Title: Developing students' ability to connect economic modeling to real world issues
Authors: Nabamita Dutta & James Murray
Submission Date: January 18, 2016
In introductory economics classes, we emphasize graphical modeling, which for many students is a new way of framing problems, thinking about them, and solving them. We have learned in past years by assessing these courses that students struggle with modeling. We have made some improvement in this area, but we recently learned that even when students correctly set up and solve a graphical modeling problem, they fail to connect the result to the real world economic problem. For example, students are often able to correctly model and solve a problem involving taxes, but when in a separate question they are asked to describe the implications of the same tax policy, their answers are inconsistent with the results they had just found. Often answers showed little relationship to the previous analysis. We created a lesson that challenges students to integral graphical modeling and economic reasoning in the context of an authentic scenario. Students present their case in a manner appropriate to a nonexpert audience while still using economic reasoning based on graphical modeling. In our lesson, the instructor demonstrates this thought process with a few examples. Then we give in-class group exercises that ask the students to do the same. In this paper, we present our lesson, some findings on our students' thought processes, and identify some
common challenges in student learning and hurdles we still face as instructors.