

Now, a remark as for logic and grammar. As many of my students come from Ukraine, Russia, or other countries in the East, the temptation is strong to Google translate or Yandex translate texts in your native tongue. Still, keep in mind two things. Firstly, automatic translators translate words, not syntax. The syntax used in Russian or Ukrainian, for example, is very different from the English one, especially in the formal register. If you Yandex translate a document, the raw result in English is very likely to be utter gibberish and will disqualify your work for the reason of unacceptable grammar. Besides, I can read Cyrillic, and if I trace back the source document of your translation, we are in the fairy tale of plagiarism, and this is a tale where really bad monsters dwell. One of them is called ‘Disciplinary Procedure with The Dean’.

And so we pass to the ‘how?’. You can choose any international agreement or treaty to work with, as long as it pertains to economic relations between countries. You can be smart, at this point, and take on studying more than one agreement or treaty. Each of those agreements will count as a separate source and will pump up your scope of research. Feel the blues? If you don’t feel like being smart, I can assign you a particular agreement to work with. Just ask. As for the way of working with those sources, you will be using, of course, the content delivered in my classes. As for now, I am giving you the following hints. Firstly, do your research. Go to Google Scholar , Microsoft Academic Research  or to the Social Sciences Research Network and find publications connected to the agreement (treaty) you are working with. Secondly, keep it close to real life. Imagine real situations in business, covered by the scope of the agreement at hand. Imagine how can the enforcement of this agreement change those situations.

Now, I am listing, here below, the fundamental pieces of theory – in other words, the contents of the lecture – you will be smart to google up (or bing up, whatever) and which will make the backbone of our in-class activity:

Fundamental concepts: international agreement, international treaty, signature of an agreement, ratification of a treaty, bilateral and multilateral agreements (treaties), scope (hypothesis) of a legal norm, disposition of a legal norm, sanction of a legal norm, balance of payments (and related concepts), political system, constitutional order, barriers to trade, trade facilitation.

Analytical methods: basic analytical tools of economics, micro and macro.

Typical scopes of international economic agreements and treaties: free trade, selective removal of barriers to trade, facilitation of investment, free flow of capital and people.

Typical institutional forms of international economic cooperation: agreements, treaties, joint ventures and joint operations, international organizations, international agencies.

Case studies (this is an indicative list, still you can use those links, download those documents, and you can use them for your projects): WTO Establishing Marakesh Agreement , GATT 1947, GATT 1994, WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, Egypt – EFTA Free Trade Agreement, China – Nigeria Bilateral Investment Treaty, and the Charter of The Shanghai Cooperation Organization.     

This is it as for the opening update. See you in class. Now, I pass to sketch the landscape for other curriculums.

Curriculums: ‘Microeconomics’ and ‘Principles of Organization and Management’

The curriculums ‘Microeconomics’ and ‘Principles of Organization and Management’ are both addressed to students in the first year of undergraduate studies. I teach those two subjects to the same group of students, and I am trying to make as much meaningful connection between the two as possible. So, my basic didactic goal in these two curriculums is to give you fundamental analytical skills for preparing a decent business plan, period. My understanding of what a business plan is corresponds to quite broad a range of situations. It can be a business plan strictly spoken: you want to start a business, you go to a bank for a loan, and they ask you to present a business plan. Besides this basic version of events, others are possible. You start some kind of social action, you will need to make it sustainable in financial terms, and so you will need some kind of plan as for how to make capital come to your project and stay there. You work in a corporation, and you can get a promotion if you present a convincing plan, together with a budget, for a project built around an idea of yours. These are all situations, which I refer to when I say ‘business plan’. Any student wants to pass their exams, rather than fail at them, and it is a natural thing that you try to predict the expectations of your professor, me in the occurrence. So, here they are, my expectations: demonstrate your skills in building a business plan.

The curriculum of ‘Microeconomics’ regards the way markets and businesses work, whilst in the path of ‘The Principles of Organization and Management’ we will study the way organizations work and what you can possibly do about it. I am giving, here below, the formal contents of both courses, i.e. the list of theoretical concepts we will be working with this semester. So, the formal contents of ‘Microeconomics’ are the following:

Fundamental concepts of microeconomics: economic good, private goods, public goods, utility, substitute goods, complementary goods, opportunity cost (alternative cost), economic profit, market, capital, assets, equity, debt, fixed assets, circulating assets, value added.

