Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with Simulations > Economics Examples > Specialization and Division of Labor

Specialization and Division of Labor

Betty J. Blecha, San Francisco State University
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Summary

stapler
This example engages students in a simple simulation of specialization and division of labor. All that is needed are staplers and some paper.






Learning Goals

The simulation shows students the importance of specialization and division of labor in completing a very simple task. If the simulation is repeated, it also typically reveals some learning-by-doing behavior.

Context for Use

The example is most appropriate for an economics principles course.

Description and Teaching Materials

You will need four staplers, a ream or two of paper, and a stop watch. The paper should be divided into four piles. Select six students from your class. Three of the students are told they will work as a group. The group gets one stapler and one pile of paper. The other three students are told they must work by themselves. Each of these students gets one stapler and one pile of paper. The task is to collate five pieces of paper and staple the five pieces together for a booklet. The goal is to see how many booklets can be produced in two minutes. Start the stopwatch and have the students produce their booklets. After two minutes, stop the activity and record how many booklets each individual and group has produced. Repeat and record how many booklets each individual and group produces in the second trial. The second period usually is associated with higher booklet levels for both individuals and the group. Use the two trials to discuss the economic significance of specialization and division of labor.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The simulation is most effective when it is directly linked to sections of the text the students are using. While the topic of specialization and division of labor is usually introduced during the first week of class, do not forget about linking the simulation to the chapter on economic growth. In selecting students to participate, it helps to include a few class characters who liven up the simulations. Finally, the paper can usually be recycled for the next semester.

Assessment

All traditional forms of assessment can be used. For more information about assessment, see the SERC assessment module.

References and Resources

The text that students are using in the course.

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