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Four mechanisms that facilitate learning in economics

The New Zealand Curriculum describes several principles of effective pedagogy and offers a brief summary of pedagogical approaches that are applicable to all teaching, including teaching in economics.

These are:

  • Create a supportive learning environment.
  • Encourage reflective thought and action.
  • Enhance the relevance of new learning.
  • Facilitate shared learning.
  • Make connections to prior learning and experience.
  • Provide sufficient opportunities to learn.
  • Conceptualise teaching and learning as a cycle of inquiry.
  • Utilise e-learning opportunities.

Effective pedagogy in social sciences/tikanga ā iwi

For a much more comprehensive but user-friendly pedagogy guide, see Effective Pedagogy in Social Sciences/Tikanga ā Iwi Best Evidence Synthesis [BES].

The authors of this synthesis identify four 'mechanisms' that are at the heart of effective teaching and learning for diverse students in social sciences (including economics).

The general findings of this study along with the specific case studies provide evidence to help teachers explain and understand why and how their own students did or did not learn.

The four causal mechanisms by which student outcomes will be maximized are:

Make connections to students’ lives

Students’ participation and understanding is enhanced when teachers connect the content of learning to their lives. By making such connections teachers increase the relevance of the learning for their students and encourage them to find parallels between new learning and their own experiences.

For example, in economics:

  • use local current events or issues to illustrate and analyse economic concepts, for example scarcity
  • use students’ spending patterns to derive a demand curve
  • consider the different values and perspectives that different groups have when deciding whether a new aquatic centre/rugby stadium should be built
  • discuss the cultural factors that may influence a producers decisions
  • reinforce the relevance of economic theory and models with real life situations
  • help students to understand complex real world situations by using models to isolate specific aspects and then once this understanding is gained discuss the flow-on effects to progressively increase the complexity.

Align experiences to important outcomes

Valued learning will occur if learners have sufficient opportunities to engage in learning experiences that are designed to achieve the valued/desired outcome.

The effective economics teacher:

  • identifies what students already know
  • prioritises important outcomes by distinguishing new leaning from existing knowledge
  • aligns activities and resources to achieve these important outcomes
  • uses modelling
  • makes leaning purposes explicit
  • matches assessment to teaching
  • provides learning opportunities where students can revisit important content or processes.

For example, in economics, teachers may:

  • pretest student knowledge before the start of a learning episode about the different types of resources by watching a Country Calendar programme
  • provide multiple opportunities to construct demand curves using the information from demand schedules and written text
  • share learning intentions for each lesson with the students.

A particular focus for economic teachers might be helping students to learn to use appropriate economic language. For example:

  • mix and match activities
  • flashcards which could be tested by playing economic bingo
  • students write their own crosswords.

Build and sustain a learning community

Students learn best when they feel accepted, when they enjoy positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers, and when they are able to be an active, visible member of the learning community.

The effective economics teacher:

  • builds respectful relationships
  • creates a climate of collaboration and mutual endeavour
  • models inclusion and learning
  • promotes dialogue by engaging students in group or whole class discussions
  • delegates greater responsibility to learners for making decisions that relate to their learning.

For example in economics, teachers may:

  • facilitate an expert group activity where students learn about a particular factor that influences supply and then teach their peers about that factor
  • spark a class debate where students are given a value position related to the mining of our national parks
  • work with students to devise the assessment criteria for a particular formative assessment
  • help students to recognise that economic decisions by a government have flow-on effects that may be perceived differently by different groups.

Design experiences that interest students

Activities that are interesting build and sustain motivation for learning.

The effective economics teacher:

  • designs memorable learning episodes for students to stimulate their interest in important learning
  • shows sensitivity to the different ways that students are motivated
  • provides a variety of learning experiences and activities that give students more anchors for learning and subsequent recall.

For example, in economics, teachers may:

  • support students to work with a local business to research productivity, profitability and performance
  • design jigsaw, model making or role play activities to teach the Circular Flow Diagram
  • share stories of real life situations of how students spend their time to stimulate interest in a topic such as opportunity cost
  • set up classroom simulations that students can use to explore economic concepts.

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Last updated September 12, 2017



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