Analytical methods: marginal value, elasticity, isoquant (indifference curve), balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flow, rate of return on investment, net present value, fundamentals of calculus and of algebra.

Theory of markets: demand, supply, function/curve/law of demand, function/curve/law of supply, perfect competition, Marshallian equilibrium, equilibrium price, equilibrium product, imperfect competition, monopoly, oligopoly, monopolistic competition.

Theory of production: production factors, production function, costs of production, fixed costs, variable costs, total cost, average cost, marginal cost.

Institutional forms of doing business: individual (private) business, partnerships, companies, corporations, cooperatives, non-profit organisations.

Financial markets: money, credit and the supply of money, borrowing capacity, credit risk, interest rate, discount rate, market of securities and types of securities, fundamentals of financial investment, financial risk.

Now, I pass to the contents of the ‘Principles of Organization and Management’:

Fundamental concepts: organization, social structure, hierarchy, behaviour, social communication, goals.

Analytical methods: mathematical probability, sequence and timeline, mathematical sets, goal setting, scenarios.

Theory of organizations: social structures and organizations, types of organizations, process and structure inside an organization.

Theory of communication: media of communication in management, the basic pattern of communication (message > coding > medium > decoding > feedback).

Hierarchy building: types of hierarchies, orders and their formulation, types of orders (directive, semi-directive, non-directive), enforcement of orders.

Network building: negotiating and contracting, stable and unstable networks, the use of network-type structures.

Uncertainty and risk: types of risk, evaluation of risk, operational risk, financial risk, systemic risk.

Basic functions of management: organizing, marketing, human resource management, finance and investment, production.

Good, now that you know the contents of the course, the next question is ‘where should we take all that stuff from?’, or the question about your resources. Firstly, you can try and participate in those strange gatherings we will have at the university. They are called ‘classes’, ‘lectures’ (PL: wykład) or ‘workshops’ (PL: ćwiczenia) in your schedule and sometimes they are useful. Secondly, arm yourself with textbooks. Anything that has ‘Microeconomics’ or even just ‘Economics’ on its cover will be OK for the course of microeconomics, the same holding for management (i.e. any textbook with ‘Management’ on the cover will do). Thirdly, I will do my best to deliver educational content on this blog. Finally, you can smartly use online resources. Wikipedia is just fine: feel free to use it. Search by those keywords I have just given as the formal contents of those two curriculums.

Now, assessment and evaluation. Both curriculums – ‘Microeconomics’ and ‘Principles of Organization and Management’ – end up with an exam. Both exams will consist of two parts: test questions and essay. The scope of each exam will correspond to the same formal contents of each course, which I have just specified. I practice so-called ‘pre-exams’: they are risk-free attempts at the final exam. They have the same contents and the same requirements as the final exam, but you cannot fail, i.e. if you fail at them, the fail grade is not official: you just take the final, formal exam. If, at the pre-exam, you have the very good grade (5,0), you are just done with me for this semester and you have this grade as your final exam grade. If, on the other hand, at the pre-exam you get pass (3,0), or good (4,0), or something in between, like 3,5 or 4,5, you can keep this grade kind of in reserve and try your luck at the regular final exam. I schedule the pre-exams so as to have them at the penultimate (i.e. the one before the last) lecture in each curriculum. That will be January 10th 2018 as regards ‘Principles of Organization and Management’, and January 17th 2018 as for ‘Microeconomics’. In the last lecture of each curriculum, I will discuss the results and contents of the pre-exam.

