Editorial, Volume 2 Issue 1
Peter Davies and Carol Johnston
The eminent psychologist B. F. Skinner once wrote that "It has often been remarked that an educated man (sic) has probably forgotten most of the facts he acquired in school and university. Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten" New Scientist 31st May 1964 p.484. The second issue of the International Review of Economics Education comprises five quite distinct papers each of which illustrates the general idea that it is important to consider how to teach. Our focus should be on how and what students learn not simply on what we teach. It is this last that, in the past, has often been the major concern of academics. There is a renewed emphasis in the tertiary sector on quality of teaching and the objective of lifelong learning and a consequent shift in focus to include consideration of the process of learning. Higher education academics who reflect on their teaching practice and instil in their students intellectual excitement and an understanding of the practical usefulness of economics contribute in a significant manner to economics education in the sense that Skinner articulated.
In this edition of the Review the five papers raise issues and illustrate a range of approaches that focus on the 'How' of economics education. Bachan and Reilly present an analysis of the results of 'A' Level economics examinations in the UK. These data are of interest for a number of reasons. They bear on the question of examination standards. Consistency in standards is of prime interest to economists studying the outputs of schooling and the incentives that examinations provide. They are also of interest to admissions tutors in universities. Worries about the effect of the difficulty of economics at school level on enrolment in the subject in schools and universities have been raised before. These results add some fuel to that fire.
Lim explores the cognitive opportunities and limitations of information and communication technologies (ICT) in learning and teaching in Introductory Economics. He argues for organisation and planning to ensure that there is congruency between ICT components of the subject and non-ICT components. It is only through the establishment of this congruency that students are likely to develop the ability to see the world though an 'economics lens'.
Guest argues that the Taylor-Romer Model of macroeconomic stabilisation provides a more realistic and simpler analysis than the traditional IS-LM-AS model. He proposes an adaptation of the presentation of the Taylor-Romer model to facilitate more effective teaching. In so doing he draws attention to the interplay between developments in the subject and the way in which those developments are represented.
Following on from an earlier article in which they argued the case for a forecasting subject in the economics curriculum Loomis and Cox outline the pedagogical principles on which such a subject could be founded. They outline five teaching principles that will assist in ensuring a successful economic forecasting subject. These include real world relevance, hands on experience and calculation, critical thinking and the use of graphical techniques.
The role of experiments in learning and teaching economics has been attracting increasing attention, and rightly so. Hazlett presents an example of an experiment that focuses on students' understanding of money. Experiments of this kind often appear expensive in terms of the time they take to run. A question they prompt is whether the quality of learning that they promote leads to a deeper understanding than might be expected from a didactic presentation of the same material. There are good reasons for expecting experiments of this kind to promote a deeper understanding. More empirical evidence than can aid a systematic answer to this question would be very welcome.