Learning Context When Studying Financial Planning in High Schools: Nesting of Student, Teacher, and Classroom Characteristics

By Danes, Sharon M.; Rodriguez, Michael C. et al. | Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, July 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Learning Context When Studying Financial Planning in High Schools: Nesting of Student, Teacher, and Classroom Characteristics


Danes, Sharon M., Rodriguez, Michael C., Brewton, Katherine E., Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning


Grounded in social construction theory, the current study investigates the learning context when studying financial planning in high school by analyzing the nesting of student, teacher and classroom characteristics. Key findings were that three student characteristics (initial financial knowledge, gender, senior grade level), one teacher variable (use of all curriculum assessments), and two classroom variables (proportion of junior students and students who spent more money per week) were significant predictors of students' financial knowledge gain. Significant predictors of students' behavior gain were one student characteristic (senior grade level), two student access to money variables (employment status, spending per week), and three classroom variables (mean initial financial behavior, proportion of students working part-time, proportion of rural students). Findings indicated that subject matter content alone was not sufficient to create behavior change; learning context must be considered.

Key Words: evaluation, financial behavior, financial knowledge, financial literacy, social construction, teen finances

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Financial literacy is positively associated with the way individuals manage their finances over time (Braunstein & Welch, 2002). For example, higher financial literacy is associated with less credit card debt, higher savings rates, and fewer personal bankruptcies (Bernheim, Garrett, & Maki, 2001). Recent responses to the learned impor- tance of financial literacy include an increasing number of states now requiring a high school course with personal finance content for graduation (CEE, 2011; NEFE, 2006). Because of this need for increased financial literacy, evi- dence linking curricula to increased knowledge, and most importantly, improved financial behavior has never been greater. The current study aims, in part, to fulfill this need by studying the financial knowledge and behavior change of high school students who were exposed to one financial planning curriculum: the National Endowment for Finan- cial Education's (NEFE's) High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP).

Evaluation research investigating the impact of studying a high school financial planning curriculum has focused primarily on student knowledge outcomes (e.g., Man- dell, 1998; NCEE, 2005; Walstad, Rebeck, & MacDon- ald, 2010). Prior research has ignored the influence of the learning context in achieving those outcomes. The current study went beyond the investigation of knowledge acqui- sition to the study of student financial behavior gains as a result of studying financial planning and to investigation of the classroom learning context in which the curricu- lum was taught. There are a number of dimensions of the learning context of any classroom that are nested within each other. The nesting of student, teacher, and classroom characteristics is an important consideration when evalu- ating students' financial knowledge and behavior change after the study of financial planning (Cook-Gumprez, 2006). Thus, the specific purpose of the current study was to investigate the learning context when studying financial planning in high school by analyzing the nesting of stu- dent, teacher, and classroom characteristics.

This study contributes to the literature in a number of ways. First, it incorporates pre-study measures of finan- cial knowledge and behavior that high school students have socially constructed through various social milieus prior to studying the curriculum (McCormick, 2009). A critical time to impact financial literacy is high school, because it is a time when social meanings and realities are being shaped (Gudmunson & Danes, 2011). It is a time when students begin to earn their own money, manage that money independently from parents, and make short- and long-term financial goals (Beutler & Dickson, 2008; Gud- munson & Beutler, 2012). …

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