Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Preparing Economic Educators for a New Era: An Interdisciplinary Model Yields Teacher and Student Gains

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Preparing Economic Educators for a New Era: An Interdisciplinary Model Yields Teacher and Student Gains

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study examines the effectiveness of a three-year Masters of Economics Education program developed and delivered through an interdisciplinary partnership between a Northwest University's College of Business and College of Education. The research on the Idaho Economic Fellows Institute clearly supports this format of teacher preparation and/or professional development. Specifically the research showed that the program increased fellows' economic literacy and positively affected the fellows' teaching skills and techniques. There is also strong evidence that the institute influenced the economic content being taught by fellows as well as their students' success on standardized tests.

Researchers employed a mixed method approach to data collection, relying on standardized pre-post tests developed and validated by the National Council on Economic Education as well as instruments developed and validated by the authors.

INTRODUCTION

The call for reform in public education has been coupled with calls for reform in teacher preparation. In the current era of standards and high stakes testing, teachers' knowledge, skills and dispositions continue to be seen as a critical factor in student learning. The 1996 report What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future) reiterates that teaching and quality teacher preparation are crucial for successful school reform. Hermanowicz, (1991) in reviewing recommendations for reform in the context of economics education states that "It is unconscionable ... to continue, without correction, programs and practices that produce teachers who themselves have insufficient knowledge in economics" (p. 78). Reforming the process for educating pre-service teachers is just one concern. There is also a need to study and test new models of professional development for experienced teachers. As a result of the work of the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) and its partnerships with universities, corporations, foundations and professional associations, economics educators, and teacher educators are in a position to rethink the ways in which teachers learn economics and economics pedagogy. The NCEE partnerships have spawned 49 state economics councils and 275 university centers for Economic Education to provide professional development opportunities for teachers. It is in the context of university centers exploring and validating new teacher education models that this article is written.

This study examines the effectiveness of a three-year Masters of Economics Education program sponsored by Idaho's Council for Economic Education and developed and delivered through an interdisciplinary partnership between the host university's College of Business and College of Education. This study was designed to provide formative assessment of the program so that professors and program developers could adjust the curriculum as necessary, to identify the program's impact on participating teachers' (called Fellows) economic literacy and pedagogy and to determine if the program of study affected participants' K-12 students' economic understanding.

BACKGROUND

A review of economics education literature indicates that the amount of economics coursework that a teacher has can impact students' economic knowledge. Walstad and Soper (1988a) find a positive and significant impact of teacher course work on the performance of students on the Test of Economic Literacy (TEL). Furthermore, Lynch (1990) reports that "Not only do students learn more when their teachers have more training, but economics students whose teachers have had few courses may not learn any macro economics or international economics" (p. 295). The program was designed to better prepare teachers of economics and social studies to adequately develop the economic literacy of Idaho's K-12 students.

Allgood and Walstad (1999) studied practicing teachers enrolled in an innovative three-summer graduate program in economic education at the University of Nebraska and found that the participants gained in economic understanding, thought more like economists than traditional social studies teachers, and that the participants' economic understanding positively influenced student learning of economics. …

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