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. Using simulations and models in the classroom is one of the ways we can take advantage of technology. Simulations and models can also be implemented without using technology. Proper implementation of these tools is important to ensure efficient teaching practices with economics. Simulations and models, along with economic experiments, are a great way to incorporate inquiry-based learning effectively.

Classroom Incorporation


-During lecture, do not just provide graphs for students. Construct and explain the graphs for the students instead. 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 the two graphs. This comparison will force the students to think critically about the contents of the graph, insuring better comprehension of the material. For example, this may useful when teaching students if a graph demonstrates a causal relationship between to variables or merely a correlation. By comparing a causal graph to a graph showing a correlation, students will better be able to recognize and model multiple variable relationships.

-Encourage the use of graphs in problem sets. Using graphs in problem sets forces the student to apply their theoretical knowledge in a model form. Having students model different 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


Stern et al., 2003. In this study, researchers placed participants 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 group drew their own graphs (active graphical representation). All participants were then presented with a set of questions dealing with 'transfer material' to test their ability to apply the material presented to related areas. Researchers 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.