A less-is-more approach to introductory economics

Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (3):193-198 (2012)


Studies have shown that when students are tested about their knowledge of basic economic principles six months after completing an introductory economics course, they score no better, on average, than those who never took the course. That remarkable failure is explained in part by the fact that many professors try to teach their students far too much, and in part because many employ excessive mathematical formalism. This paper describes an alternative approach inspired by evidence that the human brain absorbs new ideas most efficiently when they are expressed in narrative form. It describes an extraordinarily effective pedagogical device?the economic naturalist?writing assignment, in which the student is asked to pose an interesting question based on personal observation or experience, and then use basic economic principles in an attempt to craft a plausible answer to it

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