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Teaching economics - Why examples should precede theory

Dissertation, Teaching economics - Why examples should precede theory, Manolis Anastopoulos, Middlesex University.

5.2.2 Analysis of researching questions

5.2.2.2 The need to understand economics and the effectiveness of the traditional teaching methods of the Economic theory.

The economic courses in Greek secondary education are taught at clearly introductory level with the lesson ‘Principles of Economics’ in the first grade of Senior High school and the lesson ‘Principles of the Economi Theory’ as an optional lesson[1] , with 2 hours per week  in the third grade  of Senior High school. As Whitehead & Makridou-Bousiou (2002:33) mention in their book, ‘Studies express scepticism about the potential that a lesson of few hours has to produce a satisfactory level of economics education.’

It could be then, that only two hours of teaching the economic theory per week constitute an important factor for the level of students’ understanding of economics. But is this the only one?

An additional, according to our opinion, problem in understanding economics is –the also observed in the adult population- that of ‘misunderstanding’ economic terms such as that of ‘inflation’ or ‘cost’. Additionally, given the everyday nature of economics discussions, we observed there is an attempt made by a lot of people to ‘conceal’ the ‘I don’t know’ or the ‘I’m not sure.’

It is a characteristic example that of students, who after having been taught the theory of economics for a year and with marks between 15-20, answered our question, ‘Do you believe that a substantial reduction in the prices of CDs would result in the increase of the quantity of CDs you would wish to buy? (that is if you like music and buy CDs?with NO at a percentage of 27%.

In our question towards the students, but also our fellow-teachers, with regard to ‘How important do you consider it is nowadays to understand economics and also to have an opinion on it?’ the overwhelming majority of 92% answered that YES, they do consider the existence of knowledge of economics important.

The above mentioned opinion also shared colleagues - teachers, stressing the fact that the birth and expansion of globalisation made the need for knowledge of economics imperative. With regard to the role played by economics to globalisation, Albanis (1998:198,199), characteristically mentions that, ‘Nowadays, economics is globalized, that means it is organised functionally, as a single unit, in worldwide scale. As for the perception and action of economics subjects, they are constantly becoming more and more multinational.’  The above remark, in our opinion supports the ‘need’ for knowledge of economics for people living in today’s status of globalisation.

On the one hand then, there is total recognition of the need for knowledge of economics and, on the other, 72% of those asked replied that they do not consider the traditional teaching methods effective for understanding economics  (for example: monologue, writing on the board, etc.) 

TABLE 5.2.2.2:   The need to understand economics (knowledge of economics) and the effectiveness of

the traditional teaching methods of the Economic theory

 

[1]  Fortunately for the economic theory, it could never be considered that, when a well known subject becomes unfashionable, then it is incorporated into educational system as compulsory – Peter Drucker.

Teaching Economics - Why Examples Should Precede Theory | Video

In this video you will see the summary of our approach namely “ Why examples should precede theory in Teaching Economics” that (as we believe) will enable the conveying of economic knowledge to be accomplished through the cooperation with students.

This project began, on the one hand, due to the researcher’s belief in everyone’s potential and right to obtain knowledge and, on the other, due to the forever increasing "need" of today's society for the knowledge of Economics.

It was determined  as an aim to investigate how effective a teaching method of the theory of economics in which "the example would precede the theory"would be.

Research methods and tools

The research was based on the total strength which is created by the combined and parallel use of different research methods and tools.

With the identity of the insider-researcher, due to my profession as a teacher, I conducted an action research in the workplace of schools and tutorial schools, with both qualitative and quantitative approaches, so that there would be width and depth in this research.

A variety of research tools, such as bibliography, observation, interviews and questionnaires –whose quantity data were statistically  analyzed using the programme  SPSS, were used to collect data.

The processing of the collected  data came up with three important results among others. Firstly, the awareness  of the participant students for the ‘need’ for a knowledge of economics. Secondly, their wish for the use of generally different teaching methods especially in the course of the theory of economics. Thirdly, their preference in the position of the example during teaching economics, namely their expressed preference in "the example preceding the theory".

Examples from "everyday" life

In addition, research showed the students’ preference  to examples taken from "everyday life", which due to their realism, gain larger importance in their role as motive for the activation of students’ interest in economics.

We would like to believe that with the approach we have analyzed, that is "The example preceding the theory", we will participate in conveying the knowledge of economics more effectively.

Revelation of the Theory

Based on our approach, conveying knowledge will be accomplished with the cooperation of students. The result of this joint effort will be the "revelation" of the theory, after we have previously analyzed everyday examples of behavior of Economics.

Teaching Economic Theory “Why examples should precede theory”

6.3 Epilogue

In conclusion, under no circumstances do we want to claim that the answer to the quest for the ‘innovative’ element is our approach only. However, the percentage of 76% who answered that they prefer the example to precede theory satisfies us in our attempt to ‘locate’ supplementary teaching methods for the economic theory, the adoption of which will play a role in the ‘acquisition’ of knowledge of economics - an essential knowledge - as it was characterized by the majority of those asked.

We believe that with the suggested approach the conveying of economic knowledge will be accomplished through cooperation with students. This cooperation will bring in the ‘revelation’ of the theory after having firstly analyzed examples of our everyday economic behavior.

 In this way, we believe that among other things, we will have avoided dogmatic teaching by embracing the principles of the Socratic Method[1] which the great ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470-339 B.C.) used in an attempt not to transmit ‘ready made’ knowledge but to ‘reveal’ the knowledge through the cooperation and dialogue with the others.

Last but not least, we would like to express the hope that our approach ‘Teaching Economics-Why Examples Should Precede Theory’, on the one hand, will be given attention by fellow economics teachers and those who have to do with the general area of education and, on the other hand, that it will become the ‘incentive’ for further research in the field, resulting hopefully in the satisfaction of the students’ desire for a higher level of economic education.    

[1] The Great philosopher argued that just like the midwife, he helped his interlocutor to ‘give birth’ to the answers by asking him those questions that would be able to extract his reply.

Emmanouil Sp. Anastopoulos, Dissertation, Middlesex University

Teaching Economic Theory “Why examples should precede theory”