What Should Go Into the Only Economics Course that Students Will Ever Take – While Not Disadvantaging Majors?

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Avi Cohen, Professor of Economics, York University and University of Toronto
Scott Wolla, Economic Education Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 

Avi J. Cohen and Scott Wolla (together with Wendy Stock), co-edited a symposium in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Education titled “What Should Go Into the Only Economics Course Students Will Ever Take?” The six papers describe and analyze what is called a literacy-targeted (LT) approach to teaching principles, which traces back to Nobel Prize winner George Stigler. The LT approach argues that it is far more valuable for students to understand and apply core economic concepts well, than to be exposed to a wide range of concepts they will soon forget.

The potential benefits of an LT approach come from some astounding numbers. Sixty to 75 percent of North American post-secondary students never take any economics! Of the students who do take principles, over 80 percent are one-and-done — they never take another economics course. And only 2 percent go on to major in economics. There is clearly an opportunity to do better, and there’s growing evidence that an LT approach will help.

Just like traditional approaches to teaching principles, the LT approach aims to create economically literate students who can “think like an economist.” The LT approach differs because it answers the question — What should go into the only economics course that students will ever take, while not disadvantaging majors? The LT approach to principles is designed to create a Pareto improvement by:

  • attracting more students (including women and underrepresented minorities) who would otherwise not take economics;
  • improving the success and retention of one-and-done students, and;
  • ensuring that students who do become economics majors are not disadvantaged.

This webinar will explain what LT principles courses look like, and the pedagogy, cognitive science and evidence behind their success.

Live Online

Avi J. Cohen (York University and University of Toronto) and Scott Wolla (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis) are both national-teaching-award winners and members of the prestigious American Economic Association Committee on Economic Education — with expertise both in economics and in economics education. The third edition of their textbooks – Micro/Macro Economics for Life – were just published by Pearson Canada.