Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Read the article ?Are Economics High School Teachers the Same as Other Social Studies Teachers. ?Summarize the article by critically analyzing the article for classroom purposes and appli | WriteDen

Read the article ?Are Economics High School Teachers the Same as Other Social Studies Teachers. ?Summarize the article by critically analyzing the article for classroom purposes and appli

Read the article  Are Economics High School Teachers the Same as Other Social Studies Teachers.  Summarize the article by critically analyzing the article for classroom purposes and application. 

M a r c h 2 0 0 9 71

Are High School Economics Teachers the Same as Other Social Studies Teachers? The Results of a National Survey Mark C. Schug, David A. Dieterle, and J.R. Clark

Economics is included, at least to • some extent, in the educational stan- dards of all states.

Seventeen states require students to • take an economics course as a high school graduation requirement (up from 14 in 2004 and 13 in 1998).

Twenty-three states require the test-• ing of student knowledge in econom- ics, two fewer than in 2004.

Personal finance, the application of eco- nomics to household decision-making, appears to be of growing importance. The same NCEE survey found that:

Courses in personal finance are now • included, at least to some extent, in the educational standards of 40 states (up from 34 in 2004 and 21 in 1998).

Twenty-eight states (up from 20 in • 2004 and 14 in 1998) now require these standards to be implemented.

Seven states require students to take • a personal finance course as a high school graduation requirement (up from six in 2004 and one in 1998).

Nine states require the testing of stu-•

dent knowledge in personal finance (up from eight states in 2004 and one in 1998).

Previous studies have focused on how well students are learning economics, how teachers are trained, and other outcomes associated with improved understanding of economics.2 However, almost nothing is reported in the research literature on economics teachers’ views of the curricu- lum, how they teach their subject, their views on public issues and professional development. To improve our under- standing of the teaching of economics we surveyed 300 economics teachers as

part of a larger survey we commissioned of 1,201 social studies teachers.

Why Do Economics Teachers Think Economics is Important in the Curriculum? When asked about specific reasons why economics should be included in the school curriculum, a large majority of economics teachers (87 percent) empha- sized that economics enables students to better understand important current eco- nomic issues. This suggests that macro- economic content and international trade issues are a high priority to economics teachers. Economics teachers also agreed that economics helps students become well-adjusted, productive members of society (80 percent), and enables stu- dents to understand the basic concepts and generalizations of the discipline (79

Social Education 72(2), pp 71–75 ©2009 National Council for the Social Studies

Economics in the Curriculum and Economics Teachers Economics has assumed an important role in the social studies curriculum. In a 2007 survey, the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) reported the following:1

Methodology We commissioned the Center for Survey Research and Analysis (CSRA) at the University

of Connecticut to conduct a survey of high school social studies teachers across the

nation. A nationally representative random sampling of public high schools was drawn

from the comprehensive, representative database available from the National Center for

Educational Statistics. Schools were stratified by size (number of students), region, and

urbanicity to ensure a representative sample. Telephone interviews were conducted from

December 2007 to April 2008. A total of 1,201 surveys were completed. Surveys were

conducted with 300 U.S. history teachers, 300 world history teachers, 300 economics

teachers, and 301 civics/government teachers. This article will focus on the responses of

the economic teachers. This research was supported by a grant from the Lynde and Harry

Bradley Foundation and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the National

Council on Economic Education (now known as the Council for Economic Education).

Special Section

S o c i a l E d u c a t i o n


percent). However, they do not find it as important to teach students how to be activists supporting economic poli- cies using market-oriented solutions (45 percent) or to teach students how to be activists supporting economic policies that use the power of government (41 percent).

A somewhat different pattern emerged when economics teachers were asked to rate the reasons for including economics in the curriculum in order of importance (most important and second most impor- tant). Encouraging these teachers to assign priorities to goals adds insight into what economics teachers actually think. Most economics teachers appear to regard eco- nomics content as an important tool in developing critical thinking skills. On the importance of critical thinking, they seem to be similar to the other social studies teachers who participated in the overall study, although somewhat less enthusias- tic. Table 1 shows that when asked which of the reasons is the most important to include economics in the curriculum, economics teachers choose the objective of forming critically-minded, reflective citizens (48 percent). Both U.S. history teachers and civics teachers ranked criti- cal thinking as most important, but rated it higher at 60 percent and 62 percent respectively.

