Pedagogy in Action > Library > Cooperative Learning > Examples > Exploring and Explaining Determinants of Supply and Demand: Utilizing the Think-Pair-Share Technique

Exploring and Explaining Determinants of Supply and Demand: Utilizing the Think-Pair-Share Technique

This page authored by Jennifer Rhoads, University of Illinois at Chicago.
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

This activity is an extension of the Think-Pair-Share cooperative learning technique. Students are put into pairs and then each pair is assigned one of the determinants of supply or demand. Each pair then concentrates on understanding this determinant by first creating hypothetical examples and then identifying real world examples. Each pair is responsible for presenting and explaining one of these hypothetical and real world examples to the rest of the class. Which student within a pair makes each presentation is determined by a coin toss immediately prior to the presentation. Students are required to submit a clear written explanation and a graphical analysis of their examples.

Learning Goals

The learning objective is for the students to develop their ability to work with a partner to share, listen and reformulate examples of supply and demand determinants before clearly communicating these examples to the rest of the class. This lesson meets the Hansen proficiencies of accessing existing knowledge, displaying command of existing knowledge, and interpreting existing knowledge.

The content objective is for students to describe, locate and interpret the determinants of supply and demand by creating and identifying hypothetical and real world examples.

Context for Use

This activity is intended for use in an introductory microeconomics course or principles of economics course. The time required for this activity is roughly two class periods. This exercise can easily be adapted to fit a wide range of class sizes. Students should have initial exposure to supply and demand, as this activity serves to reinforce and further the students' understanding of supply and demand determinants.

Description and Teaching Materials

Begin by having students pair up with a person sitting near them. Then assign one of the nine determinants of supply or demand to each pair of students. They will be working with that determinant for both parts of this activity.

For the first part of this activity, the students are told to create a hypothetical example of their assigned determinant. They should generate a scenario where supply or demand shifts in some direction, and then illustrate the resulting effect on price and quantity in the relevant market. Students should first be given a few minutes to think and create their own example. Then they should pair with their partner and share their examples with each other.

Within the pair, one student should initially share his or her example with the other student, while the other student listens and then reflects on the example. A subsequent discussion should follow where the listener asks for clarification or makes suggestions for improving the example until both students are confident that the example is clear and accurate. Next, the roles are reversed and the other student's hypothetical example is shared and refined. The students should prepare a clear written explanation and a graphical analysis of their revised examples to be collected at the end of class.

Finally, each pair of students should select one of the two examples that they will present to the rest of the class. A coin toss will be used to determine which one of the students in a pair will present the example. Since it is random who will actually present the example, each student in the pair needs to be knowledgeable of this example and prepared to present.

For the second part of this activity, the students are instructed to find real world examples of their assigned determinant. This could be found in a newspaper article, magazine, or through interviewing a business owner or consumer. The students have one week to locate this real world example before bringing it to class to share with their partners. Each pair should follow the same process as described above, with each student taking turns sharing his or her example and then refining the analysis of each example. Again, each pair should select one of the two examples to present to the rest of the class, and who presents the example will be determined by a coin toss. However, all students should prepare a clear written explanation and a graphical analysis of their revised examples to be collected at the end of the activity.

A list of supply and demand determinants and a student handout with detailed instructions for both parts of this activity are included here.
List of supply and demand determinants (Microsoft Word 27kB Mar30 09)
Student handout with instructions for examples (Microsoft Word 33kB Mar30 09)


Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity is flexible in terms of class size. If there are more than 18 (9 determinants x 2 students) students in the class, simply assign some of the determinants to multiple pairs. If there are fewer than 18 students in the class, then you may choose one or more of the determinants not to assign. This does not alter the structure or implications of this activity.

This activity is also flexible in terms of how you decide to select student pairs. You may allow them to pair up with a student sitting nearby as described, or you may decide to use another method such as arbitrarily counting off in class or pre-assigning pairs using an alphabetized class roster.

Before the students begin, you may wish to provide a hypothetical and/or real world example and walk them through how to do the graphical analysis (see Student handout with instructions for examples).

You may have students who bring in articles that do not deal with a change in one of the supply or demand determinants in a market. This may happen if, for example, students search for the word income and then find an article about gross national income. Use this as a teachable moment to illustrate that identifying the correct context in an article is as important as finding the assigned term.

If your class time is limited, you can choose only a few of the pairs to present their examples to the class rather than having every pair present. You should choose the determinants that tend to be more difficult for the student presentations. Tell students that it is random who will present so they will all prepare.

If some pairs finish before the rest of the pairs are ready, have them add an extension to their example using another determinant of supply or demand. For example, if a pair assigned the demand determinant of income finishes early you can instruct these students to add a change in one of the determinants of supply to their example. This allows them to continue the learning process rather than simply waiting for the others to finish.

Assessment

The hypothetical and real world examples generated from each student in a pair should be collected after the first and second part of this activity, respectively. Depending on how your course grades are calculated, you could choose to simply assign participation points for the completion of these examples, or you could grade the examples for content.

Further, the examples presented by the students (or variations of these examples) can be incorporated into regular exams/quizzes. This ensures that students realize that they will be assessed on their understanding of all the determinants of supply and demand (not only their assigned determinant).

References and Resources

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