This snapshot provides resources that show how Critical Thinking and Problem Solving skills can be integrated into a 9-12 economics curriculum. It includes the following:
Critical Thinking & Problem Solving:
When students are given the opportunity to engage in solving problems that reflect real-world situations, they often need to think critically across knowledge domains. For example, in completing an economics simulation project, such as planning an urban development proposal for a blighted neighborhood, students need to draw upon their knowledge of economics principles and their understanding of local government, history and environmental conditions to create their economic development proposals. They also need to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to assess the effects that economic decisions may have on the local community to ensure the viability of those proposals.
The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is a non-profit research and development organization that focuses on problem- and project-based learning. BIE provides professional development workshops for high school economics teachers to train them in leading Problem-Based Economics learning activities that engage students in a realistic problem that calls for economics knowledge to understand and solve the problem. Teachers who participate in the workshop receive materials that are tied to national economics standards including eight curricular units that come with student handouts, audio and visual aids, and sample multiple-choice tests and rubrics to use in the classroom. Training workshops are held at the BIE office in Marin County California, at schools and districts across the U.S. for groups of 10 teachers or more, or at national training sites for Centers for Economic Education. Problem-Based Economics materials are also available for purchase or download from the BIE website.
In this Edutopia video clip, produced by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, high school students participate in a project-based economics curriculum called UrbanPlan. An initiative of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), UrbanPlan engages students in a hands-on economic development project to develop land use solutions to an urban growth challenge. Over a three-week period students work in groups taking on different roles of all the players involved in an urban development project. As students being to take on their roles as finance director, marketing director, city liaison, neighborhood liaison, or site planner, they learn basic economics principals like allocation of goods and services and the role of incentives.
In the video, student groups respond to a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of a theoretical blighted neighborhood. Students use Lego building blocks to create a model of their proposed neighborhood and use an interactive software program to help them solve financial dilemmas. Local representatives of ULI and other land use professionals in the community consult on student projects to encourage them to think critically and problem solve around land use, financial restrictions, and responding to community interest groups. These consultants also act as judges of students’ final presentation of their urban plan solution. During the presentation of their proposal, each student needs to be able to defend the thinking behind the economic decisions they made for their land use development within the context of their role on the team.
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