USING DISCUSSION TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC KNOWLEDGE
Keywords:active learning, economic knowledge, undergraduate economics
This paper offers a response to a paradox in the literature on economics education. The paradox is that economic knowledge has been found to be sensitive to an individual’s ethical, moral, and political convictions. I hypothesize that the source of this paradox is the divergence between the learning of economics and its application outside the classroom. Often the teaching and assessment of economic knowledge focuses on the technical dimensions of our discipline. This begins with introducing students to theory in principles courses and continues as the subject becomes more mathematically rigorous. Outside the classroom, the more subjective elements of economics matter tremendously. From the minimum wage to climate policy, the application of economic knowledge is steeped in normative considerations. In response to the divergence between the learning and application of economics, the normative and technical sides of economics ought to be taught in tandem. In this paper, ways to use discussion to bridge the gap between these two branches of economic knowledge is presented. The merits and limitations of this technique are considered. For the reader interested in trying this technique, a sample selection of prompts that have been used in principles courses is provided. Ultimately, the goal of teaching is to increase students’ economic knowledge. The argument is made that open-ended discussion, coupled with lecture, is an effective way to achieve this end.
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