Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

A Level Economics: A Student's Perspective

Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

A Level Economics: A Student's Perspective

Article excerpt

Talking with other students and having presented economics at the college open day, it seems that economics provides the fourth AS choice. It is often chosen after the subjects or subject area that students (at that stage) wish to pursue at degree level. However, in the course of the first year on an A level economics course something seems to shift - economics takes precedence and class sizes barely get any smaller as students move into their second year.

This may be the case because economics is able to engage people with very different personalities and characteristics. People are often typically inclined either towards maths-based subjects like the sciences, or essay-based disciplines like politics and history. Economics seems to attract both types. Certainly in both my first year and second year I have found the students in my economics class to be a most diverse set. However, this probably makes it one of the most challenging subjects for a teacher.

The majority of the class will never have studied economics before and probably cannot define the subject any better than it being a study of the economy (though this is by no means a criticism). Not only is it entirely new material, it is also in nature very different from GCSE subjects. For me, it was the first time I was really forced to think about a subject, prior to that everything seemed to have very set answers or methods. For example, I felt that if you could memorise the textbooks in secondary school science, you could pass the exam. Similarly, in English, as long as you knew what to look for in a piece of writing, you could learn how to analyse it and perform well enough to achieve the grades required. Economics, however, introduced possible outcomes that depended on possible reactions to possible circumstances.

I think it was the uncertainty of our judgements and the need to consider wider implications of a situation that first really challenged the class. That passed however, and the class quickly relished being able to draw their own conclusions, provided that these could be justified. A teacher, therefore, needs to instil confidence in students that they can have opinions, that there are not necessarily "right" answers, and that the teacher is not the fount of all knowledge on the subject.

Curriculum challenges

Particularly in the first year, no single concept or area could be picked out as presenting a particular difficulty; understanding theory came more easily to some students, and interpreting diagrams more so to others. In a class all subject to the same teaching methods, it would seem the only reason for this was the nature of each student, and whether, for example, someone is mathematically minded. So far, it appears that the same may be said of the second year. However, there is a general consensus that the transition from AS to A2 is harder than that from GCSE to AS. Aside from more being required, I could not personally pinpoint what exactly has made the second year considerably more challenging.

In the same way that there are not particular concepts that can be branded as difficult, so no topic can be classified as interesting or dull. For this reason, I would suggest there is little point introducing a topic as "the boring one", because I think this is entirely personal and subjective. One of the best things about studying at A2 is having sufficient understanding to be able to read more widely around the subject. For example, I find the Keynesian school of thought particularly interesting, so I am trying to read The General Theory. …

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