Effectiveness of Inductive and Deductive Teaching Methods in Learning Agricultural Economics: A Case Study1

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The effects of inductive and deductive teaching method, students' cognitive and affective characteristics and learning style on students' performance are measured. Performance is measured by the scores on tests based on trade concepts and exercises in an introductory course in agricultural economics. Results suggest that inductive teaching increases students' performance and that learning is enhanced if inductive teaching is done prior to presenting general theories.


Students have different intellectual capabilities and learning styles that favor or hinder knowledge accumulation. As a result, instructors are interested in ways to effectively cause students to better understand and learn. Instructors want to bring about a better understanding of the material he or she wants to communicate. The consequences of ineffective teaching are important. If college students do not have a good understanding of what they are taught, once they graduate and start working, they may be less efficient at the work place. Litzenberg et al (1983) investigated ways academic and professional programs can match the employers' needs by incorporating conceptual thinking and problem-solving capabilities that departs from traditional classroom approaches into curricula. From the students' perspective, time spent in ineffective learning environments is costly and frustrating. Felder and Silverman (1988) outline some of the negative consequences and suggest that the frustration can be partially responsible for students changing majors and/or dropping out of school.

Education produces its payoff to individuals or to society in the future. Some studies look at the salary returns (Broder and Deprey, 1988), or the social returns of education (Link and Rutledge, 1975). When students learn more, the overall future returns of education at both the private and social levels are higher. It is the responsibility of the educational institutions and instructors to seek more effective ways of teaching in order to meet individuals' and society's expectations from education. Improving teaching methods may help an institution meet its goal of achieving improved learning outcomes.

Teaching methods can either be inductive or deductive or some combination of the two. The inductive teaching method process goes from the specific to the general and may be based on specific experiments or experiential learning exercises. Deductive teaching methods progress from the general concept to the specific use or application. For example, to teach inductively, Bergstrom and Miller (1999) suggest that you send students to a market with the willing capacity to pay $25 for a bushel of apples. If they are able to buy apples for $20, they have experienced a consumer surplus of $5. Then we sum the individual surpluses experienced in the market to estimate the aggregate consumer surplus in the market, the more general concept (Bergstrom and Miller, 1999). To explain the same concept deductively, you might draw theoretical supply and demand curves and assert that above the equilibrium price, there are consumers willing to pay more than the equilibrium price for the good and the sum of the differences between the equilibrium price and the prices on the demand curve represent aggregate consumer surplus.

The choice of a teaching method may impact positively on the quality of knowledge accumulation. Quality, in this context, refers to matching of what a professor is trying to transfer to his or her students and what these students learn from the professor's class. Failures occur when students maintain preconceived and incorrect beliefs about the subject matter taught, or when misunderstandings or misconceptions are created by the instruction. A teaching method can be considered effective if it reduces the number of misunderstandings or misconceptions.

This case study is designed to evaluate two methods of teaching agricultural economics to undergraduate students at Oklahoma State University. …