In a plenary session on the first full day of events at SXSWedu, Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, focused participants on meeting the needs of every learner we touch. The crowd cheered when she encouraged us to understand that people think differently and we need to bridge the gap between the field and academics. “A lot of my work has been observation. Observation is a part of science.” She went on to say, “When I learned how my visual thinking was different from verbal thinking, it gave me insight into how different people’s brains approach problem solving. If I don’t have a picture, I don’t have a thought.” Drawing from her observations in the field, she cited her exposure to different experiences that created opportunities that some labeled students aren’t getting to. "How did I find my passion? I was exposed to it." She showed real concern for obstacles education creates for students, like a student who was denied taking a biology class that she really wanted to take because she wasn’t able to first pass her algebra class.
The talk really left me thinking—what are we trying to accomplish in the economics classroom? Are we preparing materials for different kinds of thinkers as we create our lessons? Are there enough visuals to encourage the visual learners and enough content to support the language-based thinkers? And, are we exposing students to enough economics to get them interested in the field?