College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Three Essays in Economics Education: An Overview of the Research and Two Studies on the Effectiveness of Alternative Teaching Methods and the Influence of Ethics in the Classroom on Economics Knowledge and Political Philosophy

Ninos Malek

Major Professor: Donald Boudreaux

Committee Members: Peter Boettke, Sarah Nutter, School of Management

Enterprise Hall, 318
April 28, 2010, 05:00 AM to 07:00 AM


Economics education has been a topic of research interest to many economists. In addition, the philosophical and ethical content of economics and its role in economics education has been an issue of discussion. Chapter 1 of my dissertation addresses what topics should be ignored in a principles of microeconomics class, what the goal of the principles class should be, a preferred philosophical paradigm for the introductory class, the effectiveness of online classes compared to traditional classes, and the topics that should be covered in a principles class. Research on alternative teaching methods versus the standard “chalk and talk” lecture has been conducted with mixed reviews. Students have different learning styles and the argument that a standard lecture-style of teaching will prove ineffective to many students is examined. Chapter 2 surveys the economics education literature and then explores the effectiveness of alternative teaching methods (simulations, group activities, and audio-visual aids) compared to a standard lecture/textbook only method of teaching. My findings show that including alternative teaching methods as a complement to a standard lecture-based teaching method (“chalk and talk”) does not significantly improve student learning as measured by a comparison of pre-tests and post-tests on selected topics. Ethics and normative economic analysis is arguably outside the proper domain of economics education. Thus, the mainstream view is that a “scientific” and positivist philosophy is the only appropriate teaching methodology in economics. Chapter 3 examines the effects of including normative economics and ethical considerations in the classroom on student political philosophy and on objective economics learning. Statistical analysis shows no significant improvement in learning objective economics knowledge. Moreover, while students became more market-oriented (Libertarian) after being exposed to traditional positive economics, the higher increase in the scores of those students who were in the classes where normative materials were used  (i.e., scores becoming more market-oriented or Libertarian) was significant as measured on one assessment of political philosophy but not on the another assessment used.

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