Predictably, economics teachers stress the importance of mastering basic eco- nomic concepts. They ranked developing an understanding of basic economic con- cepts as the second most important rea- son (42 percent) to include economics in the school curriculum. The least impor- tant reasons identified by the surveyed teachers were developing activists using the government (12 percent), developing activists using the market (11 percent), and helping students learn about other countries (6 percent).

What Content Is Most Important in Economics? High school economics texts reflect a strong emphasis on core microeconomic and macroeconomic content. Much less content, only about three or four chapters

of textbooks, has been devoted to con- sumer issues or personal finance. This emphasis reflects that for years, the stan- dard high school texts have been simpli- fied versions of college textbooks on the principles of economics.

In contrast to the emphasis of the text- books, it appears that economics teachers place a much higher value on personal finance and consumer education. Table 2 shows that 62 percent of the respon- dents ranked personal finance and con- sumer education as the most important

content. This was followed by micro- economic content and macroeconomic content, which are widely regarded to be the vast majority of the content in a typical economics course, and which ranked second (36 percent) and third (31 percent) respectively, far below per- sonal finance. Interestingly, while form- ing critical thinking skills was the most important reason for including econom- ics in the curriculum, thinking critically about free market institutions ranks very low (30 percent). Perhaps most surpris-

Table 1: Most Important Reasons to Include Economics in the Curriculum

Combined importance

Most important

2nd most important

Forming critically-minded, reflective citizens 48% 28% 20%

Developing an understanding of basic economic concepts 42% 24% 18%

Using economics to better understand current affairs 34% 14% 20%

Developing an appreciation of core economic values and freedoms 23% 11% 12%

Helping students adjust to society 20% 10% 10%

Developing activists to use govern- ment to solve current societal prob- lems

12% 4% 8%

Developing activists to use market to solve current societal problems 11% 6% 5%

Helping students learn about other countries 6% 2% 4%

Table 2: Most Important Topics to Emphasize in the Economics Curriculum

Question: Considering all the reasons we have discussed regarding where the emphasis should be in the economics curriculum, which do you think should receive the most/second-most emphasis?

Combined importance

Most important

2nd most important

Personal finance and consumer education 62% 44% 18%

Microeconomic concepts 36% 14% 22%

Macroeconomic concepts 31% 14% 17%

Critical thinking about free market institutions 30% 15% 15%

How markets create prosperity 13% 5% 8%

International trade and institutions 13% 4% 9%

Injustice in the economic system 11% 3% 8%

Non-market economic systems 0% 0% 0%

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ing of all, only international trade and institutions—topics of heated debate in the 2008 presidential election—ranked even lower (13 percent).

How Do Economics Teachers Teach? No national study that we know of has been published which compares the over- all pedagogy of high school economics teachers and other social studies teach- ers. Economics teachers have long been regarded as using teaching methods of instruction that are more or less like those of other social studies teachers. There has been little reason to think otherwise.

The results of this study reveal that whole class teacher presentation/discus- sion is the most widely used activity by social studies teachers. However, some differences do emerge. While seven in ten economics teachers report using this activity frequently, this is less than that reported by the U.S. history (78 percent) and civics teachers (77 percent). This is further illustrated by the finding that only 38 percent of economics teachers reported using whole class teacher pre- sentation and discussion in their most recent class, while half of the teachers in the other subjects used it. Economics teachers spend more class period time working in small groups, on problem- solving activities, and on Internet-based activity in comparison to the other sub- ject teachers.

