Student learning in microeconomics: an experiment in teaching scientific philosophy and economic methodology.

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Bartley, Randall
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Middle Tennessee State University
This study endeavored to determine if exposure to the philosophy of science and the methodology of economics would assist students in understanding the principles of microeconomics. The study was conducted at Motlow State Community College, Tullahoma, Tennessee, during the 1990 spring semester, using four principles of microeconomics classes. Two of the classes served as a control group and two served as an experimental group. A three-week instructional module on the philosophy of science and the methodology of economics was prepared by the author and presented to the experimental group as a preliminary to the principles of microeconomics course. During the time the experimental group received the module, the control group completed a non-microeconomic-related writing assignment. Upon completion of the writing assignment and instructional module, both groups received the identical principles of microeconomics course taught by the author.
Differences in the student's cognitive understanding of microeconomics was measured by administering a pre- and posttest utilizing the standard College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) Subject Examination in Introductory Microeconomics. An alternative method of evaluation was also used employing the results of four regularly scheduled course content examinations prepared by the author. In addition to the test data used to measure increased student cognitive learning, other variables were also analysed such as gender, age, grade point average, number of college semester hours completed, and employment status to determine their possible effect upon student learning performance.
The results of the study indicate that the completion of an instructional module on the philosophy of science and the methodology of economics as a prelude to an introductory microeconomics course does not assist students in achieving higher examination scores. There was an indication that female students scored higher than male students and that older students scored higher than younger students; but, overall those students who received the instructional module did not achieve a higher level of cognitive understanding of elemental microeconomics than those students who did not.