In the course of ‘Microeconomics’, besides the lectures, you also have workshops (PL: ćwiczenia) with me. They are supposed to be training in the usage of microeconomic theory. Your assessment regarding workshops is based on your activity, which, this semester, I am evaluating on the grounds of your performance in presenting solutions to complex economic problems. What kind of problems, will you ask? Here it comes, an example, I mean. Look outside, through a window, or just look around you in the street. What kind of economic phenomena can change that urban landscape you see? How those changes are likely to occur? You study this problem, you present a complex answer to it in workshops, taking care of using meaningfully that microeconomic theory, and you can have very good for workshops. I will give you such problems to solve in class, on an ad hoc basis, the kind ‘I ask and you respond on the spot’. I will give you such complex mindfucks on this blog, as well, and, finally, you can invent those problems by yourselves. I will report in my notes each case of presenting in class a solution to a complex economic problem, and the student who does it will have points for their final credit in workshops. If you want to have very good (5,0) in workshop credit, solve and present one really complex problem, like the one I have just phrased, or achieve at least 3 successful solutions of ad hoc problems given in class. Each student has to achieve at least a partial solution to a complex problem, or one solution to a simple problem given in class, in order to be credited with a pass (3,0) for workshops. Cases in between will be credited at 3.5, 4.0, or 4.5, accordingly to the demonstrated performance.

Curriculum ‘Undergraduate Thesis Seminar’

Now, I am addressing the students of third year in Undergraduate studies, who chose me as their scientific supervisor and tutor for the writing of their Undergraduate thesis. This curriculum is the most open and the least formal of all, and yet I find it useful to provide some basic principles we will be following. We have two semesters for working together. The end game of this work is your Undergraduate thesis, properly written, positively reviewed, and backed by a successfully passed Undergraduate final exam. This curriculum is supposed to lead you towards this complex goal. These two semesters are slightly distinct, and it is reflected in the assessment procedure. The winter semester ends up, for you, with a dummy credit (i.e. credit or refusal of credit, PL: ZAL <> NZAL). It means you have to do some minimum work in order to consider you eligible for taking the same curriculum in the summer semester 2018. The base for that dummy credit in winter will be the completion of at least 4 reviews of scientific sources suitable for your topic of research. They can be articles or books, but they have to be 4 distinct bibliographic resources thoroughly reviewed. By review, I mean, first of all, a summary of the contents, and secondly, a personal position, from your part, on the points you judge the most important. The purpose of the whole exercise is to develop your skills in working with literature, which is fundamental in the writing of your thesis. In the summer semester 2018, you will be writing your thesis properly spoken, and you will get a scalable credit (PL: ZAO), from 2,0 to 5,0. If you want to get 5,0 (very good) in that second semester, you have to finish writing your thesis, and to convince me, in class, that you can defend it in your Undergraduate final exam, and all that before the end of the summer exam session, i.e. before June 25th, 2018. I think it could be a smart idea to use this blog as a kind of knowledge-bank for your whole group. Just follow along and we will figure something out together.

Curriculum ‘Economic Policy’

Finally, I am addressing the students of 3rd year in Undergraduate studies, regarding the curriculum of ‘Economic Policy’. This is one of your final courses, and it is an integrative one, i.e. we will be combining theory from many fields (mostly economics, but not only). From this point of view, it will be a pre-seminar for you. The formal contents of the course are the following:

Fundamental concepts: you are expected to have a good grasp of economics (mostly macro, but you can do with some micro as well), political sciences and sociology.

Analytical methods: revise your economics and your maths; balance sheets, functions, probabilities and equations will just pop up from under every stone on this path.

Political systems: political players, constitutional orders and partisan orders

Monetary policy: money and monetary systems; the institutional frame for the supply of money; central banks and commercial banks; stability of the monetary system; interest rates; expansionary, restrictive, and neutral monetary policy; exchange rate and the Mundell – Fleming model.

Fiscal policy: the impact of public expenditures and taxes on the economy; the public sector, its internal structure, and its financing; the budget of the government; the distinction between the primary and the structural fiscal balance; automatic stabilizers; public debt and its financing; expansionary, restrictive, and neutral fiscal policy.

Institutional policy: the way governments can use law to influence business and markets; restrictive and liberal legal regimes;

You graduate this course with an essay, of at least 2500 words, which will demonstrate your grasp of the theory I have just specified here-above. As this is an integrative course, you will have to use many resources. There are few textbooks about economic policy in general, and so you are the most likely to compile a small library of your own. Online resources are just fine. I will use this blog to update you, from my part. This course is very much like the work of a journalist: I expect you to get s*** done rather than just learn theory. Do your homework and do your research, write your essay, send it to me via email, improve it according to my remarks, and get rid of me before the exam session comes in winter: this is the drift to follow.

This is all, folks. See you all in class.

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