Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Vark Learning Styles and Student Performance in Principles of Micro- vs. Macro-Economics

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Vark Learning Styles and Student Performance in Principles of Micro- vs. Macro-Economics

Article excerpt


Students who have taken both courses in principles of microeconomics and principles of macroeconomics quite often express their preference for one over the other. Despite the fact that both branches of economics share the common underlying objective of allocating scarce resources to their best possible uses, microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis tend to require different approaches in terms of information processing that can be associated with differences in personality and learning styles (Bisping and Eells, 2006). The study of microeconomics, which is about how individuals and businesses make decisions, tends to follow logical sequences that are highly structured. The study of macroeconomics, which is about understanding aggregate behaviour of the economy, tends to encourage debates over diverse viewpoints generated by different schools of thoughts. Such differences in the nature between microeconomics and macroeconomics are clearly shown in the textbooks written for the two fields, in that there is much more variation in the content across macroeconomics textbooks than that in microeconomics textbooks. While the content of microeconomics textbooks appear to be quite standardized using similar logical sequence, macroeconomics textbooks show much greater variety in content, depending on the different viewpoints adopted by the authors. The differences in the content and approaches used in microeconomics and macroeconomics raise the question that students with different personality types, thinking and learning styles may show different preferences for the two fields of study. The literature has seen some studies using personality types to explain such differences. The goal of this paper is to further examine whether preferred learning styles by students affect their course performance in principles of microeconomics versus macroeconomics.

The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 reviews the literature and provides the motivation for the empirical analysis in this paper. Section 3 contains results from the empirical analysis. Section 4 provides interpretation of the empirical results and suggestions for further research.


A typical introductory economics course is lecture oriented (Becker, 2000; Lopus and Hoff, 2009) and relies heavily on visual presentation of information with graphical analysis (Boatman, Courtney, and Lee, 2008; Fleming, 1995). Yet students often show preference for either microeconomics or macroeconomics. Research suggests that course preference and performance of students can vary in relations to their thinking and learning styles. Zhang (2004), for example, found that students with specific thinking styles preferred specific teaching styles. According to Zhang, students with a creative thinking style tend to prefer a learning-oriented and student-focused teaching style. Students with a conformity thinking style tend to prefer a teacher-focused teaching style that emphasizes the transmission of information.

Research in economic education has examined the relationship between learning styles of students and teaching styles of instructors in principles of economics courses. A study by Charkins, O'Toole, and Wetzel (1985) identified three types of student learning styles (dependent, collaborative, and independent) and found that the larger the gap between an instructor's teaching style and a student's learning style, the worse the student's performance in the introductory economics course.

Other studies subsequently examined the relationship between personality types and student performance in principles of economics courses. A common feature among these studies is the use of the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to identify personality types of individuals. Borg and Shapiro (1996) used a sample of 119 students and found that gender is not a significant factor to determine student performance in principles of macroeconomics once MBTI personality types are accounted for. …

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