Sources of Students’ Misconceptions in Economics

Misconceptions in learning can arise from a variety of sources. This article examines the five sources of misconceptions that may be relevant for understanding learners’ misconceptions in economics classes in junior colleges in Singapore: students’ prior knowledge, their perceptions of what economics is about, their “linguistic mindset”, the influence of student learning preferences, and their perceptions of how graphs are used in economics. Understanding the origin of students’ misconceptions can help junior college teachers anticipate and correct their students’ misconceptions. 

Economics teachers often encounter students’ answers that do not make sense or are erroneous explanations of economic phenomena. These answers reveal understanding which is not consistent with generally accepted views or interpretations in economics. How do students’ misconceptions in economics arise?

Tang (2003) proposes that conceptual development is not a simple process of taking in a new conception, and replacing the old with the new because preconditions such as students’ prior knowledge, learning preference and mental model of the subject may interfere with their receptivity to new knowledge and cause students to generate misconceptions. This article considers students’ prior knowledge, their perceptions of economics, the gap between everyday language usage and economic terms, the role of learning preferences, and students’ ideas about the use of graphs in economic analysis as possible reasons for students’ misconceptions in economics.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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