Active Learning Instruments for Teaching Under-graduate Economics Concepts

by Helen Dabb, Mary Hedges, Maureen Janett, and Geoff Perry from Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand and Alina Zapalska and Dallas Brozik from Division of Finance and Economics, Marshall University

Contact: Mary Hedges
Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
mary.hedges@aut.ac.nz
Published November 2002

This case study presents four active learning techniques that can be used to supplement the economics lecture. It is generally agreed that traditional patterns of instruction may not be sufficient in helping students learn how to think critically and develop good interpersonal skills. Undergraduate instruction in economics has been largely a passive experience. Currently, instructors are more frequently applying active and collaborative learning techniques to help students learn to work and think through problems together.

We have used this classroom experiments in our teaching practice to improve effectiveness in undergraduate economics courses. The first experiment illustrates a kinaesthetic approach to teaching the concept of diminishing returns with the use of tennis balls and buckets. This experiment can also be extended to aid the teaching of production, costs and growth. The second experiment presents an activity that allows students to understand why oligopolies are likely to collaborate or form a cartel. Experiment three demonstrates changes in money supply. Experiment four is used to let students participate in a game that simulates an auction in which players bid for raw materials to create menus that can be sold to generate a profit. This single-period game illustrates the complexities of decision making in dynamic environment.

Active group involvement in the experiments is one key to stimulating critical thinking. The authors hope that some of the techniques and lessons presented will be adopted to suit personal style and course objectives to create positive outcomes in the classroom.

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