Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Students' Revealed Preference for Pedagogical Features in Introductory Economics Textbooks *

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Students' Revealed Preference for Pedagogical Features in Introductory Economics Textbooks *

Article excerpt

JEL codes: A1, A2, A22

Technological advance has touched every facet of modern society, and teaching and education have not escaped its tentacles. Interactive electronic whiteboards, digital projectors, clickers in the classroom, digital texts, open educational resources (OERs), laptops, tablets, smart phones and other such modern electronic devices are being introduced into the classroom with increasing rapidity. Despite these innovations in teaching and learning tools and devices, a study by Watts and Schaur (2011) revealed that the traditional textbook remains the main tool for teaching the principles course in economics. For the purpose of this discussion, we define a traditional textbook as a printed and bound document used in schools for the formal study of a particular subject.

According to Bargate (2012), "Textbooks are the site where specialist knowledge and skills of the discipline are accumulated, communicated, and debated, and may possibly make or break students' interest in a subject." Other authors also extoll the importance of textbooks. See, for example, Pope (2002); Stevens, Clow, McConkey & Silver (2010); Razek, Hosch & Pearl (1982); Landrum & Hormel (2002); and Issitt (2004). Clearly, the selection of textbooks is an important exercise that should be undertaken with due diligence. Many criteria are used in the textbook selection exercise. For example, Stevens, Clow, McConkey & Tiger (2007) and Elbeck, Williams, Peters & Frankforter (2009) examined currency, while Clow, Parker & *The author would like to thank the editors of the Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research for very helpful comments and suggestions.

McConkey (2009) identified content, ancillary materials, length of textbook, and textbook costs as key factors in textbook selection.

Proceeding on the assumption that the traditional textbook will continue to be the main tool used for the teaching of the principles course in economics, at least for the foreseeable future, economics professors, textbook authors, and textbook publishers would benefit tremendously if they knew what pedagogical features the main readers of textbooks (that is, students) thought were important in textbooks. Economics professors would benefit because they would be greatly aided in their selection of textbooks for their principles classes. Textbook authors would benefit because they would be able to include in their textbooks those features that students believe to be most helpful in their study of the subject; and textbook publishers would be greatly aided in their selection of manuscripts to be published on the basis of pedagogical elements.

THE SAMPLE

The sample for this research project consisted of 250 students who were taking the introduction to economics course in the fall and winter semesters of 2011-2012 at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada. It also consisted of 80 students who were taking the introduction to microeconomics course at the same time. Thus, 330 students were surveyed. Of these, 175 were males while 155 were females. The students were also categorized as "passing", "at risk of failing", and "failing".

STUDENTS' REVEALED PREFERENCE

In order to gauge students' preferences for certain pedagogical features in introductory economics textbooks, the author designed a questionnaire consisting of ten questions regarding certain pedagogical features of textbooks. For each feature, the students were asked to rank their preferences for the feature on a Linkert-type scale denoting "Not important", "Somewhat important", "Important", "Very important" or "Extremely important". (The questionnaire is available from the author on request). The textbook features examined were:

1. A preview of what is to be learnt

2. Pre-test of knowledge before reading the chapter

3. Explanations of graphs within the text (as opposed to being set apart in boxes)

4. Basic concepts emphasized (such as highlighted, bold) in the text

5. …

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