Teaching economic theory

Teaching Economic Theory “Why examples should precede theory”

Emmanouil Sp. Anastopoulos, Dissertation, Teaching Economic Theory "Why examples should precede theory", Middlesex University.



The fact that there are students and listeners who show less ‘interest’ with regard to what they are listening to in a lecture hall or classroom compared to other listeners, is a common enough phenomenon. The question ‘of what interest is that to me?’ is often heard.

In other words, there are reasons why part of an audience is ‘activated’ (as if someone touches those sensitive cords or satisfies certain needs), while at the same time the same reasons or lack of other reasons neutralize the rest of the listeners or just make no difference to them at all.

A speaker-teacher’s personality undoubtedly constitutes one of the most basic reasons, since it has to contain many other principles of the efficient public speaker, Lucas (2004:7-8) apart from the leader’s physique. Among other factors which affect his efficiency as a speaker are:

  • Good thought organization according to a logical and chronological order. (Organizing the thoughts logically)
  • Adapting what we want to pass on the needs of the audience at any given time. (Tailoring the message to the audience)
  • Careful observation of listener’s reactions.

(Adapting to listener feedback)

In a more analytical approach, we would be able to refer to the use of different ‘teaching methods’ so as the message we convey can become part of the maximum possible number of listeners. As is claimed in his book, Bruner’s (1960:11-16), ‘We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development (ibid:33).’

Although it is neither our purpose to claim that any given subject should necessarily be of interest to any person, since in such a case we would be ignoring the ‘individuality’ of people, nor of course to refer top the principles of teaching themselves, we believe it would be useful to present the most important principle, that of providing motives in order to achieve personal goals, Byars & Rue (2003:195).

However, for the sense of motive to work in the researched issue, students should firstly understand in what way what they learn-economics lessons- are related and applied (become useful) in their everyday lives. Otherwise, they will regard the news-message as something ‘alien’ to their interests.

At this point ‘steps in’ the teacher’s ability to support what he wants to effectively pass on, Lucas (2004:175), ‘Among others with the use of examples, statistics and testimony.’

Undoubtedly, the components of the above ‘supporting material’ act in cooperation and therefore have a joint usefulness. Nevertheless, the use of examples (of a concise or extended type or even hypothetical ones), is considered of use even on its own. The example by itself ‘shortens’ the distance between theory and action, allows the ‘faraway’ to become ‘near’, and when it refers to our everyday activities then it nullifies the ‘of what use is that to me’ and replaces it with the ‘I really do experience this daily’.

Finally we believe that through this quality it has, the example activates people who were considered ‘indifferent’ to certain subjects or renderings, as in the case we are examining, renderings from the field of economics the knowledge, understanding and analysis of which, is considered extremely important nowadays.

The above thoughts have led to the writing of this project in which the effort is focused on the chronological order of the example in relation with the theory. Namely, example should precede the theory when teaching economics.

Dissertation, Teaching Economic Theory "Why examples should precede theory", Emmanouil Sp. Anastopoulos, Middlesex University.

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