Attacking student misconceptions: a framework for teaching opportunity cost

Theme 5   Miscellaneous.

Secondary school seachers.
Researchers and academics.

Student misconceptions need to be attacked head-on. Trying to simply bypass them does not work. Correct new material does not automatically knock out wrong old ideas; instead, both – inconsistent though they may be – can happily co-exist in the student’s mind.

This is especially true for the fundamental concepts that students need to make sense of their world and that serve as the foundation of their economic study.

For instance, a student who finishes a basic course without the understanding to answer the following question correctly has missed something critical. And yet, without proper care, that is liable to happen:


Which did U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (1953) really say? (Hint: His statement is the correct one. Eisenhower had successfully applied fundamental economic principles as Allied commander in World War II.)

A. "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

B. “Those who criticize the mighty American weapons industry ignore its contributions to this country’s security and to its economy. Our extraordinary standard of living would be just ordinary without the hundreds of thousands of jobs provided by a strong defense industry.”


The burden of filling this gap is loaded on teachers, unfortunately, because introductory textbooks mostly ignore opportunity cost at the societal level. Nor do they contribute much to confronting student misconceptions. This workshop aims to help by providing a framework for teaching fundamental principles, leading through scarcity to opportunity cost, that explicitly addresses those misconceptions. We see how a narrative that develops those principles at the individual and societal levels in parallel, highlighting commonalities and differences, helps students better understand at both levels and avoid common pitfalls.

Presented by: Brent Kigner (1, 1)

Workshop (75 min)

Downloadable files: 60_76_misconceptions - PPT - AEEE 2021.pptx
60_76_misconceptions - outline - AEEE 2021.docx
60_76_misconceptions - Question 6 - Philip Morris benefit-cost.pdf
60_76_misconceptions - Question 17 - tech unemp error.PNG
60_76_misconceptions - Question 20 - Bastiat article.doc
60_76_misconceptions - Question 21e - Eisenhower speech.docx
60_76_misconceptions - Question 21i - global warming.docx
60_76_misconceptions - Question 21j - biofuel.docx

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