This suggests that economics teach- ers are somewhat more activity-oriented than other social studies teachers. This finding might be due to the fact that a variety of relatively short and widely

used simulations and problem-solving activities are easily available to econom- ics teachers. Two possible explanations come to mind. The National Council on Economic Education, which is rated by teachers as a valuable source of cur- riculum materials, has published many materials that include simulations and demonstrations in addition to direct methods. Some of these—such as a mar- ket price simulation in which students replicate making trades on the floor of a commodities exchange, and a trading activity sometimes referred to as a “grab bag,” where student exchange “gifts” and calculate how satisfaction increases when trade becomes freer—are popular simu- lations that involve intense activity, but take up relatively little class time. Second, the fundamentals of economics include a more precise set of agreed principles and definitions than other social studies dis- ciplines, which may make it easier to use focused simulations and demonstrations to demonstrate a specific concept.

Are Economics Teachers More Market-Oriented Than Other Social Studies Teachers? High school economics teachers are responsible for teaching about the pri- vate sector and how markets work as well as the role of government in a mar- ket economy. We wondered whether high school economics teachers are more market-oriented in their attitudes than other social studies teachers. The results reported in Table 3 suggest that when it comes to voting in the 2008 election, economics teachers are not so much different from their social studies

colleagues. For example, 34 percent of the economics teachers planned to vote Democratic compared to 35 percent for the other social studies teachers in our survey. However, Table 3 also shows that 26 percent of economics teachers planned to vote Republican compared to 22 percent for all social studies teach- ers. This suggests that economics teach- ers are slightly more conservative than other social studies teachers. It is also interesting to note that economics teach- ers are less likely to view themselves as Independents than their social studies colleagues.

Economics teachers appear to diverge from other social studies teachers when it comes to their views on specific issues. Table 4 reveals that economics teachers have views about economic issues that are distinctly different from those of other subject area teachers. Economics teachers are more likely to agree that the strength of this country is mostly based on the suc- cess of American business (74 percent) and that government regulation of busi- ness usually does more harm than good (47 percent). They are also less likely to agree that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer (51 percent) and busi- ness corporations make too much profit (49 percent).

The same pattern emerges in terms of support for certain policies. Economics teachers, for example, are less likely to support the U.S. government guarantee- ing health insurance for all citizens than teachers of other subjects (51 percent, compared to about 60 percent of the U.S. history, world history and civics teachers).

Taken together, the responses reported in Tables 3 and 4 suggest that teachers of economics are somewhat more market- oriented than are their colleagues who teach in other areas of social studies. Perhaps this is to be expected since the content of economics stresses the impor- tance of markets in allocating goods and services. It is nonetheless another finding that makes high school economics teach- ers somewhat distinctive.

Table 3: Anticipated Vote—By Subject

Question: In the upcoming national election of 2008, do you anticipate that you will vote mostly…

Total US History World History Civics Economics

Democratic 35% 36% 35% 37% 34%

Republican 22% 22% 22% 19% 26%

Independent 16% 17% 14% 19% 13%

Haven’t decided yet 17% 18% 20% 17% 14%

S o c i a l E d u c a t i o n


Sources of Supplemental Curriculum Materials and Professional Development Economics teachers, like other social studies teachers, are interested in find- ing supplemental curriculum materials and attending professional development events to keep them up-to-date on content and to enliven their teaching. The eco- nomics teachers in this study were asked about the value of specific economic organizations in terms of supplemental curriculum and professional develop- ment they provide. For both supplemen- tal curriculum and professional develop- ment, the National Council on Economic Education was viewed by teachers to be extremely, or very, valuable (54 percent and 43 percent respectively).

Economics teachers also value materi- als from the Federal Reserve as well as state councils on economic education and their affiliated university-based centers. Forty-five percent of teachers rate the Federal Reserve’s supplemental curriculum as extremely, or very, valu- able, and 33 percent rate it similarly for its professional development opportuni- ties. Thirty-four percent of teachers rate the supplemental curriculum from state councils and university-based centers for economic education as extremely or very valuable, and 35 percent say the same about the professional development opportunities.

Conversely, economics teachers find both Junior Achievement and Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy as not too, or not, valuable for supple- mental curriculum (42 percent and 38 percent, respectively) or for profes- sional development (45 percent and 43 percent, respectively). It is important to note some teachers are unfamiliar with the Foundation for Teaching Economics (19 percent), Junior Achievement (18 percent), and Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy (32 percent) and, therefore, could not rate the value of the materials and opportunities provided by these organizations.

