Building-blocks of Understanding
- Contact: Dr. Charles Smith
- Swansea School of Education, Swansea Metropolitan University, University of Wales
- Published April 2006
These notes are brief, as the accompanying Powerpoint Presentation is self-contained and should be self-explanatory.
Over the years I have used this exercise as a practical and hands-on introduction to business economics and the theory of the firm at a number of levels: secondary school ('A' Level), and with university students at HND (sub-degree), honours degree and MBA levels. My experience is that it works well. One year I maintained a 'control group' who did not begin with this exercise, and although the study was informal, unscientific (and possibly unethical!) I always felt that the control group understood average and marginal analysis less well than the non-control group. I tried to improve the ethics by using the exercise with the control group at the revision stage; but my feeling is that it should come before any discussion of average and marginal analysis.
While the Powerpoint presentation is specifically designed for use with student teachers on a PGCE programme, or for a training session with teaching or lecturing colleagues interested in using the building-block exercise, it could easily be edited and adapted for use with a class of 'real' students; it could be turned into a set of visuals to be shown in conjunction with the practical exercise.
If the presentation is used by you in any form or, indeed, if the building-blocks exercise is used without the Powerpoint presentation, I would be grateful for your feedback (see slides 2 and 3 of the presentation).
I also include six Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, to further illustrate the patterns in average and marginal values which students are asked to investigate. I have 'locked' the first five (if you wish, they can be unlocked using password 'smith'); the sixth is not password-protected, and is intended to be for students to experiment with.