Has the Student Performance in Managerial Economics Been Affected by the Class Size of Principles of Microeconomics?

Article excerpt


This research focuses on the influence of the principles of microeconomics class size on students' achievement in the managerial economics course. The logistic regression results suggest that the class size effect is negative and highly significant. Caution should be used in interpreting the negative introductory class size effect found in this study which might be underestimated due to the potential grade inflation problem resulting from the traditional letter grading system. For future studies, a better measure of student performance in the managerial economics course is necessary.


The impact of class size at the college level on students' performance has long been of interest. It is generally believed that the student-instructor interaction in a small class is more effective than in a large class. Yet, state-owned universities and colleges are generally under substantial financial pressure and increasing class size naturally becomes one of the instruments that administrators use to deal with the pressure.

This research examines the effect of class size in the introductory microeconomics course on students' performance in the managerial economics course. The setting for the research is the BeIk College of Business, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, an AACSB International accredited, public university. All business majors, except accounting majors are required to take Managerial Economics (ECON 3125). This course builds on the principles of microeconomics course and emphasizes their applications to business decision problems. The prerequisites of this course are Principles of Microeconomics, Calculus, Elements of Statistics, and Introduction to Business Computing. Thus, to take this course, students must have acquired the basics of economic theory and be equipped with elementary mathematical, statistical and computing tools. However, in response to increased enrollment but limited resources, the Department of Economics has in recent years begun to offer primarily large-section classes for the principles of microeconomics course. To accommodate students' diverse schedule demands, the department also offered small lecture sections for the same course. Regardless of the section size, all instructors were required to use the same text book and cover the same core-course outline. This raises the question of "has the student performance in Managerial Economics been affected by the class size of the Principles of Microeconomics course?" The research poses the hypothesis that the large-sized introductory class has a negative impact on students' performance, in large part, because the student-instructor interaction in a large section tends to be less effective than in a small section. With less effective interaction, a large section may hinder students from understanding the course materials, developing problem-solving skills and cultivating independent thinking. These are essential achievement elements for a managerial economics course.


Does a large class size adversely influence student achievement in higher education? Many studies have looked at this issue but the empirical results have been mixed. Toth and Montagna (2002) summarize eight studies published between 1990 to 2000 - two studies show no relationship between class size and achievement, two indicate a negative relationship, one shows a positive relationship, while three report mixed findings.1 The most recent research by Kokkelenber et al. (2008) finds a negative relationship between class size and average grade point for various specifications and subsets of the data.

In a class size study specific to the economics discipline, Bellante (1972) found students in a "mass lecture" introductory economics class scored 2 points less than students in the small classes. Using a national economic education data base (TUCE III), Kennedy and Siegfried (1997) found class size does not affect student achievement in introductory economics. …