Innovations in Economic Education: Promising Practices for Teachers and Students, K-16

By Day, Stephen | The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Innovations in Economic Education: Promising Practices for Teachers and Students, K-16


Day, Stephen, The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences


Henning, M. B. (Ed.) (2017). Innovations in economic education: Promising practices for teachers and students, K-16. New York, NY: Routledge.

Have you ever been given the opportunity to rummage around the curriculum files of a long-serving economics educator? I have, twice. You are struck first by how old some of the things in the room are--there is yellowed paper that must have been there since at least the 1980s. Look, an actual filmstrip! But if you take a moment to open some of these dusty notebooks, you are struck by how brilliant the content often is. And you may find that an original idea that you had isn't so original after all, having been done decades before. "Why don't we still use this?" is the question that keeps running through my head, or I might find myself wondering if someone should make a 21st-century version of the Give and Take (1978) video series.

You can tell that the field of economic education has been blessed from its very beginning with innovative thinkers. That is the first thing that one notices when reading chapter 1 of Innovations in Economic Education (Henning, 2017; she is both the author of the first chapter and the editor of the book). Henning begins this important book by rummaging through a thematic/linear history of economic education in the United States, which sets the book's context.

Though she points out economic education's tendency to gravitate toward "chalk and talk" (Becker, Greene, & Rosen, 1990; Becker and Watts, 1996), Henning also uncovers myriad creative projects taken on by economic educators over the past several decades: there have been "high-tech" video tape series, such as the Adventure Economics Series (Light, 1975), topic-based case studies such as Energy/Ecology/Economics (Campbell, 1980), ongoing simulations/projects such as Mini-Society (Kourilsky, 1983), and hands-on curriculum such as Playful Economics (Day, 1988; the old storeroom version would probably be entitled Play-doh Economics). It is almost as if economics teaching has to constantly rediscover itself. Nevertheless, this necessary innovation is also made possible by several sources of institutional knowledge: the Council for Economic Education, which despite several name changes has been a constant, and educator/researchers such as William Walstad, whose name appears in studies and lesson plans from the 1970s until the present day.

Having been led to meditate on past innovations, the reader is invited to consider some recent ones, which are the subject of each book chapter:

* Thomas Lucey and Duane Giannangelo describe several in-class simulations that can serve as models for expanding students' conceptions of economic citizenship. They argue that these examples of simulations are effective for creating student empathy for different perspectives in economic life.

* James Laney with Amy Willerson discusses several novel approaches for teaching economics through art and art history, while supporting their narrative with research findings. The clear, step-by-step guides provide tools and a model for educators who want find new ways to make their economics instruction interdisciplinary.

* Bonnie Meszaros and Mary Suiter show how to reach preK-age students with economics and personal finance instruction through parents and after-school programs. They give a compendium of classroom-tested economics curriculums from various sources, along with brief useful descriptions.

* Scott Wolla and Sarah Barnett discuss ways to teach economics in the context of middle school math and history. They continue a long-running conversation in economics education about how we can--or whether we should--integrate economics with other subjects.

* Ashley Harrison, J.R. Clark, and Mark C. Schug review the time-honored "Economic Way of Thinking," along with its importance, current usage, and ways to measure knowledge of it. The discussion reminds us that assessment should not just be an afterthought to the development of new instructional materials, but that assessment goals should be well-conceived from the very beginning of instructional planning. …

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