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Big Think: A Model for Critical Inquiry in Economics Courses

Listed author(s):
  • Robert Garnett


    (Department of Economics, Texas Christian University)

  • KimMarie McGoldrick


    (Department of Economics, University of Richmond)

This paper outlines a concrete strategy for addressing the critical inquiry gap in undergraduate economics education, building on the work of Colander and McGoldrick, who argue that economics students currently do not receive sufficient exposure to ‘big think’ questions: ill-structured questions that invite students and instructors to interrogate arguments, evaluate assumptions, and discover serendipitous connections across courses and disciplines (2009b: 5-6). Our goal is to operationalize the Colander/McGoldrick proposal: to use learning theory to develop two ‘big think’ units to supplement existing course materials. Each unit is designed to enhance learning by increasing students’ ability to (1) apply economic principles to practical situations, (2) integrate knowledge over time and subjects, and (3) employ higher order skills of analysis and synthesis. These sub-goals support the overarching aim of liberal education: “to qualify students to make informed decisions about their lives and communities long after their college experience” (Siegfried et al. 1991: 202) and to prepare them for lifelong learning and intelligent participation “in a messy, puzzling, and complicated world, in which there is absolutely no substitute for one’s own active searching” (Nussbaum 1997: 35).

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File Function: First version, 2011
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Paper provided by Texas Christian University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 201101.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2011
Handle: RePEc:tcu:wpaper:201101
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  1. Geoff Schneider & Jean Shackelford, 2001. "Economics Standards and Lists: Proposed Antidotes for Feminist Economists," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 77-89.
  2. Mark Maier & Joann Bangs & Niels-Hugo Blunch, 2010. "Context-rich Problems in Economics," Chapters,in: Teaching Innovations in Economics, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  3. Sam Allgood & William B. Walstad, 1999. "What Do College Seniors Know about Economics?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 350-354, May.
  4. Marianne Ferber, 1999. "Guidelines For Pre-College Economics Education: A Critique," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 135-142.
  5. Arnold Katz & William E. Becker, 1999. "Technology and the Teaching of Economics to Undergraduates," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(3), pages 194-199, January.
  6. Paul W. Grimes, 2009. "Reflections on Introductory Course Structures," Chapters,in: Educating Economists, chapter 10 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  7. W. Lee Hansen & Michael K. Salemi & John J. Siegfried, 2002. "Use It or Lose It: Teaching Literacy in the Economics Principles Course," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 463-472, May.
  8. Shackelford, Jean, 1992. "Feminist Pedagogy: A Means for Bringing Critical Thinking and Creativity to the Economics Classroom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 570-576, May.
  9. Fels, Rendigs, 1974. "Developing Independent Problem-Solving Ability in Elementary Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 403-407, May.
  10. William E. Becker, 2004. "Economics for a Higher Education," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 3(1), pages 52-62.
  11. Feiner, Susan & Roberts, Bruce, 1995. "Using Alternative Paradigms to Teach about Race and Gender: A Critical Thinking Approach to Introductory Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 367-371, May.
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