Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

Economics Education in Germany - Current Status and Challenges to Diagnosing Students' Learning in This Domain

Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

Economics Education in Germany - Current Status and Challenges to Diagnosing Students' Learning in This Domain

Article excerpt

For planning, conducting and analysing educational interventions, knowledge about students' pre-conceptions is needed as well as tools to analyse their learning process and to evaluate their learning outcomes. This paper will give an outline of the current ways in which students' preconceptions are identified in Economics Education in Germany. It will deliberate on the necessary learning theories, illustrate empirical results (assessed in Germany) and discuss challenges of identifying preconceptions.

Concentration on skills and diagnostics in Germany

Since the aftermath of the first PISA survey a new "central idea" together with the buzz phrase "concentration on skills", was developed in Germany. The Klieme-Expertise "On the development of national education standards" published in 2003 gave a more detailed outline. Since then, educational actions in Germany are concentrating on the skills acquired in the end and not so much, any more, on selecting content to be taught. This can be considered a shift from input to outcome orientation.

This orientation on the outcome of the educational process results in a necessary focus on the prerequisites, processes and effects of subject specific teaching and learning. Initially this process has not been considered enough with regard to the subject specific nature of learning; sophisticated concepts on the diagnostics of subject specific learning concepts were scarce. This is still partially true. In economics education, approaches to identifying preconceptions remain to be developed. Only a few instruments have been specified so far, although an important milestone was the educational standards that the German Society for Economic Education (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ökonomische Bildung - DeGÖB) developed in 2004, 2006 and 2009 .

Diagnosing economic education - underlying learning theories

Psychological theories of learning in general assume that impressions and experiences are represented as structures inside a person's memory, which metaphorically speaking, are arranged as mental "building blocks" and links (see Seel 2003). Dealing with the real world and its social conditions will thus result in explanations in terms of ideas (concepts) with subjective meaning. This facilitates orientation and actions for the individual. But concepts underlying learning prerequisites may also impede learning. Concepts deducted from everyday situations like barter may, for instance, help in developing students' understanding of the pricing process for example, or they can impede development of that understanding.

Against the background of an in increasing skepticism towards phase dependent and comprehensive developmental psychological learning theories, area specific approaches on knowledge building are becoming more significant (see Pfeiffer 2008, 82). This means that approaches to learning have to be determined with regard to their specific domain.

What does this mean for economic learning? Concepts within the framework of economic education in Germany are about dealing with economically shaped life situations. These include situations from being a consumer, being an entrepreneur or employee to voting for certain politico-economic decisions (Retzmann et al. 2010). Students have been developing individual concepts in this realm in everyday situations since the beginning of their socialization (Haarmann/Lange 2013). This means that learners have access to experiences on and concepts about economy prior to being confronted with them in class. Economic learning cannot be reduced to consuming and adopting domain specific concepts; its task should rather be connecting subjective and objective meaning thus aiming at an increase in the economic capacity to act.

Students' concepts in subject specific diagnostics

Within the last years, this field of research and reflection has more and more become a focus of economics education. Here are some examples from research in Germany. …

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