Enhancing Economic Education Through Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning is a learning method wherein students ‘learn by doing’ and emphasizes reflections on the experience. It is one of the striking aspects of education, and this approach can be applied to all forms of education. Experiential learning is a modern way of development and change in the education system. This engaged learning method includes hands-on experiences, internships, undergraduate research, etc.

One of the deciding factors of a country’s growth is its economy, and with new economic challenges coming in the way of people, appropriate education for the economy can strengthen a generation that will lead the tomorrow. However, our traditional methods of teaching economy to students are, unfortunately, based on theoretical studies and in-class education. While the students are exposed to real-world problems and deal with rising economic tensions, they must be the jack of all trades in the economy. For that, economic education through experiential learning is becoming a norm today.

A Classic Indian Economic Class

If we consider a typical situation of an economy class in any Indian institution, it includes a teacher dictating notes, a book reading session or boredom due to monotonous lectures, consequently resulting in distracted students who are hardly paying attention to the whole situation. The reason behind this is a need for more engagement as well as a poor, less exciting and indifferent classroom environment. In such a scenario, economic education can witness an aha moment if experiential learning is included.

If there is an absence of activities and experiences that beat boredom and drive an economic dialogue among students, there is less chance of improving economic education. To improve this situation and retarded experiences, it is necessary to facilitate experiential learning. Beyond the chalk-and-talk method, an experiential and non-coercive classroom environment makes teaching and learning interesting, participatory and enjoyable.

Creating Space for Experiential Learning

Space for experiential learning must be created by developing an experiential learning module and teaching students through live experiences. A study of experiential economic learning shows that students described their holiday experiences as ‘enjoyable’, ‘refreshing’, ‘motivating’, and ‘exciting’ and gave them a break from the routine holiday homework of writing answers or making bookmarks, etc.

One more approach that can be applied is team-based learning (TBL) for student engagement. TBL enables students to work in a team throughout the study and the subject being taught, working on application-focused team assessments and individual assessments. A study shows that TBL has impacted positively on economic education, and it should be applied to introductory courses. Likewise, the importance of service learning that includes volunteerism, class field trips, and field experiments is an effective teaching pedagogy for increasing student engagement.

One more experiment in applying experiential learning in economics is a curriculum that incorporated a ‘create and run business’ scenario and evaluated their business performance. The students were allowed to make actual decisions regarding shopping, marketing, and selling the products. Apart from this, the students were given a chance to discuss the alternatives for existing businesses. This initiative covered every possible type of economy, including demand and supply, elasticity, consumer supplies, production and selling cost, revenue, economic profit, etc.

This experiment showed that experiential learning must become a part of education, especially while learning economy; it is a core component. As it closes the education-practical learning gap, it is essential to arrange such activities in the curricula of undergraduate and higher-education economic studies.

Additionally, with the emphasis on acquiring knowledge from real-world experiences and applying what they have learned in the classroom to solve real-world problems, experiential learning promotes knowledge retention and improves students’ analytical skills and critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Updating the Economic Curricula

Incorporating experiential learning in the curricula across both small and large undergraduate economic courses is important. It not only signifies the importance of research-led teaching to motivate deep engagement but also focuses on concrete economic analysis. This includes continuous assessments and student motivation for their educational development.

Absenteeism, being an important factor that affects studies of the economy, impacts student experience and, consequently, academic performance in economics. For that, it is also necessary to teach them long-term effects and an understanding of the usefulness and applications of the economy in the real world.

Though the existing studies and education practices carry an approach to traditional classroom settings, the use of technology with a blended learning approach solves half of the issues faced by students as they can learn economics online. While the rest of the world proceeds with the traditional method of education in economics, hands-on experience is valued.

Final Thought

When the world is moving towards active learning from boring passive methods of learning, what matters and strengthens students is the experiences that they acquire while learning. Theoretical knowledge limits the horizons of students to concepts and theories of great economists. However, with these active learning methods that focus on learning and reflecting through experiences, economic education must stay caught up and incorporate practical learning.

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