A context-based approach to enrich students’ application of abstract economic concepts
Sekwena, Gailele Lucas
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This study examined the feasibility of developing a Context-based Approach intended to enrich students’ application of abstract Economics concepts, which could be realised by creating a contextual teaching and learning environment in Economics. The need to develop this approach stems from the observation that Economics is comprised of theories and abstract concepts which students often learn by mere memorisation. Consequently, students find it challenging to link them to real life and apply in the actual world situations. This seeming lack of connection between theory and actual life situations results in students’ failure to apply these abstract concepts and is often demonstrated by their responses to higher-order and data response questions. The Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Curriculum Development Council, 2007:35) states that Economics is a discipline with a high level of abstraction which can be very challenging to students and mastery of the subject requires of students to develop understanding through connecting concepts and theories with the practical world situations. This study proposes a paradigm shift from a theoretical confined pedagogic praxis, that is highly textbook bound in teaching Economics to a more practicum Context-based pedagogic praxis which will enrich students’ connection of theory and practice. This study is embedded within a Constructivist theoretical framework as a theory of choice. Huali (2011:642) points out that Constructivism theory holds that learning is interconnected to a context or a social status quo, thus implying that when students learn in situations that are similar to the practicum world, they can make use of their existing knowledge to embrace new knowledge and give it new meaning. A cyclical Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach was followed in collating and generating data in this study. Participants were Economics teachers and preservice student teachers who formed the core of the research team and data were mainly generated through focus group discussions. Data generated were analysed using a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Findings and conclusions from this study are Context-based approach in Economics (i.e. use of Case method, Context-rich problems, Service-learning and Problem-based learning) advances and enriches students’ understanding of the subject and affords them opportunities to practical application of abstract concepts. This further enhance their ability to transfer their theoretical content knowledge from one context to the other.