Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Teaching Unemployment across the Curriculum

Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Teaching Unemployment across the Curriculum

Article excerpt

This essay is devoted to sharing ideas about the integration of economic concepts into various subjects at the high school level. The goal is to stimulate interest in turning to economic topics when looking for tools to develop critical thinking and informational text analysis skills, as well as to nurture the ability to apply theoretical concepts to real-world problems. The ideas described in this essay were developed and field-tested by teachers who participated in workshops at a not-for-profit institution in Massachusetts during 2014 and 2015. As you will see, teachers showed creativity, flexibility, and passion in the lessons they conducted.

The need for integrating economic concepts into the high school curriculum is well documented, especially after the adoption of Common Core national standards and given the current push for the implementation of those standards. Stepping back from the politically charged discussion about the standards themselves, there is still a need to equip a young generation with the skills and knowledge for success in the global marketplace of the 21st century.

The consensus among economic educators is that knowledge acquisition among high school students is maximized when (1) teachers understand the content; (2) teachers are trained in teaching economics through a well-designed course; and (3) teachers use high quality curriculum materials. The review of the literature showcasing this consensus is presented in the next section. The literature clearly identifies the need for teacher education to improve student learning.

To respond to this demand, a not-for-profit research institute in Massachusetts created the Teach-the-Teachers Initiative (TTI) with two objectives in mind. The first is to help high school teachers gain a deeper understanding of various economics concepts; the second is to demonstrate active engagement as well as other collaborative instructional strategies with the use of nationally proven curriculum materials. Based on the literature on economic education, the institute believes that the achievement of these objectives improves the quality of teaching and thus student learning.

The Economics-Across-the-Curriculum approach, which is utilized in this program, encourages the integration of economic concepts into various disciplines. This helps teachers and students experience the beauty of interdisciplinary connections among topics and engage in intellectual inquiry beyond the normal confines of a single-subject area. The program, therefore, appeals not only to economics teachers but also to teachers of English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Foreign Languages. The participants' diversity generates a cross-pollination of ideas, dynamism, and an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.

Research Findings on Teacher Education Programs in Economics

The literature on the effectiveness of teacher education programs in economics is abundant. The seminal Walstad and Watts (2015) paper presents evidence that teacher education in economics is essential for improving student learning in the subject. It outlines two methods of teacher preparation: (1) pre-service education (during undergraduate studies) and (2) in-service education (courses and workshops for those teachers who are already licensed and teaching). This essay focuses on the second method because the institute is not an academic institution and can only effectively contribute in the area of professional development workshops and other out-of-classroom engagements.

In order to create the most effective, dynamic, and retainable program for teachers, research findings on teacher training programs were reviewed. Swinton, Scafidi, and Woodard (2012) found that the most effective workshops for high school teachers employ a seminar-style delivery of information in the form of in-service training. The Centers for Public Education of the National School Board Association's (Gulamhussein, 2013) report suggests that professional training workshops for teachers should be in the form of active learning where teachers are engaged in making sense of a new concept or practice. …

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