In chapter 5 of the book named The Return of the Economic Naturalist, written by Robert H Frank, who has been teaching introductory economics course for forty years, Frank noticed that many people were disappointed when they know what he did for living. He began asking why, many said something like this: ‘ I studied basic economics years ago, and there were all those horrible equations and graphs.’
Moreover, a provocative study suggests that students have shown that when they are tested about their knowledge of basic economic principles six months after completing an introductory economic course, they score no better, on average, than those who never took the course. This means that the course is ineffective! Frank argued that part of the problem may be that the professors themselves never really mastered the principles they are attempting to teach. Many professors have only a tenuous grasp of these concepts in their introductory courses, followed by an advanced courses that were even more technical. The statistic shows that when the researchers from the American Economic Association posed a question to almost two hundred professional economists about ‘an opportunity cost’, which all economists considered as a central concept, only 21.6 percent of them chose the correct answer. This is even smaller than if they had chosen randomly. The same question is posed to a large group of college students, the researchers found that exposure to introductory economic instruction was strikingly counterproductive. Among those who had taken a course in economics, only 7.4 percent answered correctly, compared to 17.2 percent of those who had never taken one.
Accordingly, Frank has been working on this area and discovered that the most common mistake they made as a teacher is trying to teach their students too much. He feels that the mathematic formalism that has become the hallmark of economic research has yielded deep insights, but it hasn’t helped introductory students learn basic economic principles. Until the time during his Peace Corps training, he found a new approach that has revolutionized the teaching of foreign languages promises similar gains in economics and other disciplines. He learned grammatically correct speech in order to be able to teach math and science in Nepali, but he was never taught any formal grammatical rules. Unexpectedly, just a few simple sentence pattern enable small children to express an amazing variety of thoughts. Likewise, he discovered that a few basic principles also do much of the lifting in economics. Someone who focuses on these principles and applies them repeatedly in examples drawn from reality or familiar context can master them easily.
Since then, he uses this approach to all the students in his introductory economics course. He lets his student submit in response to the economic naturalist writing assignment by using a principle, or principles, discussed in the course to pose and answer an interesting question about some pattern of events or behaviour that students personally have observed. Over the year, his students have posed and answered literally thousands of fascinating questions.
Frank made his students enjoy learning and exploring each new are of economics because he has shown to his student that the so-called economics doesn’t only consist of, as mentioned previously, those “horrible graphs and equations”, but it’s also about things around us that we have to face everyday. He made economics became more accessible for them and shown them that, in fact, it exists in every aspect of our lives.