Simulations and models in the classroom

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As the world of technology changes, so must the way we use technology in the classroom. Nevertheless, models and simulations can be high-tech or not. Using simulations and models in the classroom is one of the ways we can take advantage technology. Nevertheless, it is important to properly employ these tools in order to ensure their use is efficient in transferring the knowledge of economics principles to students. Simulations and models, along with economic experiments, are a great way to incorporate inquiry-based learning.


Classroom Incorporation

-During lecture, do not just provide graphs for students. Instead, construct and explain them for students. Having students actively construct graphs will make it easier for them to grasp the abstract concepts behind them.

-Present the same information in different graphs and ask students to compare--doing this will force students to fully grasp the concepts represented in the graphs. It will provide evidence that just because the relationship between 2 given variables is seen in a certain graph, it does not mean either variable cannot be related to a different variable. As a result, students will enable students to recognize and model multiple variable relationships.

-Continue encouraging the use of graphs in problem sets. Using graphs in problem sets forces the student to apply their theoretical knowledge into a model form. As a result, the student is required to understand the theory in order to properly represented in a model form. Having students model out differing outcomes of effects on given variables further reinforces comprehension and abstraction of theory knowledge.

Click here for more detailed examples and tips of the use of simulations and graphs in the economics classroom.

Interesting Links:

AEA's page on class experiments and several other useful teaching resources

The Economic Network's page on games, experiments and simulations for economics classrooms

Example classroom simulation lesson plan

Handbook on Economic classroom experiments/simulations

The Economic Network's page on games, experiments and simulations for economics classrooms


Stern et al., 2003. In this study, participants were placed in 3 different groups that all presented information on stockbroking. One group presented the information without any graphs, the other provided a professionally-drawned graph (passive graphical representation), and the final one asked students to draw the graphs (active graphical representation). All participants were then presented with a set of questions dealing with 'transfer material' to see how their ability to transfer the material presented to related areas. It was found that participants provided with a graph (passive) performed better than those without any graph. Nevertheless, it was found that those asked to draw the graph performed the best. The authors reason that active graphical representations force students to re-organize concepts and create links between disciplines. The authors also accounted for differing academic backgrounds by running a second study in which they divided participants with lower levels of education into the same 3 conditions, but provided both the graph groups with additional instruction. The study supported initial findings as the active graphical representation group also performed the best. Click here to access the study.


Stern, E. "Improving Cross-content Transfer in Text Processing by Means of Active Graphical Representation." Learning and Instruction 13.2 (2003): 191-203. Print.