Can classroom experiments challenge students' understanding of economic concepts? – Results from a common goods experiment


Cademartori, Isabel ; Seifried, Jürgen


Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2018
Conference title: 9th EARLI SIG 14 Conference Learning and Professional Development 2018
Location of the conference venue: Geneva, Switzerland
Date of the conference: 12.-14.09.2018
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > Wirtschaftspädagogik II (Seifried)
Subject: 370 Education
Abstract: Low economic literacy is associated with higher debt, poor risk diversification and generally low levels of saving and retirement planning (Jappelli, 2010, Lusardi & Mitchell, 2007). The question of how instruction can be designed to help students gain and retain economic knowledge has not been answered fully and requires further research. This paper seeks to explore whether the use of classroom experiments in economic courses can help bring about conceptual change in the economic thinking of students (Dickie 2006; Emerson & Taylor 2004). The results of a study with 58 students of two secondary schools, with a focus on business and economic studies, are reported. The students participated in an economic classroom experiment aimed at illustrating the economic concepts of common goods using game theory. The aim was to acquire a better understanding of the process of learning economic concepts through an economic classroom experiment. The research questions were: 1. How students learn through a classroom experiment and, 2. Whether classroom experiments can support the conceptual change process for economic concepts? A classroom experiment was conducted with four groups of secondary school students (N=58) with no control group. For the data collection, pre- and posttest were used as well as videography during the experiment. Additionally, a post-experiment interview was conducted with each participant. Results of the quantitative and qualitative data will be reported. First results show that even though 31% of students were familiar with the experiment, only one of the four groups did manage to not deplete the pond before the end of the experiment and reached an agreement about the number of fish that should be caught. In order to determine a possible increase in content knowledge about common goods, we compared pre-test with post-test knowledge test performance. A paired samples t-Test reveals a significant knowledge increase in the posttest (T(54)= -5,36, p< .001). Although male students had a slightly higher knowledge increase (N=31, M=1,56, SD= 2,02) than female students (N=24, M=1,03, SD=1,56), a t-Test reveals that the difference between genders is not significant (T(53)=-1,065, p=.292).Those who had previously taken business courses did have a slightly higher increase in content knowledge (N= 26, M= 1,43, SD=1,89) than those without previous experience (N= 28, M= 1,27, SD=185), however, the difference was not significant (T(52), p=.761). The interview data shows that 31 students (N=42) confirm that they feel as though the experiment had a positive learning effect. When asked about what the main takeaway from the experiment was, most students report that they learned about the content matter related to the experiment, such as the characteristics of common goods and ecological sustainability. The results of our empirical analysis indicate that economic knowledge about common goods can be advanced by means of this experiment. How students experience the experiment, what they learn from it and what learning effects can be found for different groups of students will be determined by further analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data.




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Cademartori, Isabel ; Seifried, Jürgen ORCID: 0000-0002-9460-7721 Can classroom experiments challenge students' understanding of economic concepts? – Results from a common goods experiment. (2018) 9th EARLI SIG 14 Conference Learning and Professional Development 2018 (Geneva, Switzerland) [Conference presentation]


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ORCID: Cademartori, Isabel ; Seifried, Jürgen ORCID: 0000-0002-9460-7721

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