Sources of Students’ Misconceptions in Economics, pp. 6 of 15

Students’ perceptions of economics

The way students go about learning a subject is likely influenced by their beliefs and ideas of how to learn it; students’ mental models of what economics is about and their perceptions of the objectives and limitations of economics may directly impact how they learn economics. For example, a student who sees the study of economics as accumulating a body of knowledge may learn economics by memorizing material which he may not have fully understood. Economics, as a science of choice, revolves around decision making of economic agents who weigh between costs and benefits, a key idea that many students fail to grasp. That tools of analysis, economic models and laws may be used to analyze economic activities in almost all sectors of the economy like transport, health, business, and education may be bewildering to the novice.  The use of assumptions and awareness of limitations of analysis based on these assumptions can also baffle learners. Summarily, the complexity of subject matter and procedures in economics can be challenging to students.

In the preliminary study by Shanahan and Meyer (2001) to throw light on the learning process of economics students, insights from findings suggest that on entry to university, students show considerable variation in their perceptions of what economics is and what economists do and that such variations may explain variations in students’ results. Before the start of formal teaching in 1998, 894 incoming first-year students of the University of South Australia were asked to respond to statements in terms of their most recent school experiences, and where possible, in the context of studying economics. There were four categories of statements. Of interest to our study is the category on what students perceive economists do. The mean of the responses to each statement in this category is given in brackets, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents strongly disagree, 3, neutral and 5 strongly agree.

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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