An Anecdotal Comparison of Three Teaching Methods Used in the Presentation of Microeconomics

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article reports a judgment sampling of microeconomics student scores. The material was presented in three distinctive, independent sets: (1) discussion, exclusively, (2) lecture, exclusively and (3) lecture with embedded discussion. The hypothesis was that the discussion method would produce superior examination scores. The education researcher believed the hypothesis would be supported. The business researcher believed the hypothesis would not be supported. In fact, the business researcher believed the discussion method would provide the least favorable results. The evidence supports the hypothesis. The specific implication, if confirmed by statistical sampling, means that the business professor will change his method of instruction. A more generic implication would be that the teachers of other adult students, from middle school upward, might consider doing the same.

The virtual explosion of information, technology, communication and transportation makes the world increasingly complex. If a person is to remain economically competitive, there is a vast array of cognitive material that must be learned and affective material that must be mastered. The need for learning makes everyone a student and heightens the need for a clear understanding of the relationship between teaching and learning.

Learning is a process that results in the assimilation of information by a student. Learning is facilitated by instruction. Fortunately, there are many teaching methods available to convey a message. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each delivery package. This suggests that one method might be superior to another in some particular context. Elements determining the context include: (1) the type of material to be learned, (2) the magnitude of material to be learned, (3) the degree of mastery desired/required, (4) the level of student interest, (5) the level of student ability, (6) the amount of time the student can devote to independent study, (7) the type of benefits received upon mastery of the material, (8) the magnitude of rewards received upon mastery of the material, (9) the utility of the gains, from the student's perspective, (10) the type of sacrifices associated with failure to master the material, (11) the magnitude of penalties associated with failure to master the material, (12) the utility of the sanctions, from the student's perspective, (13) the type of instructional materials available, (14) the magnitude of instructional materials available, (15) access to an instructor, (16) the level of instructor knowledge of the material, (17) the degree of instructor willingness to teach the material, (18) the level of instructor knowledge of teaching techniques, (19) the ability of the instructor to apply the teaching techniques and (20) the time the instructor can devote to formal instruction. These and many more related variables lead the observer to ask whether one teaching method is better than another in the instruction of microeconomics.

Colleges of education, throughout the country, argue that adult students tend to learn best via some interactive method. If that is true, then college professors should attempt to incorporate class discussions as often as possible. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not the discussion method appears to be superior, as a teaching method for college level microeconomics. Three teaching methods are assessed in this research: (1) discussion, (2) lecture and (3) a combination of short lecture with an embedded discussion. The sample is the microeconomics class offered by the University of Montevallo (UM) to students attending the second summer term, 2001. UM is one of fewer than twenty state-supported liberal arts universities in the United States (U.S.). For over 10 years, UM's Michael E. Stephens College of Business has been the smallest American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business accredited state supported school of business in the country. …