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Lessons From a General Education-Oriented Principles of Economics Course


  • Steven A. Greenlaw

    (Mary Washington College)


Lessons From a General Education Oriented Principles of Economics Course Principles of Economics, as it is typically taught at the college level, is a predominantly lecture-based course using one of a variety of standard, voluminous texts, where students are exposed to a daunting array of concepts, theories and methods. In principle, the course has two objectives: to serve as a preparatory course for students taking more advanced offerings, and to satisfy a general education requirement in the social sciences. In practice at many college and universities, the course tends to focus on the first objective to the detriment of the second; hence, the typical approach described above. But since far more students take principles for the second objective than for the first, I question whether this is the best way to introduce students to economics at a liberal arts college. This paper describes the non-traditional way I teach principles to address this problem. In brief, my approach is discussion rather than lecture based; it is writing intensive, and instead of a formal text it uses a variety of what Hansen calls "real books"--books by economists written for the educated lay public, as well as government publications and "soft" journal articles. The cost of such an alternative approach is less breadth of coverage, but the benefit is greater depth of learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven A. Greenlaw, 1998. "Lessons From a General Education-Oriented Principles of Economics Course," General Economics and Teaching 9808001, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpgt:9808001
    Note: Type of Document - WordPerfect 6/7/8; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP; pages: 21 ; figures: none. none

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Siegfried, John J & Fels, Rendigs, 1979. "Research on Teaching College Economics: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 923-969, September.
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    More about this item


    Real Books; General Education; Principles of Economics Writing Across the Curriculum;

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate

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