Discussion and Conclusions How should we reconcile the views of economics teachers regarding why eco- nomics is important as a discipline and what content within economics they believe to be of greatest importance? A surprising finding is that personal finance and consumer education content are regarded as being more important than basic principles of economics. We suspect that high school economics teach- ers view personal finance and consumer education as something very distinctive that they can offer—content of practical and immediate value to students that is perhaps different from the somewhat more abstract content offered in the other parts of the economics course as well as in other social studies courses.

In spite of this, it seems that high school economics teachers spend the majority of their time teaching basic micro- and macroeconomic concepts.

A number of factors support this interpretation. First, the 2006 National Assessment of Economic Progress (NAEP) found that about two-thirds of twelfth-grade students reported taking either an advanced or a general econom- ics course. The NAEP results showed that 79 percent of twelfth-graders per- formed at or above Basic, 42 percent at or above Proficient, and 3 percent at Advanced. While caution must be used in comparing NAEP results in econom- ics to performance of students on other tests, this level of achievement was much higher than the levels attained by stu- dents in history, geography, or civics. It would seem difficult to attain this result if economics teachers were not stressing basic economics principles in the high school course.

Second, most of the content of stan- dard, high school economics textbooks remain devoted to basic principles of eco- nomics. Leet and Lopus,3 for example, found that all eleven high school eco- nomics textbooks in their study cov- ered most of the standards identified in the Voluntary National Standards in Economics published by the National Council on Economic Education.4 These standards rest firmly on main- stream principles of economics. Finally, the emergence of Advanced Placement economics courses in high school, as dis- cussed by Sally Meek and John Morton in this issue of Social Education, also suggests that standard economics content remains dominant even while teachers regard personal finance as being highly important.

We note, however, that high school economics teachers do not seem to place much importance on international eco- nomics. The results here show that con- tent involving international trade and institutions, as well as the need to help students learn about other countries, were ranked relatively low. Given the importance in international trade and the

Table 4: Economics Teachers Opinions on Issues

Question: For the following questions, please tell me if you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree. (Percent agreeing)

Total US History World History Civics Economics

The strength of this country is mostly based on the success of American business

67% 64% 68% 62% 74%

Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good

38% 30% 40% 36% 47%

Business corporations make too much profit 59% 64% 63% 61% 49%

Today it is true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer

61% 65% 65% 61% 51%

M a r c h 2 0 0 9 75

many other changes related to global- ization, this is alarming. It again raises questions about the structure of the typical high school economics course. If high school economics teachers are spending a great deal of time on mat- ters related to personal finance—how to balance a checkbook—while ignoring content regarding the benefits of trade, how international trade is measured, and international economic institutions, this represents a serious imbalance at a time when a proper understanding of the global economy is more important than ever.

Notes 1. National Council on Economic Education, Personal

Finance and Entrepreneurship Education in our Nation’s Schools, 2007: A Report Card: Survey of the States (New York: National Council on Economic Education). See

2. Please see Steven L. Miller and Phillip J. VanFossen, “Recent Research on the Teaching and Learning of

Pre-Collegiate Economics Education,” in Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education, eds. Linda L Levstik and Cynthia A. Tyson (New York: Routledge, 2008), 284-306 and Michael Watts, What Works: A Review of Research on Outcomes and Effective Program Delivery in Precollege Economic Education (New York: National Council on Economic Education), which can found at www.

3. Don R. Leet and Jane S. Lopus, “Ten Observations on High School Economics,” Citizenship, Social and Economic Education: An International Journal 7, no. 3 (2007): 201-241; National Council on Economic Education, Voluntary Content Standards in Economies (New York: National Council on Economic Education, 1998).

4. National Council on Economic Education, Voluntary Content Standards in Economies (New York, NY: National Council on Economic Education, 1998).

Mark C. Schug is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He can be reached at [email protected] David A. Diet- erle is president of the Michigan Council on Eco- nomic Education at Walsh College in Novi, Mich- igan. He can be reached at [email protected] J.R. Clark is Probasco Chair of Free Enterprise at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He can be reached at [email protected]

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