Using Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Economics

Initial Publication Date: October 12, 2010

If you remember Ben Stein's role as a high school economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) you know all too well how "dismally" economics is perceived. Fortunately, economic education is no longer the exclusive domain of the lecture model. There are many new and exciting teaching methods available to instructors, none more so than using media to enhance teaching and learning in economics.

Watching a movie on an ipod
Teaching economics through media is a response to the work done by William Becker and Michael Watts (1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006) who examined the way that economics was taught at the college level and found that the discipline had been slow to adopt innovative approaches to teaching.
  • Preliminary evidence from Girardi (2008) and Raehsler (2009) suggests that using media in introductory courses makes economics more relevant to students, increases class attendance, and raises examination scores.
  • Using media is especially good for cognitive reasoning. Bloom's (1956) taxonomy lists the following cognitive functions: data recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Many media provide the opportunity for instructors to activate all six cognitive domains.

Using Media in Economics Can be Found In:

Articles and books:

Reading through one or more of these resources will provide a deeper appreciation of the benefits and challenges involved in using media.

Dixit, Avinash. (2005) Restoring Fun to Game Theory.

Hall, Joshua (2005). Homer Economicus. Using The Simpsons to Teach Economics.

Hall, Joshua, Lawson, Robert, & Mateer, G. Dirk. (2008) From ABBA to Zeppelin, Led: Using Music to Teach Economics.

Leet, Don & Houser, Scott. (2003) Economics Goes to Hollywood: Using Classic Films to Create an Undergraduate Economics Course.

Mateer, G. Dirk. (2005) Economics in the Movies.

Mateer, G. Dirk, & Rice, Andrew. (2007) Using music synchronized with lyrics to teach economics.

Miller, James D., and Felton, Debbie (2002). Using Greek Mythology to Teach Game Theory.

Sexton, Robert L. (2006) Using Short Movie and Television Clips in the Economics Principles Class.

Tinari, Frank D., and Khandke, K. (2000) From Rhythm and Blues to Broadway: Using Music to Teach Economics.

Watts, Michael. (2003). The Literary Book of Economics: Including Readings from Literature and Drama on Economic Concepts, Issues and Themes.

Online resources:

The Media Resources for Economics page showcases many of the most creative ways that media is used in teaching and learning economics. The resources on this page are organized into the following categories: music, news, videos, visualizations, worth a look, and creating your own media. Check it out!

Example activities:

A number of examples have been created that describe how to use this teaching method. Each example details how a specific media is used along with a set of teaching strategies designed to help a first-time instructor utilize it most effectively.