Sources of Students’ Misconceptions in Economics, pp. 2 of 15

Students’ prior knowledge

As students would have participated in economic activities such as making purchases and saving from their childhood days, they may have formed personal interpretations of the functioning of the economy from such experiences. Hence, before students begin their economics course in school, they have possibly already developed naïve beliefs and preconceptions related to the subject matter of economics.  Their conceptions might be considered as alternative conceptions, or experience-based explanations constructed by learners to make a range of natural phenomena and objects intelligible. These mental frameworks are loose and grounded in students’ common sense ideas about how the world works, with an internal consistency which makes students resistant to change and predisposed to making misconceptions in economics.

That students can develop misconceptions arising from lay conceptions and narrow perspectives is illustrated in the findings below by Tang (2003) on how commencing students in economics in the Queensland University of Technology understand the fundamental economic concept of allocative efficiency after attending the introductory economics course for two semesters. Table A shows the analysis of students’ answers to a structured question on a competitive poultry market which has been taken over by one firm. The answers were taken from the final examination at the end of their first year in university.  The observations by Tang suggest that students’ preconceived erroneous notions had persisted despite one year of formal coursework in economics for 67.5% of the students.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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