Student Motivation and Active Learning
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Our site has many ways to make learning more active for the student, hence more stimulating and more memorable.
"Problem-Based Learning" by Frank Forsythe is a chapter of the Handbook for Economics Lecturers, explaining how to make student research tasks a central part of an economics course. A substantially revised edition was released in Autumn 2010.
In an older handbook chapter on Simulations, Games and Role-Play, Mark Sutcliffe discusses the use of games or simulations in teaching economics, with examples. See also our Theme document on Classroom Experiments and Games.
Other sections of our Handbook discuss active learning approaches. See for example Overcoming barriers to active learning in lectures in the chapter on Lectures.
See also our teaching case studies in the categories of Learning Approaches and Classroom practice and student engagement, especially Employability, Transferable Skills and Student Motivation and Developing a PBL course in Economics: a sceptic's diary.
In our 2006 student survey, when asked about activities that they find most useful in seminars, students mention questions, discussions and group work. Simulation games and role-play were also mentioned in the institutions where they were used. Students complain about seminars that lack interaction:
"Tutors should try to make the class more stimulating maybe by doing more games and role-play";
"The students should be made to interact more even if it is just in discussion. Why are there no debates? Surely a debate would get everyone involved. The lecturer could set a motion and the class could debate it. The debates could be prepared or not."
Projects funded by the Economics Network
- Embedding PBL and Critical Skill Development in the Curriculum / PBL at Londonmet: (1) Why do students prefer 'chalk and talk'? and (2) assessing PBL with a control group
- Introducing Problem-Based Learning to a First-Year Curriculum
- Economics teaching and learning through the arts: the contribution of literature and cinema
- An Investigation into the Impact of Classroom Experiments on the Understanding of Threshold Concepts
If you are interested in adopting an active learning approach in your courses, we'd be interested to hear from you. Submit your contact details to email@example.com to be notified of new projects and to register your interest.
- Worksheets for PBL tasks by Frank Forsythe, University of Ulster
- Sample PBL Exercise in Macroeconomics by Judith Piggott, Oxford Brookes University (.doc format)
- Microeconomic Case Studies (competition and collusion)
- Report and PBL tasks used for courses in London Metropolitan University (.doc format). See also PBL tasks for final year Economic Growth module
- Worksheets, case studies and interactive tutorials are listed in our links to Online Learning and Teaching Materials.
We are in the process of organising two workshops this academic year on the 'Use of case studies, problems and issues in teaching economics'. Please let us know if you are interested in attending. We can visit your department to give a workshop on active learning, problem-based learning or classroom experiments.
- Biz/ed resources in PBL include 'Educator's guide', 'Students guide' and a growing collection of problem sheets
- Just-in-Time Teaching in Economics resources by Scott Simkins
- Teaching tips for active learning from a 2002 conference in the USA
- Podcast audio of a paper by Jean Shackelford from the "Active Learning Strategies for the Undergraduate Economics Curriculum" session at the ASSA conference 2007
- Try your hand at Active Learning Techniques: classroom exercises for Economics described by Sarah M. Harvieux at Centre College, USA
- Centre for active learning (CeAL) in Geography, Environment and Related Disciplines
- "A Whole System Approach to Problem-Based Learning in Dental, Medical and Veterinary Sciences - A Guide to Important Variables" published 2007 by the Centre for Excellence in Enquiry-Based Learning
- Flexible Delivery and responding to student needs are two of the Enhancement Themes for HE in Scotland.
- A study of Problem-Based Learning in US high school economics classrooms found significant improvements in student learning, relative to a control group. (PDF link, US Department of Education)
- The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning has a special issue on evaluating the efficacy of PBL.