One notable thing about Professor Tabakis’ ‘Microeconomics II’ course was that although it was intended for Ph.D. students, half of the attendees were actually studying at Master’s level. The professor confessed that he was “a bit afraid” at the beginning by the make-up of the class, as the course required quite advanced mathematical knowledge. However, it turned out to be “no problem.” Professor Tabakis reminded us that “in a quantitative class, the difference in mathematical background among students can be challenging. Nevertheless, students in the class did very well.”
Why Game Theory?
Quite different from other Microeconomics classes, Professor Tabakis employed game theory throughout the whole semester. He stressed the significance of game theory by pointing out that it “has a lot of application in a myriad of fields, such as international trade, labor economics and political sciences. Once you know game theory, you can do strategic thinking in everyday life and even predict the world.”
Theory and Real-world Application Always Go Together
In a nutshell, Professor Tabakis’ pedagogical approach for Ph.D. course can be condensed into two pillars: 1) Finding the balance between teaching theory and practicing real-world applications; and 2) Focusing on intuition behind theory.
During class, the professor introduced not only the concept of game theory but also provided real-life examples from recently published papers. He believes that the most important discipline for Ph.D. students is to think about how to connect theory to real research process, as these students are the researchers of the future and the ones who will lead academia onto new paths. This view is part of the professor’s mission to assist Ph.D students in becoming better researchers.
Digging into Intuition to Better Grasp Theory
Similarly, the professor tried his best to make students understand the intuition that lies behind a theory. By asking questions like “What is the intuition behind the result?” and “Why does this theory intuitively make sense?,” he provided students with much food for thought. Students greatly enjoyed this approach in the sense that it helped them understand theory more clearly.
How to Make Sure Everyone Is at the Board
The class was scheduled in the evening. Some students came after work and the quantitative materials were difficult. What the professor did in this challenging environment was to encourage active class participation by taking advantage of the small size of the group.
First, Professor Tabakis asked students many questions to motivate them to speak up. More specifically, he invited them to stand in front of the whiteboard and asked them to prove things. “Since it was an evening class, it was important to make sure that everyone is at the board. When students came to the board and tried to solve the problems that had been assigned, they were able to develop presentation skills as well as their capacities for problem-solving,” the professor said.
1:1 Interaction with Students
Professor Tabakis is always willing to listen to students’ voices. He believes that knowing what students think is crucial in the way that it gives him worthwhile insight, explaining that “by interacting with students, I was able to discover what is problematic and what is bothering them. Based on their comments, I try to revise the course plan or course materials for the next term.” On top of that, he often had 1:1 meetings with students. During these individual sessions, he helped Ph.D. students find their thesis topics and further guided them to make connections between what they had learned and what they were doing in class.
Good Lecture: Providing Something Valuable for All Students
Master’s students are future policy makers, and Ph.D. students are future researchers. Although the goals for Master and Ph.D. courses differ somewhat, Professor Tabakis has the same goal in all of his classes. “My mission,” he said, “is to make students interested in and be able to follow the subject, ultimately ensuring that they all learn something valuable.”