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Measuring and Responding to Variation in Aspects of Students' Economic Conceptions and Learning Engagement in Economics

Martin Shanahan () and Jan H. F. Meyer ()
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Jan H. F. Meyer: University of Durham

International Review of Economic Education, 2003, vol. 1, issue 1, 9-35

Abstract: Meyer and Shanahan (1999) introduced an embryonic model of student learning in economics based on an initial consideration of various forms of school-leaving prior knowledge, including (a) subject-specific prior knowledge, (b) conceptions of learning and (c) preferential or habitual forms of learning engagement. Results across two universities (n > 1,300) confirmed the statistically significant effects of having studied economics at school, the status of English as a second language, and basic economic misconceptions, on learning outcomes at the end of semester one. A cluster analysis approach to separating out subgroups of students exhibiting differential patterns of association between economic misconceptions essentially pathological process components of learning engagement and learning outcomes was reported. It was concluded that the various forms of prior knowledge considered represented a valid foundation for the construction of a more complex model of student learning specific to the subject of economics. The present study reports on the subsequent analysis of aspects of a more complex model of student learning specific to economics. In particular, longitudinal measures of one dimension of students' prior knowledge and students' prior economic conceptions are presented, using student responses from one university (initial n > 680). Institutional responses are presented that emerged as a consequence of the systematic identification of students 'at risk' of failing, and the theoretical underpinning of such responses, and comments on their impact on students' prior knowledge. Earlier pilot work (Meyer and Shanahan 2001a) suggested that limited intervention to raise students' meta-learning capacity over one semester has a comparatively neutral impact. But viewed as a whole, findings thus far indicate that targeted teaching interventions that respond to individual variation in learning engagement may have a positive impact on learning outcomes. The impact of such interventions on students' prior knowledge of economic conceptions is less clear. That such interventions are practically possible as well as theoretically justified is the subject of further research.

Date: 2003
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